Listening to the talks at the RCN meeting, I was both surprised and pleased by the many different perspectives they had invited to speak. The topics ranged from diagnosis to forecasting to policy and more. I’m still early in my PhD program and not entirely sure what I want to do after I graduate, so seeing all these avenues that are so diverse and still disease-related and biology-related was very interesting. I’ve always been unsure of what I want my personal involvement in policy-influencing to be. Of course, everyone wants to do something useful, but there is a full spectrum of things to do from conducting experiments that generate the information people need all the way to generating and implementing laws. The policy-oriented talks highlighted how difficult it is to bring together all those people and have them agree upon and formulate recommendations, but it’s also very necessary if any problems are going to get solved. Someone gave me a good piece of advice: at this point in your graduate work, take all the opportunities that you reasonably can commit to because 1) you will learn things that you can apply in ways you don’t expect and 2) you never know what is going to turn into a hot or important issue.
On a side note, Lauren was sitting next to me taking pictures of people in front of their title slides, and she said something about live tweeting the meeting. I wasn’t sure if she was joking or not, but it got me wondering: social media is certainly a tool with exploring for promoting science, but since it is a rather young means of communication, have there been any studies on the quality and quantity of scientific information that people learn from Twitter and other social media platforms? In terms of cost per view, anything free has bang for its buck as long as it isn’t overly time consuming. A professor once mentioned that he sometimes put money in his grant budget for outreach and communication – things like making aquarium displays and costs of running a professional-looking website that distributes a lot of data – to show them that he was serious about outreach and broader impacts. It would be interesting to see how social media stacks up to other forms of science communication.