Tuesday Thoughts: Raindrops on roses and whiskers on kittens

Although these aren’t the favorite things of Julie Andrews, here are some of my favorite things related to public communication of science that I have come across over the past several weeks. Enjoy.

{Favorite thing #1}
I found the quote below from The Common Sense of Science by Jacob Bronowski on an autism research blog I follow.  I just love it’s pointed depiction of the lack of public communication ability among most scientists:

“[Scientists] have enjoyed acting the mysterious stranger, the powerful voice without emotion, the expert and the god. They have failed to make themselves comfortable in the talk of people on the street; no one taught them the knack, of course, but they were not keen to learn. And now they find the distance which they enjoyed has turned to distrust, and the awe has turned to fear; and people who are by no means fools really believe that we should be better off without science.”

{Favorite thing #2}
I’ve been following the launch of Matter (http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/readmatter/matter) for several weeks.  Matter is an upcoming journalism project that focuses on long-form reporting about science and technology.  This publication will be one of the first to bring this type of in-depth, highly quality science journalism to the web. See the link for a video and information about the project.

{Favorite thing #3}
Thanks to Twitter, I was able to check out Brainfacts.org (http://www.brainfacts.org/) the day it launched.  This website, developed in part by the Society for Neuroscience, is a brand new resource for the public to learn about all things brain. What is so great about this particular “public information initiative” is the source of its information.  The  editors to the site are all leading neuroscientists, making the information not only highly accurate, but up to date and relevant.

{Favorite thing #4}
I don’t even remember how I found To Think, To Write, To Publish (http://www.thinkwritepublish.org/), but I’m glad I did. To Think, To Write, To Publish, is a workshop dedicated to advancing the publication communication of science in a unique way. Instead of handing a scientist a press release request or a journalist a microscope, this workshop pairs scientists and science writers, asking them to develop a creative non-fiction story together. With this approach, the stories produced and later published are (refreshingly) both informative and enjoyable to read.

 {This post was originally published at my previous blog, http://postitjunkie.blogspot.com/}

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Tuesday Thoughts: the blame game

      

Don’t you just love how during finals your world becomes a little microcosm of nothing but studying and coffee? That would be what happened to me last week, when Tuesday Thoughts weren’t, well, thought of until Thursday afternoon.

What reminded me of my endeavor to blog regularly was something one of my lab mates shared with me.  Last week, Autism Speaks posted a link to a blog post on it’s Facebook page.  In the post, an MD/PhD student at Albert Einstein College of Medicine discussed the potential links between autism incidence and increased parental age.

The striking thing is nature of the 110 Facebook comments that followed the link.  Parents, caregivers, and even people without children with autism lashed out against the study, the student, and science as a whole.  Talk about public communication backfiring. These individuals seemed to interpret the post as an expression of blame against parents who had their children at older ages.  Interestingly, their responses didn’t admonish this supposed blaming.  They simply repositioned it the FDA, pharmaceutical companies, and researchers.

My question is: Should we be playing this blame game?

In the post against which so many argued, the grad student humbly admits what all autism researchers know to be true:  We know X,Y, & Z about autism, which begs A to Z more questions. The clash between scientists and the community regarding autism stems out of this predicament.  There is still a lot we don’t know.

Understandably so, parents of children with autism are desperate for answers. And researchers are desperately trying to provide them. What’s for certain is that no one should be blamed when so many questions remain unanswered. The blame game is only throwing a road block in the long path ahead.

{This post was originally published at my previous blog, http://postitjunkie.blogspot.com/}