Category Archives: Science and the Media

1000 Words Event


1000 Word Challenge

Friday April 15th 1st, from 5:30-7:00 at the Burke Museum

Can you describe your research using the 1000 most common words in English? Could you do it better than your co-researcher?  Would you like to hear from and meet graduate students from around the UW present their research in a fun and entertaining way?

Then come join us for the fourth annual 1000 Word Challenge and Happy Hour! Test to make sure your entry only uses the 1000 most common words. Then, when you’re ready, enter with your 1000 word and regular research description. (You’ll need to enter through UW email). Please fill out the entry by midnight Sunday April 11th to be considered for prizes, as voted on by the audience. First prize is a $100 gift certificate to the University Bookstore. Second and third prize winners get $50 and $25 respectively.

Last year, we had a lively competition (see information about the entries below (or click this link). There will be light and snacks to enjoy. You can purchase 2 glasses of wine or beer for $5.  Come to hear your fellow graduate students, and enjoy meeting students from all around the college.  We look forward to seeing you!


1000 Word Event – Recap (a month later)

We hosted the 2nd annual 1000 Word Event with the Burke Museum last month March 21st, and have finally been able to get up a blog post about it.  Apologies to everyone who entered and how late this reporting is (and apologies if your photos don’t match entries).

We had just over 60 people in attendance at the event.  Everyone seemed to enjoy the Happy Hour, and then were a great audience for the event itself.  I was impressed with my colleagues and their creativity, as well as the broad showing of departments we had from all around the University.


The judges and audience at the 1000 Word Presentations

One of the things FOSEP members wanted to focus on this year was communication, and we wanted to give everyone an opportunity to try in a friendly environment.  When I was writing my entry, I was surprised at how hard it was to convey my research using the 1000 most common words, but found that it really challenged me to think about what my research means.  I was trying to use both fast and slow thinking and understand where my audience was coming from, as we had talked about earlier in the year in our book club, but I found it was hard when limited to these words.   (How do you talk about hypertension if you can’t even use the word blood pressure – blood pushing on the inside of course). 

See more, including the entries and winners after the jump…

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The Polar Vortex…and what is with all of this Crazy Weather?


This picture was taken at Mt. Rainier, however images like this have been used to illustrate the “Polar Vortex” in Midwest and East Coast cities.

About a week ago FOSEP members got together to talk about scientific communication, a topic that was one of the most requested from our members.  In particular we discussed the distinction between climate and weather.  The Polar Vortex has kept the East Coast and Midwest frigid  Meanwhile, on the West Coast we are in drought conditions.  Some counties in Oregon have already declared drought conditions, while parched Northern California has finally seen some rain. On my recent snowshoeing trip to Mt. Rainier (which are being used to illustrate this post), snow level was below “low” on the mountain.

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New Guides for Interpreting scientific claims and understanding policy making

One of the greatest issues that scientists face during uncertain financial times and in advancing scientific understanding is determining how best to craft a message surrounding our work.  Recently, Nature published a list of Twenty Tips for Interpreting Scientific Claims.  Among the topics addressed are understanding the influence of chance and cause in variation, the understanding that correlation does not imply causation, and that feelings influence risk perception.

This list was published as guidance for policymakers to determine how best to interpret scientific claims, but as someone who has worked in laboratory screening and basic research for 15 years, these are also excellent reminders for guiding consumption of science and discovery of subjects outside of my area of expertise!

In response, Chris Tyler from The Guardian published a list of 20 things scientists should know about policy making.  While this is specific for the UK and Parliament, the lessons here can be extrapolated to the US Congress.  Among things scientists need to consider is the understanding that policy making is hard.  I have done some work with policy-makers at the local level, and lobbying at the state and national level so I understand the push and pull of different views on a topic.  It’s important to remember that not everyone will be happy with the outcome of a particular piece of legislation – and sometimes those people are the scientists who fight so hard to get legislation passed.  For better or worse, public opinion does matter – a directive that tells us, as scientists, that we need to do better with making science approachable for everyone regardless of age and educational level.   And at the very end of the day, politics and legislation boils down to money.  If you can make a strong argument for how your policy initiative is not going to be a waste of time, and even better will be budget neutral, you’re sure to win hearts and minds.

These days it seems misunderstanding of science is not just restricted to policy makers, but is popping up all around us.  This is made worse by groups using information to mislead the public, so I view these lists as excellent additions for anyone thinking about scientific discovery and how to make reasonable decisions about how to interpret scientific claims, and an excellent reminder of how policy making works.

Do you agree?  What do you think is missing from these lists?

By: Corey Snelson

FOSEP/GPSS Panel Discussion: Washington I-522: Labeling Genetically Modified Foods: Should you be concerned?

Should You be Concerned?On Monday October 28th from 6-7 PM FOSEP and the Graduate and Professional Student Senate (GPSS) will be co-hosting a panel discussion about GM Foods, and the possibility of labeling GM products.  Washington voters will be deciding on labeling through Initiative 522 the next week, November 5th.

Each panelist will have an opportunity to present, then the audience will have a chance to ask questions and interact with the panelists.

The panel will be held on the University of Washington Campus at the Husky Union Building, Room 322.

Panelists will include

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WEBCAST: Sackler Colloquium Science of Science Communication II

The National Academy of Sciences will host their second Science of Science Communication colloquium on September 23rd and 24th in Washington D.C.. The colloquium will also be available as a webcast and subsequently as videos on the Sackler Colloquia’s YouTube channel. The program will consist of short talks and panel discussions from leading experts and is co-sponsored by the Gordon and Betty Moore FoundationSciencethe National Science FoundationPNASand COMPASS.

“The colloquium offers scientists, communication practitioners, and opinion leaders the opportunity to discuss issues of mutual concern, share successes and ongoing questions, and fine-tune their understanding of how lessons from research can drive effective communication of scientific topics.”

(The National Academies:

Videos from the first colloquium (held in May of 2012) are also available online for viewing.

“The Arthur M. Sackler Colloquia address scientific topics of broad and current interest that cut across the boundaries of traditional disciplines. Each year, three to four colloquia are scheduled, typically two days in length and international in scope. Each colloquium is organized by a member of the NAS, often with the assistance of an organizing committee, and feature presentations by leading scientists in the field and discussions among one hundred or more researchers with an interest in the topic. “

New Science Advocacy Opportunity from Research!America

Research!America recently announced their Inaugural Advocacy Academy. This opportunity is open to postdoctoral fellows and is designed to expose early career scientists to science advocacy,  outreach, and policy and includes a paid trip to Washington DC! I have participated in other advocacy trainings (through ASBMB and ASPET – both of these are open to graduate students also) and have found the experience both rewarding and educational. While we all may rather stay in the research lab conducting experiments, I believe it is our duty as scientists to educate the public and our elected officials as to issues involving science education, funding, policy etc.

Research!America’s announcements is as follows:

Research!America is pleased to announce an exciting new program to introduce and engage early-career scientists in research advocacy and science policy. The 2013 Research!America Advocacy Academy is a unique opportunity for postdoctoral fellows in the health and biomedical sciences to learn about how to best incorporate advocacy and effective communications into their role as a scientist.

The 2013 class of up to 12 Research!America advocates will participate in a two-day Washington, DC, program from September 11-12, 2013. Participants will learn about the federal budget and appropriations process, tools for effective science communication and outreach as well as how to engage with elected representatives on scientific and research issues. The program includes visiting Capitol Hill to meet with policy makers and congressional staff members, providing participants with a first-hand experience advocating for health research. Rounding out this unique Washington experience, participants will attend Research!America’s National Health Research Forum where top leaders in government, industry, academia and patient organizations engage in moderated conversations on issues of importance to the research ecosystem.

Upon completion of the program, participants will become Science Advocates for Research!America. Advocates will remain engaged with Research!America staff, receive ongoing action alerts and learn about ways to involve their home institution’s research community in effective science advocacy.

All travel expenses (transportation, lodging and meals) will be provided and arranged by Research!America through an educational grant provided by Pfizer. This year’s program is limited to 12 exceptional postdoctoral researchers with a dedicated interest in becoming active advocates for science.

Program overview

Tuesday, September 10, 2013: Evening arrivals; hotel accommodations provided

Wednesday, September 11, 2013: Advocacy Academy Program

  • Policy & legislative overview
  • Advocating for science on Capitol Hill
  • Effective science communication & engagement with the media
  • Preparing for meetings with policy makers
  • Career Enhancement: Roundtable discussion with scientific journal editors
  • Reception and dinner with Research!America Board members and leaders

Thursday, September 12, 2013: Research!America Advocacy Day

  • Meet with Members of Congress and/or staff on Capitol Hill Attend Research!America’s National Health Research Forum
  • Late afternoon departures


    You must have completed your MD, PhD or equivalent doctoral degree and currently hold an appointment as a postdoctoral research fellow at one of Research!America’s member organizations (please click here for a list of eligible academic universities, hospitals, and independent research institutes).

    Application Process

    Application Deadline: July 3, 2013, 5 p.m. EDT

    Please submit the following items to with the subject line ‘Advocacy Academy Application – Your Name.’ All materials must be received by 5 p.m. EDT on July 3, 2013.

    • A curriculum vitae/resume (2 pg. maximum)
    • A statement of interest in the program, which includes your desire to be involved in science policy and advocacy activities, and a summary of relevant activities or employment outside of the classroom or laboratory (1 pg. maximum).
    • A letter of recommendation from your current Principal Investigator or research leader.

    For any questions or more information on the program, please contact Adam M. Katz, Policy and Advocacy Specialist

    A selection committee will review submissions and extend invitations to 12 exceptional candidates. If accepted, participants are expected to obtain appropriate authorization to travel to Washington and participate in the program. Research!America will coordinate all travel arrangements with participants.