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 email@example.com 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).
How does Johns Hopkins International Vaccine Access Center (IVAC) help speed up equitable access to life saving vaccines like rotavirus or HPV vaccines? Mary Carol Jennings, MD, on top of being drawn to community medicine, has always felt a calling for advocacy and bringing positive change to her surroundings. Even through her rigorous medical training, she made time for helping others at all stages of her career. At IVAC, Mary Carol is lead on two projects: RAVIN, an accelerator project for equitable vaccine access to rotavirus vaccine, and developing a new project on HPV vaccine access and advocacy.
“As you may refer to a Dickens novel or a piece of artwork to help contextualize a cultural or lifestyle issue, so you could also bring your science to bear. When you’re looking at the world as a round, you probably want to bring in a scientific perspective, even if you’re not a scientist because that is how the world is.”
Dan Glaser is all about crossovers. He is a neuroscientist and co-Director of Science Gallery London, located at King’s College London, where the main message is that art and science are intricately linked. Science Gallery is a space and project that was started in Dublin, Ireland and aims to make science a cultural event that targets 15-25 year olds from neighborhoods that wouldn’t typically be included in science or art campaigns. The exhibits are a testament to social justice and are co-created with the target audience, getting input from 15-25 year olds in the neighborhoods from before the topic is even chosen.
Dan also writes a weekly column in The Guardian where he gives current event news a scientific twist, like Brexit.
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.
I’m in London for work! And I snuck in three podcasts in my favorite neighborhood of museums in Kensington. First of three was at the British Science Association with Chief Executive Katherine Mathieson. Too often the public feels very distant from science and the scientific process; the BSA is changing that by changing people’s perceptions of science and making it into a fun, cultural process. They have many public engagement programs on, and one of my favorites is the British Science Festival. Listen to find out more!
This week, Nina is joined by International Vaccine Access Center (IVAC at Johns Hopkins School of Public Health) Advocacy and Communications Specialist Swati Sudarsan as they interview Kate O’Brien, Executive Director of the International Vaccine Access Center. Did you know vaccines can address social justice? In this episode, Kate explains that the children around the world who have the least access to vaccines suffer the most from vaccine preventable diseases – but she aims to change that. First on her list is an evaluation of the full benefits of vaccines, in an analysis she calls the “full public health value of vaccines.” She explains that vaccines not only prevent disease in an immunized child, but it can protect the people around them, can help families avert the costs of hospitalization from disease, and can even reduce an emerging crisis – antibiotic resistance.
Kate is a sitting member of the Strategic Advisory Group of Experts (SAGE), which advises the World Health Organization on global vaccine policy, and serves on the Gavi Board representing the Technical and Research constituency. She is a senior advisor at the Center for American Indian Health, and of course, a beloved professor in the Department of International Health at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.
Last time on PHU Podcast, we spoke about vaccine confidence with Heidi Larson and Pauline Paterson. On our latest podcast, Nina speaks with Dr. Peter Hotez on a related topic: vaccine hesitancy. Vaccine confidence and hesitancy are related but different issues. Think: opposite sides of the same coin. Vaccine hesitancy describes the idea that people are unsure about whether to get vaccinated (and they may be pro- or anti-vaccine). According to the WHO, vaccine hesitancy is caused by any of the 3 C’s: complacency, convenience and confidence. Note that this only refers to scenarios in which vaccines are readily available to the person.
Peter Hotez is well known for his science communication and advocacy efforts on vaccines–which have been motivated and inspired both by his daughter, who has autism, and his long research career in vaccine development for neglected tropical diseases. Peter is has a long list of jobs including:
Founding dean at the National School of Tropical Medicine
Professor of Pediatrics and Molecular Virology & Microbiology at Baylor College of Medicine
Texas Children’s Hospital Endowed Chair of Tropical Pediatrics
Director of Texas Children’s Hospital Center for Vaccine Development
Baker Institute Fellow in Disease and Poverty at Rice University.
Co-founder, Global Network for Neglected Tropical Diseases in 2006 as part of the Clinton Global Initiative.
Founding Editor-in-Chief of PLOS Neglected Tropical Diseases
Our latest podcast guest, Laurie Garrett, is an award winning science journalist (she has won all three major journalism awards: the Peabody, the Pulitzer, and the Polk) and a senior fellow for global health at the Council on Foreign Relations in New York. I first heard about Laurie back in 2000 when I read her book, “The Coming Plague: Newly Emerging Diseases in a World Out of Balance.” Among many accomplishments, she’s well known for chronicling the Ebola outbreak both in the 90’s and more recently. In this episode, Laurie tells us some of her stories from the frontline of outbreak science journalism and some challenges she sees for the global community in preparing for the next pandemic.
Our latest guest is also the latest faculty addition to the Department of Molecular Microbiology and Immunology at Johns Hopkins School of Public Health, Dr. Monica Mugnier (big news: Monica won an 2016 NIH Early Independence Award which allowed her to skip the tradtional postdoctoral fellowship and become faculty right after completing her PhD work). Monica studies a kind of parasite, called a tropanosome, that causes the disease African Sleeping Sickness. They are very difficult to control for a vaiety of reasons, one of them being the focus of her work (and some very cool science) on how they can rapidly change their coats to avoid detection by our immune system (aka antigenic variation). Monica finds these parasites so cool to study because they break all of the rules (read: they don’t follow any of the classic biology rules that she learned in class). Lots of mystery and discovery!
Monica and I have a great conversation on how to make a great science presentation (and how difficult it can be to strike the right amount of info, depending on your audience). We also discuss the challenges of conveying the importance of global health science research, especially when the illness primarily impacts people on a different continent.