The National Academy of Sciences' (NAS) Public Interfaces of Life Sciences Roundtable, hosted Day 1 of a 2 Day convening about "The Sustainable Infrastructures for Life Science Communication."


  1. On Dec 9th, NAS hosted a roundtable to discuss the sustainable infrastructures – from culture to funding – that can support life scientists as they engage with the broader public. About 60 people were in the room for the discussion, and about 65 joined from online (from as far as Korea!). This Storify, curated by workshop co-chair Brooke Smith, is intended to share what was presented and discussed on the first of this two day convening. The second day of our workshop was postponed due to weather, and so we hope this Storify will also serve as a baseline for continued thinking heading into our second day, tentatively rescheduled for mid-January. Stay tuned for more details. 
  2. First things first, here's more on the Roundtable:
  3. And here are the great and able "knights" that comprise the the Roundtable:
  4. Due to the snowy weather, we had a delayed start to our day 1 proceedings and lost some time and a few participants. 
  5. Still, our day packed a punch - full of great science communications and engagement insights. We were grateful for the interest, the folks that watched online, the Roundtable sponsors, the speakers, all the prep put in by the Roundtable members and NAS staff, and all the chatter at the meeting and online (#NASInterface). 
  6. To kickoff the day, workshop co-chair Ken Ramos (University of Louisville) welcomed everyone. Then I (fellow co-chair Brooke Smith, COMPASS) dug into what we would explore during our time together. Particularly, what we mean by "Sustainable Infrastructures" at the public interface of life science. 
  7. Life scientists engage in myriad ways (image below), and engagement means different things to different people. Our charge for this workshop was not to explore if engagement is good or bad, or if one way is better than another, but instead to identify what infrastructures (from culture to policies) allow - or disallow - scientists to engage.
  8. I shared an oversimplified graphic that COMPASS uses in their science communications trainings to show a quick view of the entire work process of a scientist, including and beyond publishing.  
  9. In COMPASS' experience, scientists are expected to "publish findings" (even if it's not always that simple), but the work beyond that – where engagement happens – can feel like the "Valley of Death." This valley is big, hard to navigate, and takes a special skill set to cross over it.
  10. I then challenged the group to avoid focusing on the Valley of Death itself, but rather, to think about what sustainable infrastructures are needed to help scientists travel through, and navigate this valley. This includes everything from culture to mechanisms to policies. Nalini Nadkarni later encouraged us to start thinking about this, instead, as a "Mountain of Enlightenment." Point taken. 
  11. Our other Roundtable co-chair, May Berenbaum, who was stuck in Illinois due to poor weather chimed in through the ceiling speakers to give us a snapshot of her career, momentum, and challenges as a life scientist pioneering engagement.