September 27, 2020

The Niche

Knoepfler lab stem cell blog

Gee, Mom, is it OK for scientists to talk to patients, reporters and politicians?

leave it to beaverThis has been a heckuva week for me.

It started with an alarm clock ringing at 4:45AM Monday morning and me schlepping myself to Sacramento Airport to fly down to my former hometown of La Jolla, CA to meet Guv Perry of Texas. The small group had a great talk.

I’m not naive enough to imagine us all singing Kumbaya together around a stem cell fire, agreeing about everything, but I’m hopeful that good things can come out of such a meeting. I believe scientists need to engage with politicians more often.

That meeting on Monday has led to quite a few reporters wanting to talk with me about it and about stem cells more generally. I always find it interesting even if a bit strange to talk with reporters, but most of my colleagues in science avoid the experience like the plague.

My experiences this week with Guv Perry and the reporters got me thinking….with my train of thought also influenced by the fact that I regularly talk with some of my new friends of the last few years who are patients and patient advocates.

No one teaches us scientists in grad school or as postdocs how to talk to reporters or politicians or patients or patient advocates. Some might even wonder if this is OK to do.

As a result, most scientists avoid talking with those folks and in turn a potentially synergistic community remains disconnected and insular. Biomedical science suffers.

One of my goals with this blog is to change that. I hope that I can encourage young scientists to realize that talking with people outside of academia is not only OK, but is beneficial on many levels.

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