The nationwide experiment will initially include around 100,000 volunteers.
October 6, 2016|
© ISTOCK.COM/BPLANETLong gone are the days of the lone investigator who discovered a new scientific truth, published the finding in a journal, and continued doing bench research. Nowadays, scientists have to wear any number of different hats: experimenter, data analyst, teacher, mentor, negotiator, financial planner, writer, boss, philosopher, and speaker.
Meet with your legislators. You can schedule a meeting in their Washington offices or in your home district; going with a small group of colleagues is always best. Many large scientific societies host their own advocacy days for scientists to converge on the capital and meet with their representatives in small, region-specific groups. These societies often provide resources and a specific message, or ask scientists to share their research during the meetings. If you are having difficulty scheduling a meeting, local town halls are another good place to meet your legislator face-to-face.
Write, call, tweet, Facebook. Legislative representatives have easily accessible contact information on their websites. When certain science or research funding–related items are up for a vote, many scientific societies often craft form letters that you can sign and send. Follow your representatives on social media, track how they’re voting, and understand their stances on issues that are important to you.
Invite them for a lab tour. During recesses, when legislators spend time in their home districts, invite them to tour your laboratory. Sometimes the fear of the unknown turns people off, and labs can be weird and scary to people who don’t work in them. Engage your government representatives by showing them your equipment, explaining what you study in lay terms, and describing the importance of your work. Let them practice pipetting or check out some cells under a microscope. Most importantly, tell them how their funding and support has helped you, and how their continued support will impact the health and well-being of the citizens and the economy.
Get training on how to reach out to policymakers and communicate with the public. Familiarize yourself with the outreach and advocacy divisions of your favorite scientific societies, as well as your own institution’s government relations and public communications departments. If you’re having difficulty reaching out to a policymaker, or need resources on how to communicate with a journalist or speak at a public event, these folks can facilitate meetings and often have a slew of resources available.
Vote. Sure, this goes without saying. But one in three US citizens don’t vote in presidential elections, and fewer than half tend to vote in midterm elections. What’s the point of advocacy efforts if your new representative doesn’t support your cause to begin with?
Consider doing a science policy fellowship. For those who want to take their advocacy a step further, a sabbatical year is a great time to participate in a science and technology policy fellowship. Several large scientific societies such as the American Association for the Advancement of Science and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation have science-specific policy fellowships, as do many smaller organizations. So whether you only have time for a quick tweet or want to transition into a yearlong policy fellowship, there are plenty of ways for you as a scientist to advocate for your own work. You might not choose to dive into journalism or fly to the capital for a meeting, but policymakers might just read your 140-character tweets—whereas I guarantee they won’t read your jargon-filled scientific publications (or your angry Facebook posts).
Jordan Gaines Lewis is a postdoctoral sleep researcher at Penn State College of Medicine in Hershey, Pennsylvania. She is also a freelance science writer with a strong interest in science policy.
October 6, 2016
innacurate popular reporting of scientific results can hardly be overestimated. Too often a speculative statement in the discussion section of a paper is turned into a "proven fact" by the press. Or, scientific assumptions, theories or hypotheses are not explicitly described as such, but are treated as if their validity were subject to voting by "scientific authorities." There are several defensive techniques that can be used: 1) Do not collaborate with untrusted writers without a written agreement that what they produce will be subject to your review and approval before release. 2) Watch the hype and the assumptions that you include in your own discussion, and include alternative explanations for your observations. Make each hypothesis explicit. Don't provide writers with easy tag lines that misrepresent fact.
October 6, 2016
A classic from the PhD ("Piled Higher and Deeper") series of comics: "Science News Cycle" (5/18/2009):
October 8, 2016
What about when no journalist or policymaker dares to talk with you because you have 'committed' the highest act of sacrilegiousness--you dared to prove that one of the long reigning mainstream theories of today and its oh, so, so celebrated author are fatally flawed. What do you do then, Jordan? I would so love to hear your answer in that case... And as a genuine sign of goodwill, in return I will tell you in great detail how horribly impossible is to find even the tiniest sliver of objectivity in a world that is dead-set locked onto and strictly warped around conventionality and dogmatism, even when the evidence is simply, directly and most obviously hitting them right on the forehead.
(For those inclined to dismiss out of hand what I have said above please pay a brief visit to this link https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HKsLh1yZVtE )