Saturday, June 29, 2019

Beyond Blastocysts: 'Simple Stories' and Stem Cell Research Funding

The California stem cell agency this week had some useful advice for telling the stem cell story, be it in Keokuk, Ia., or La Jolla, Ca. 
It is not necessarily just a matter of petri dishes and blastocysts.  It is a matter of "simple stories that illustrate what you did and who it helped or might help."
The advice came from Kevin McCormack, senior director of communications for the California stem cell agency, in an item on the agency's blog, The Stem Cellar
The piece grew out of a panel at the meeting this week of the International Society for Stem Cell Research in Los Angeles. McCormack began by briefly recounting the experiences of researchers who carried their pitches into legislative and Congressional arenas.
Those are places where the money is -- the lifeblood of scientific research. 
Money, incidentally, is of particular interest at California Institute for Regenerative Medicine (CIRM), as the $3 billion agency is formally known. On Monday it will shut down applications for new awards because in a few months it expects to run out of cash for them. 
Here is a little of what McCormack had to say concerning communication and scientific research, drawing from the ISSCR panel.
"(P)resenters talked about their struggles with different issues and different audiences but similar experiences; how do you communicate clearly and effectively. The answer is actually pretty simple. You talk to people in a way they understand with language they understand. Not with dense scientific jargon. Not with reams of data. Just by telling simple stories that illustrate what you did and who it helped or might help.
"The power of ISSCR is that it can bring together a roomful of brilliant scientists from all over the world who want to learn about these things, who want to be better communicators. They know that much of the money for scientific research comes from governments or state agencies, that this is public money, and that if the public is going to continue to support this research it needs to know how that money is being spent.
"That’s a message CIRM has been promoting for years. We know that communicating with the public is not an option, it’s a responsibility. That’s why, at a time when the very notion of science sometimes seems to be under attack, and the idea of public funding for that science is certainly under threat, having meetings like this that brings researchers together and gives them access to new tools is vital. The tools they can 'get' at ISSCR are ones they might never learn in the lab, but they are tools that might just mean they get the money needed to do the work they want to."

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