Dear Research Advocate:
The cover story of this month’s National Geographic describes the recent wave of science doubt as a “pop culture meme,” featuring in-the-news examples like climate change and vaccines, and discussion of tough challenges like replicability of research, scientific literacy (of note: increased science literacy has been shown to lead to increased polarization of opinion about science), and what is meant, anyway, by effective “science communication”? The article doesn’t mention what I often call the “invisibility” problem (see, for example, data showing low percentages of Americans who can name a living scientist), but that topic was addressed directly and indirectly in several sessions at last week’s annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS).
Data from a Pew Research poll of AAAS members show that a majority of scientists now believe that it is important to engage with the public, with a high percentage saying they do so regularly. That is welcome news. Another AAAS session brought out the importance of the quality of that engagement, exploring connecting with non-scientists in ways that is positive for both scientist and non-scientist. And, Professor Susan Fiske of Princeton spoke to an overflow crowd in her featured session about work showing that all of us – people in general – for better or worse, and with consequences to match – make quick judgments about others’ intent and their degree of competency. (Perception of competency + perception of good intent = trust.) Fiske noted that politicians are almost never trusted, although they are sometimes viewed as competent. Scientists are mostly considered competent, but they are also considered to be cold, a judgment that can throw their intentions into question. Fiske said that it is possible to change perceptions about scientists if they convey warmth and motivation to cooperate, showing ‘worthy intent.’ (If you have followed Research!America’s work in communicating to the non-science trained public, you know that we advocate saying and conveying, “I work for you.” That advice fits right in here.) Continue reading →
Dear Research Advocate:
The President’s FY16 budget was released this week. It makes the case for, and does its math on the basis of, the end of sequestration. Hallelujah! If Congress agrees to discard this monster that no one wanted to begin with, perhaps the executive and legislative branches can work to position our nation for a better future. That most fundamental of goals has been neglected for far too long and it is now time to make strategic investments for our nation.
In that context, we’re excited about the level of interest in medical progress that has in many ways defined the early days of the 114th Congress. There are several bills in play that would recalibrate research and development policies and research funding to achieve a pace that meets the needs of patients and secures the public’s safety. We believe that NIH, CDC, AHRQ, FDA, and NSF should be the focus of a major strategic investment this year so that we can accelerate medical progress, so that we can put the brakes on Alzheimer’s, bolster our anti-infectious disease arsenal, and meet the other massive health/economic/fiscal/national security challenges before us. Read more here.
Dr. Margaret Hamburg has announced that she will be stepping down from her post as FDA Commissioner. She is an exemplary leader who has fulfilled a crucial role for the nation with characteristic vision, dedication and skill. More here.
And speaking of FDA, now is the time to share your input on the 21st Century Cures initiative. I have had the privilege of weighing in with Reps. Upton (R-MI) and DeGette (D-CO) and their staff members, and I encourage you to do the same. Join the conversation on social media with the hashtag #Cures2015 and send formal comments to email@example.com. Do it now: a new draft could come out as soon as two weeks from today. As I mentioned last week, Senator Alexander (R-TN) has launched an effort similar to 21st Century Cures. When details become available, Research!America will update you on ways to contribute to the Senate process.
As you strategize what your contributions to the various initiatives, working groups and legislative proposals will be, you might find it helpful to huddle with other organizations in the field. We’re planning a stakeholder strategy meeting for Research!America members, hosted at the offices of the Society for Neuroscience. Join us next Wednesday Feb. 11 at 1pm. Space is limited, so please reserve a seat by e-mailing Jordan Gates at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Exciting news Tuesday from Research!America board member and former Representative Patrick J. Kennedy and former Surgeon General Dr. David Satcher. Their partnership to address the state of mental health and addiction in this country and to achieve health equity is now formalized as The Kennedy Center for Mental Health Policy and Research within the Satcher Health Leadership Institute at the Morehouse School of Medicine in Atlanta. None of us should settle for the status quo approach when it comes to achieving mental health. It was noted that the military sees mental health explicitly as a “force multiplier;” giving our nation a competitive edge. I see the Kennedy-Satcher partnership as a force multiplier, too – there are no two people more passionate and none with a stronger track record as a leader for mental health. See key findings from a poll they commissioned here.
Mark your calendars, tomorrow (Friday Feb. 6) is an important day! It is “Give Kids a Smile Day” which promotes the importance of oral health and provides dental care to underserved children. In support of this effort, we are releasing our new Children’s Dental Health Research fact sheet. And speaking of David Satcher, he made dental health one of the foci of his tenure as Surgeon General. It was Dr. Satcher who called oral disease the “silent epidemic.” It is truly important to understand that children’s dental health is not a luxury; it is core to their health and wellbeing.
Tomorrow is also the last call for scientists at the post-graduate level and above to submit applications for “Connecting the Dots: Effectively Communicating Science to Non-Scientists,” a two-day program that we are hosting in partnership with the George Washington University School of Media and Public Affairs. Submit your application here by Friday.
Public Health Thank You Day, November 24, 2014
ALEXANDRIA, Va.-November 20, 2014-As Thanksgiving approaches, Research!America and leading U.S. public health organizations urge Americans to salute public health professionals who go above and beyond to protect the health of our nation. Public Health Thank You Day honors all those unsung heroes who keep our drinking water safe and air clean, develop vaccines, track and investigate infections, and protect us against threats such as influenza, the Ebola and Enterovirus D68 outbreaks and natural disasters.
“Every day, public health professionals here and around the world work in challenging and sometimes dangerous situations to protect our health. The Ebola epidemic in West Africa and cases of Ebola in the U.S. are a reminder of the global nature of public health threats,” said Thomas R. Frieden, M.D., M.P.H., director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). “Whether they are working to keep us safe from infectious disease threats, or finding ways to promote healthy opportunities, thanks to all the dedicated public health professionals who work to keep us safe and healthy.”
These everyday heroes include our health inspectors, environmental health scientists, laboratorians, epidemiologists, public health researchers, sanitation workers, nurses and many other dedicated workers. The CDC, local health departments and various institutions within our public health infrastructure have come together to address recent outbreaks, and public health professionals are tackling these threats head-on – as they do with other health challenges on a daily basis. Continue reading →
November 18, 2014
We extend warmest congratulations to Congressman Rush D. Holt, Ph.D., on the announcement of his new position as chief executive officer of The American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) and executive publisher of Science family of journals. As a trained physicist, Representative Holt leveraged his scientific understanding to propel and enact policies that have contributed significantly to improving our nation’s health and economic security. During his distinguished tenure in Congress, he worked tirelessly to lift the ban on federal funding for embryonic stem cell research and helped enact the America COMPETES Act to strengthen investments in research and development. Representative Holt recognizes the value of inspiring the next generation of scientists, helping to restore investments in the Department of Education’s Mathematics and Science Partnerships program. His passion for science and commendable track record make him an exceptionally fine choice to lead one of the nation’s most highly-regarded and well-respected scientific organizations. We look forward to working closely with Representative Holt to build a deeper appreciation for science among policymakers and the general public. Outgoing AAAS CEO and Research!America board member, Alan Leshner, Ph.D., has been an outstanding leader and we are confident he will continue to be a prominent voice in science advocacy.