Your Role in Changing Hearts and Minds for Science

Izzy Okparanta

Congressional passage of the 21st Century Cures bill “is proof that advocacy works,” says Research!America president and CEO Mary Woolley. She stressed the importance of scientists cultivating relationships with the new Administration and new Congress to increase support for the scientific enterprise during a presentation at the University of Connecticut on December 16.

The presentation, titled “Your Role in Changing Hearts and Minds for Science,” was part of a seminar series organized by the Connecticut Institute for Clinical and Translational Science (CICATS) and supported by a grant from the Kavli Foundation. CICATS is a partnership between the University of Connecticut, regional hospitals, state agencies, and community health care organizations.

Woolley said that although advocacy groups such as Research!America work hard to generate support among elected officials and the public for science, they can’t change hearts and minds for science alone.

“We need help from everyone who cares, now more than ever,” she said. And according to a recent Research!America survey, the majority of Americans do care about the health and economic benefits of science. And 80% percent say it is important for elected officials to listen to scientists.

“Sadly, public policies often aren’t based on science,” said Woolley, adding that the reason for this is a lack of outreach on the part of scientists to elected officials. “If [lawmakers] don’t know who the science community is among their constituents, then why would they listen to them.”

She urged scientists to find common ground with elected officials — for example, the fact that both work to serve the public interest. Despite the potential for a growing anti-science political climate, along with tight budget caps, Woolley said reaching out to lawmakers needn’t be a scary or intimidating thing for scientists.

She noted that advocacy can take a long time to yield results, but that shouldn’t dissuade scientists from increasing their engagement with policymakers.

To watch a recording of the presentation, visit http://bit.ly/CICATS and click on CICATS Seminar Series. To learn more about CICATS, visit http://cicats.uconn.edu.

Izzy Okparanta is the Senior Communications Specialist at Research!America.

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If concerted, long-term investments in research are not made, America will lose an entire generation of young scientists.
Brenda Canine, PhD; McLaughlin Research Institute, Montana