Twelve University of Notre Dame GLOBES fellows traveled to Washington, D.C., during their fall break for a hands-on lesson in communicating research to non-scientific audiences.
The trip was a critical part of the curriculum of this ground-breaking, interdisciplinary Notre Dame Ph.D. program in which teams of student scholars, faculty, and researchers from throughout the University’s College of Science, College of Arts and Letters, and Law School work together to seek innovative solutions to interrelated problems of infectious disease, invasive species, and environmental degradation.
Led by Biology faculty members David Lodge and Jason McLachlan, the students visited Congress, listened in on committee hearings and debates, and met with leaders and scientists in federal agencies, the private sector, and conservation organizations who work in the world of Washington politics. The trip culminated in meetings between the students and members of Congress. Those visits gave the GLOBES fellows an opportunity to discuss their individual research interests and how Congress might help to advance solutions to ecological and health problems. Participants also met with journalists from the Associated Press and Science News to get their take on how the media influences the policy world.
Says Gilbert Saint Jean, a fourth-year GLOBES fellow who studies disease control in the developing world, “On the one hand, the trip demonstrated to me how different the world of Washington is from our world of scientific research; on the other, I learned that our policymakers care deeply about the same issues we do and that they are eager for information from scientists and the general public.”
The trip to Washington was just one component of a series of communications modules in which GLOBES students learn to articulate general science to policymakers, the press, and the public. The students prepared for the trip by webinars and workshops on how to present complex information and uncertainty to non-scientists, as well as detailed information on such topics as “Congress 101” and how to craft an effective “leave behind”—Washington-speak for the one-page paper a visitor leaves behind with a policymaker.
Launched in 2005 by an IGERT (Integrated Graduate Education, Research, and Traineeship) grant from the National Science Foundation, GLOBES trains the next generation of Ph.D. students in biology, economics, sociology, history and other disciplines to be innovators and leaders in science and society. For more information on the GLOBES program, visit: http://globes.nd.edu.
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