Translating science into policy is challenging, especially when it has to do with vaccinating pregnant women and other vulnerable populations. Our 60th podcast features Dr. Saad Omer (MBBS, PhD, MPH), vaccinologist at Emory University, who is also involved in several working groups to translate vaccine science into evidence-based policy at the National Vaccine Advisory Committee, The World Health Organization, and at the Pan American Health Organization. While Saad has a large research portfolio, he is most known for his trials to estimate efficacy and immunogenicity of maternal and/or infant influenza, pertussis, polio, measles and pneumococcal vaccines. In 2009, he was awarded the Maurice Hilleman award in vaccinology by the National Foundation of Infectious Diseases on his work on impact of maternal influenza immunization on respiratory illness in infants younger than 6 months- for whom there is no vaccine.
Science advocacy has been in the news a lot these past two years, but many are still wondering what’s the best way to make an impact. I’ve been learning over the last several podcasts that the way to improve science engagement, acceptance, funding, and policy is to include the public in science and to get them to think of science as an important part of their life. Leah Pagnozzi, Bioengineering PhD Candidate at Cornell University, is doing just this with her ‘Take A Politician To Work’ Program. Leah gives politicians first hand experiences of how science is done, how cool science is, and how many different kinds of science there are by organizing lab tours to politicians. Nudge, nudge, wink, wink — Leah would love for this science advocacy program to be spread to other campuses or institutions; get in touch with us at firstname.lastname@example.org if you’d like to be connected.
Is the world prepared for the next global health threat? In our latest podcast, Dr. Tom Inglesby, Director of the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security shares with us how the Center is helping the world prepare for health threats, both natural and manmade, with evidence based policy. Originally created by D.A. Henderson, well known for his Smallpox Eradication Campaign, the Center started in the late 90’s/early 2000’s to research, create and influence evidence-based policy in face of of major health threats like anthrax, SARS, and bird flu. Nina had tons of questions about how to know if policies made by the government are evidence-based or if they are pure fear-mongering (she in particular recalls all of the questions around the Ebola quarantines in 2014 and 2015).
Six years ago, I was dating someone living in London. While he was at work, I would troll around London by myself and was pulled many times back to London’s Natural History Museum (NMH), in particular to The Darwin Center and their very interactive exhibit. The NHM is much more than a museum: it is home to over 300 scientists who are publishing 700+ publications a year on the solar system, earth’s geology and life, biodiversity, and sustainability. It also houses over 80 million specimens that span 4.5 billion years! Out latest podcast features John Jackson, Head of Science Communication and Policy at NHM. In the 1990’s, NHM changed the way they approached the museum’s exhibitions. Traditionally, scientists would take something that they were working on behind closed doors, put it in a display case and then go back to the lab. The major goal has now shifted to include the public in the process of science and to shape both research and exhibits with public engagement in mind. I’m still thinking about The Darwin Center five years later, so definitely a model worth learning about.
From his earliest days, Dr. Rush Holt has been interested in “how the world works (that’s science) and how people get along (that’s politics).” There are few who want to do both. Rush is one of the rare scientists who has served in Congress and has integrated ‘science and society’ into everything he’s done. Hear about what it was like to be a scientist in Congress and how scientists should be communicating. Rush is currently the CEO of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) & was the U.S. Representative for New Jersey’s 12 congressional district from 1999 to 2015.
Ellis Rubinstein always knew that he wanted to combine his seemingly distinct passions for reporting news and science. Before stepping into his current role as New York Academy of Sciences’ President, he served as Editor of Science Magazine, the scientific journal of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. In our latest podcast, he discusses how important it is for young scientists to be involved in AAAS and NYAS, and to not limit membership and activism to just those in their later careers as some other scientific societies due. Under his watch, the NYAS has the highest number of young scientists (including graduate and more junior students), thanks to the tremendous amount of work Ellis has done to promote career development, networking, and mentoring opportunities.
Nina gets to do her favorite thing on the latest episode: talk about vaccines! Nina is back over at the International Vaccine Access Center with Director of Policy and Advocacy Communications Lois Privor-Dumm. Lois has been working on vaccine advocacy for decades to bring life saving vaccines (like the one to prevent meningitis) to countries all over the world.
Dr. Andrea Gielen is Director of the Center for Injury Research & Policy at Johns Hopkins and a very passionate person in general about getting the message out about how much injury is costing us each year–and all the many things we can do to help. Injury is a much broader term than Nina had realized and can include anything from falling down the stairs, to household fires, to child health to overdose from drugs.
The Center is also working to translate research into policy, and has many unique approaches worth hearing about. The Center is uniquely poised to do this as it’s a hub of interdisciplinary efforts combining research, policy, and practice all at the same place.
Continuing on with the science communication and politics theme, Nina chats with Dr. Jenny Carlson, medical entomologist, about her trip down to Florida last summer to talk to citizens about the benefits of releasing genetically modified (GM) mosquitoes to combat mosquito borne diseases like Zika and Dengue.
Wise words from Jenny: “Sometimes life will take you in the most unexpected direction if you open yourself up to opportunities- my personal philosophy in life is to experience as much as possible. My path has changed many time within the realm of science, but one thing is for sure, science is one of my greatest loves and because of that I need to advocate for it. Little did I know that my expertise in mosquito biology would lead me to defend for the release of genetically modified mosquitoes in Key West, FL.”
Happy Halloween! Four scientists get together on Halloween to talk about a spooky topic: the science views of the presidential candidates! The science communication show Public Health United welcomes Dr. Bill Moss (see our previous podcast together), Dr. Katherine Fenstermacher (Hopkins), and Kenny Shatzkes (Rutgers, Eagleton Fellow) to talk about their frustration while watching the debates, the lessons they’ve learned in communicating science and policy, and how scientists and policymakers need to collaborate and reach compromises to form better science policies. I cannot even count the number of laughs we all have together. Truly a fun and informative episode on science policy during this election season! FYI, the title of this special edition podcast is based on Harry Frankfurt’s NYT best selling book, “On Bullshit” which details the difference between liars and bullshitters…listen to hear what the difference is and how destructive the latter can be!