On September 16th and 17th 2016, the Advocating for Science Symposium and Workshop was held at MIT, organized by the Future of Research, Academics for the Future of Science, and the MIT Graduate Student Council.
The purpose of the meeting was to give an opportunity to those with a passion for advocating for science to develop their advocacy skills, meet like-minded junior scientists and develop focused efforts together to effect positive change. The meeting attracted attendees not only from the Boston area, but further afield, including travel awardees Elisa van der Plas (Netherlands), Sridhar Vedachalam (Baltimore), Tess Eidem (Colorado), Adriana Bankston (Kentucky), Holly Hamilton (Colorado) and Alex Erwin (Kansas).
The symposium session on Friday evening included talks and a panel discussion, to discuss issues the scientific enterprise faces, strategies used by current advocates to effect change, and examples of past successes and failures.
The first talks (which can be viewed here) were from Gary McDowell, Executive Director of Future of Research (slides here), and Christin Glorioso, co-founder of Academics for the Future of Science (slides here), discussing their advocacy efforts involving systemic issues with the scientific enterprise, and funding for junior researchers, respectively.
This was followed by a panel discussion (which you can view here) with a group of current policy experts: Kate Stoll, Senior Policy Advisor at the MIT Washington Office; Ben Corb, Director of Public Affairs for the American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology; Adam Fegan, Director of the Early Career Scientist Segment at AAAS; and Marnie Gelbart, Director of Programs at pgEd.
Finally, the keynote address (which you can view here) was given by Rush Holt, CEO of AAAS and a former representative for the state of New Jersey for 16 years in the U.S. House of Representatives, serving on both the Committee on Natural Resources and the Committee on Education and the Workforce. Rush spoke about AAAS and about his experiences in politics as a scientist.
On Saturday, there was an advocacy “boot camp” – short talks and interactive workshops for a focused group of registered participants to gain practical skills in advocacy.
Ray Howell from Howell Communications gave a workshop on “Developing a Broad Communications Strategy” and thinking about communicating to wider, non-scientific audiences.
Philip Brenner, Assistant Professor of Sociology at UMass Boston, gave a workshop on “How to collect data effectively”: how to make – or rather, how not to make – surveys for collecting data.
David Cameron, Director of Media Relations at Harvard and Karen Weintraub, science and health journalist, discussed “How to Communicate Your Message” particularly to journalists.
Finally, a workshop on “Effective Visual Communication” by Christine Oslowski (slides here) described ways of making effective infographics.
The goals of the 2-day meeting were to explore the mechanisms currently being used to advocate for necessary systemic changes to the scientific research enterprise and the way it is funded; to develop practical skills required for effective advocacy with a focused group of interested young scientists; and to foster a community of advocates in the Boston area and beyond.
You can find videos, slides, podcasts and summaries of the meeting at the conference page here, which will continue to be updated in the coming weeks. Stay tuned for more editions of the Science Soapbox podcasts from the meeting, and our series of blogposts from the travel awardees!