Listen. Don’t Walk Away…

November 29, 2012 - 7 minutes read
Scientific leaders’ duty to the benefactors of science is to educate the importance and the value of science. “What do the benefactors value,” you ask? Simple. Just ask them! Then listen.
Unfortunately I question the motives of our current scientific leaders. I believe that leaders need to lead with passion. They need to fight for those who can’t. They can never surrender against those who oppose their cause, because there’s too much at stake. I feel that there’s too many lives that count on the success of scientific discoveries.
I’m ashamed by the recent actions in Texas of my science leaders and so called educators. The audacity of them stepping down as a sign of protest. This directly affects the voters of this CPRIT bill; mothers, daughters, fathers, sons, grand parents, patients, survivors. (The list goes on.) This kind of leadership in science is not what’s needed. We need people that have a genuine belief in science and can communicate the benefits to the rest of us.  Much of the general public doesn’t understand the scientific discovery process. And, for those who do, don’t communicate it effectively for the rest of us to care. Its hard work and a difficult process.  We get it, but so what? Why should we care about that process? If the process of scientific peer-review is important, than explain it. If we still don’t get it, then explain it a different way. This, I have found, has been a fundamental problem of scientists, as a whole; the curse of knowledge.  Scientists spend so much time working tirelessly on their arduous research.  Once they make their discovery and tell the world, much of that information falls on deaf ears.  They fail to realize that communicating difficult work is sometimes as difficult as the work itself. They need to realize this and change their communication strategies to suit the audience. It’s not easy and its a skill seldom taught in science. Better communication is needed in science.
I usually step back from the science politics and try to avoid the intellectual hubris, but this time I had to say something. I see such damaging effects of their ‘childish’ actions.  Some research scientists treat other non-scientists as “un-educated” individuals not worth their communicative efforts.  Great ideas that are worth spreading needs to be imbued with passion. This is especially true at a time where grand funding is strapped and drying up, education in science and math is taking a back seat (17th in the world), and health care costs are crippling the country. This is exactly where scientists and the proponents of science need to work even harder.  This “stepping down” is un-acceptable behavior. You can’t just “step down” and walk away every time things don’t go your way…because its not about YOUR way. Change takes time and consistency. Yes,scientists, this peer review process has been dis-honored, and yes, business politicians, the review process takes too long. What we, as the benefactors, want is to understand. So communicate why is a peer review an important process. Find creative ways to communicate the importance of the process. Come up with solutions to illustrate the importance of this long held system. Solicite suggestions to changes that’ll facilitate the process. What is not acceptable, is stepping down. It is literally killing people. People who’s lives depends on the proper research process.
I’m not a cancer survivor, nor has cancer had a huge impact on my immediate family, nor am I’m a scientist, in comparison to these brilliant researchers. I’m a science manager. I’ve been in research for the past 20 years and have seen so much of the bubble effect that scientists live in. I’ve made it my career to improve how science is managed for the little guy…the individual scientist that really loves the science. This is what drives me.  I believe in science. I see so much that its discoveries has benefited. I’ve spent my time in a lab learning without the intense dedication it takes to earn a PhD or an MD, or even an MD, PhD. I just wanted to learn without judgement or critique, which so often, what the current education process teaches us. The goal should be about the love of learning, not the A, the degree, the grant, or the awards. Unfortunately, current scientific processes cater to this type of mindset; the mindset of the grade and degree chasers. I’ve seen how its made a divide between the degree holders vs the non degree holders. This has become a scene that has played out time in, time again in popular media.

Science isn’t immune to it. Science has a bad PR and its time that the acronym chasers move out of the way and leave it to thegreat scientific communicators out there.  Let them bring the passion and love of science to those who don’t understand it. Then those that feel the passion are motivate to help facilitate the process of science. Current scientific process is creating hubris, more than discovery. There needs to be a new way. Its starts by listening.

Communication is What The Listener Does — Peter Drucker
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