What are our duties as scientific researchers? How can we help to serve our communities and communicate science to those who make decisions for our communities?
These questions prompted Notre Dame’s Science Policy Initiative to host the first Annual Indiana Science Communication Day (INSciCommDay) 5 years ago. That first INSciCommDay, 15 students attended. Three INSciCommDays later on March 20th 2023, 24 graduate students from four different universities across Indiana began traveling early in the morning and arrived at the statehouse to speak with their lawmakers about topics ranging from adult autism, antibiotic resistance genes, cancer, and more. This incredible professional development opportunity allowed graduate students from across Indiana to gather at the Indiana statehouse to communicate their research to policymakers and gain experience engaging a non-scientific audience.
Participants were urged to call and email the lawmakers representing their districts in the weeks beforehand to set up meetings with their lawmakers during the event. Many participants had never called their state lawmakers before, and this process helped to reduce communication barriers and marked the beginning of what will hopefully be long-term collaborative relationships.
Senators and representatives from both political parties attended the event, seeking out their constituents among the crowd. But the action was not isolated to poster sessions-a group of students from Purdue got a behind the scenes tour of the House Floor, and other students arranged one-on-one meetings with their lawmakers to talk about research and policy.
We know that research universities provide huge benefits to their states: they positively influence economic development, human capital, knowledge expansion and innovation, and societal well-being and quality of life. According to the most recent data from the National Science Foundation, Indiana universities in particular invested over $1.6 million dollars yearly in research & development across all STEM disciplines, fueling critical discovery and innovation.
Communicating our science is challenging, but it is unbelievably necessary and undeniably our responsibility as researchers. Scientists, like our elected officials, have a duty to serve our communities. Does your science have an impact on Indiana and beyond? Do you want to share your science with the world? Keep an eye out for the 5th Indiana Science Communication Day in 2024. We will see you there!