Associate Professor, University of Washington
My Vision for Science Education in Washington State:
As a professor of bioethics, perhaps it is unusual at first glance that my passion should be in science education, but the link becomes clear in my daily work. For me, it is an ethical obligation of scientists, researchers and academics to engage in public education. A democracy requires an educated citizenry to function effectively, in all matters. In health research, the realm in which I spend the most time, we need better partnerships with patients and citizens to accomplish health impacts in emerging science. Many of us rely on public dollars to fund our research, and it is only responsible to both give back as well as invite the public to engage in the process with us. Science has moved so far so fast that we have some ground to cover in science literacy, and while many high school science classrooms are doing an incredible job bringing new genomic technologies and thinking to the students, many of our citizens fall outside of the typical "science track" and do not yet have a context for what to say when their doctor asks permission to keep a specimen for future genetic research projects.
This came up recently when I was invited to speak at a symposium on the "Big Data Deluge" by local nonprofit Sage Bionetworks. I spoke of the importance of communicating our findings and research developments to the public. Communicating complex computational biology is challenging and will require translation, but the efforts are worthwhile and will pay off in increased science literacy and increased support (or perhaps even appropriate challenging) of the work when greater understanding is achieved.
As the above illustration suggests, I am committed to working in science education in two areas: (1) to our next generation of scientists and researchers – a sense of obligation to engage; and (2) to "the public" – a greater scientific literacy so they can become better consumers of health information, more savvy voters in science policy matters, and active participants and partners in research. I am committed to getting creative with social media to reach new generations of people who want to follow or discuss issues. The ethics of science is a great hook for engaging the public and students in conversation and getting them interested in science and considering its social impact. The idea of the "ivory tower" days of the academy are dead – we have a responsibility to engage more broadly, and indeed will do better work if we do.
Faculty Advisor, Forum on Science, Ethics and Policy: I have been the advisor to this graduate student organization for many years. Working with this organization, I am able to work with the next generation of researchers and scientists to develop skills in science education, public communication of science, and outreach. This organization has been recognized widely by such organizations as the AAAS. While I cannot begin to take credit for the accomplishments that are entirely those of the students, I am one of the few faculty on campus who stepped forward in response to the call for assistance and support in their desire to do more with their future careers. By validating that they were on the right track with a commitment to science education and public engagement, the students had the vision they needed to excel and thrive. One outgrowth of this organization is the Engage Series, which began as a class I co-sponsored with a graduate student to teach public communication skills. The course was written up in Chris Mooney's blog as an exemplar, and this year, the students have negotiated to have their presentations run at Seattle's Town Hall.
Board Member, Northwest Association for Biomedical Research: In this capacity, I regularly facilitate workshops with science teachers on integrating ethics into their classrooms, work with staff on ethics components of their excellent curriculum materials, and facilitate Community Conversations around ethical dimensions of medical research monthly in a South Lake Union coffee shop. I also co-chair the NWABR Program Committee and in that role advise and guide the staff on setting priorities for carrying out the strategic work of the organization – to strengthen public trust in research through education and dialogue.
Other activities include: