LSC researchers find attitudes toward human genome editing vary, but all agree conversation is necessary
The following story was written by Caroline Schneider of CALS External Relations. It has been adapted and republished here.
In early August 2017, an international team of scientists announced they had successfully edited the DNA of human embryos. As people process the political, moral, and regulatory issues of the technology — which nudges us closer to nonfiction than science fiction — a new study from LSC researchers shows the time is now to involve the American public in discussions about human genome editing.
In the study published Aug. 11 in the journal Science, researchers assessed what people in the United States think about the uses of human genome editing and how their attitudes may drive public discussion. They found a public divided on its uses but united in the importance of moving conversations forward.
“There are several pathways we can go down with gene editing,” says LSC professor Dietram Scheufele, lead author of the study and member of a National Academy of Sciences committee that compiled a report focused on human gene editing earlier this year. “Our study takes an exhaustive look at all of those possible pathways forward and asks where the public stands on each one of them.”
LSC grads go on to have careers in numerous fields, whether it’s digital marketing, technical writing, broadcast production, or science outreach. More still go on to create their own ventures through entrepreneurship. These individuals imagine new opportunities not yet in the marketplace and take action to create successful enterprises. The businesses they create span a range of industries from agriculture to health and fitness and technology development.
One LSC entrepreneur is 2008 grad, Andy Peterson. Andy started working on a plan for his business, Limousin Live, in his LSC capstone, allowing him to jump into the company directly after graduation. Today, Andy owns two companies. Limousin Live which helps ranchers market their herd’s genetics through quality content and information, and Peterson Craftsman Meats where he raises and harvests high-quality meats.
“LSC impacted both of my businesses by helping guide me to the industries that were the best fit for my interests,” says Peterson. While in school, Andy learned to produce podcasts through an information radio class with LSC’s Larry Meiller, and mastered content marketing and website design from LSC’s Don Stanley and Sarah Botham. Right off the bat, he was able to provide high-quality websites and content to his ranch clients and bring social marketing strategies to the cattle arena.
“To me, LSC totally encapsulates the Wisconsin Idea because it allowed me the space to be creative. The classes in LSC provided me the tools and resources to be successful and the creative room to explore different business solutions,” notes Andy.
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Story by Sarah Krier. Sarah is an undergraduate student majoring in LSC and the Department of Life Sciences Communication 2016-17 Lenore Landry Scholar.
LSC faculty are leaders in the science communication field, and in addition to their teaching, research, and outreach roles within the university, many also pursue science communication work at the local, regional, and national scale. LSC senior lecturer Ron Seely recently lent his expertise to a worthwhile regional effort – protecting the Great Lakes.
In September 2016 the Mary Griggs Burke Center for Freshwater Innovation at Northland College invited Seely to attend a two-day summit about the future of the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative (GLRI) and write a white paper about the issue. The initiative aims to clean and protect the Great Lakes’ water resources with federal funding.
Seely used the conference discussions among biologists, limnologists, ecologists, and other scientific professionals to produce a digestible and convincing document about the challenges facing the lake. That said, his work started well before the conference. Ron spent months preparing for the summit by researching the biological processes of freshwater resources and the effects of pollution, biodiversity, and water quality on the Great Lake’s ecosystem.
Ron agrees these efforts paid off. “It’s a great comfort when you sit down to write something like this to have a huge stack of information to pull from. I had a better handle on the discussion as it happened. In the end, I went to the summit pretty well prepared and I think that’s a good lesson for a writer. You can’t really spend too much time understanding your topic.”
According to the summit and Seely’s white paper, the benefits provided by the GLRI are clear. The program, which started in 2010, has made tremendous positive strides to improve the health of the Great Lakes. “All the experts who had been involved pointed out that it is this tremendously successful bipartisan program,” noted Seely.
Since its publication last fall the white paper has passed through the hands of important decision makers and continues to make the rounds among congressional delegates involved in determining the future of the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative.
LSC is excited to announce that LSC professor emeritus and senior lecturer Larry Meiller was inducted into the Wisconsin Broadcasters Association Hall of Fame on Thursday, June 15, 2017. Larry’s on-air career has spanned 50 years and he continues to host “The Larry Meiller Show” every weekday in addition to serving as a faculty member at LSC and inspiring students to pursue radio in LSC’s Information Radio course.
Larry Meiller’s radio career started while an undergraduate student in the Department of Agricultural Journalism (now called Life Sciences Communication). Meiller enrolled in a radio class his senior year and shortly after he was asked to fill in on “The Farm Program,” a department run agricultural radio segment on WHA AM radio, for a summer by late LSC professor Maury White. Not long after, Meiller took over running “The Farm Program” while pursuing his Ph.D. in Mass Communications at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.
Larry has hosted a number of programs including “The Farm Program,” “The Midday Report,” “Wisconsin Hear and Now,” and “Conversations with Larry Meiller,” and he has interviewed local and national celebrities including Jesse Jackson, Pat Summerall, John Grisham and others.
“Larry Meiller is truly a Wisconsin institution,” notes LSC chair Dominique Brossard. “Larry really epitomizes the Wisconsin Idea because not only does he love teaching students how to communicate effectively, but he also draws on that knowledge and the knowledge of the university as a whole to discuss a range of topics on his radio show. And he has done this for 50 years! We are truly lucky to have him.”
Friday June 16th, the Oxford University Press released The Oxford Handbook of the Science of Science Communication. The book, co-edited by LSC professor Dietram Scheufele, Kathleen Hall Jamieson of the Annenberg Public Policy Center at the University of Pennsylvania, and Dan Kahan of Yale Law School, provides a comprehensive overview of the current issues and challenges facing science communication.
The handbook features essays from the leading scholars in science communication including LSC professor and chair Dominique Brossard and LSC faculty affiliate Michael Xenos. Many LSC alumni also contributed including Heather Akin (who will be an assistant professor at the University of Missouri this fall), Nan Li of Texas Tech University, and Sara K. Yeo of the University of Utah.
“For a long time, the scientific community has relied on intuition rather than empirical data when it came to communicating the value of science to different political and public audiences,” says Scheufele. “The handbook brings together some of the very best social scientists whose work helps us approach science communication from a truly scientific perspective.”
The handbook provides case studies of past science communication successes and failures, and identifies human biases that often affect the ways in which scientific information is processed. In addition, the book takes the next step and provides ways to overcome biases – such as selective exposure, motivated reasoning and the availability heuristic – and discusses how these biases are exacerbated by the changing media environment.
More information and purchase information is available at the Oxford University Press.
This week, Life Sciences Communication professor and chair Dominique Brossard is traveling to San Diego to be honored at the 2017 International Communication Association (ICA) Conference. Brossard will be named a Fellow of ICA and will be recognized by association leaders at their annual conference.
Fellow status in the ICA, the most prestigious association for communication researchers, is a recognition of distinguished scholarly contributions to the broad field of communication. Brossard is an internationally known expert in public opinion dynamics related to controversial scientific issues. Her research focuses on the intersection between science, media and policy and on understanding the role of values in shaping public attitudes.
“Dominique is without a doubt one of the most widely recognized international experts in the area of communication about controversial science. Her track record of establishing communication research as a foundation for scientific work in other disciplines – both within the social sciences and the bench sciences – is unique in our discipline,” notes LSC professor Dietram Scheufele. Scheufele himself was named an ICA Fellow in June of 2016.
In addition to serving as a Fellow for ICA, Brossard is also a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) and is a former board member of the International Network of Public Communication of Science and Technology.
Today, Dexter Patterson (BS ’14) is busier than ever. In addition to serving as the social and digital media specialist for the Wisconsin Foundation and Alumni Association, he is in the process of building a media company, and pursuing his master’s degree at the Brian Lamb School of Communication at Purdue University. According to Dexter, LSC defined his badger experience and helped him find his purpose.
Learn more about his LSC experience below:
Story by Sarah Krier. Sarah is an undergraduate student majoring in LSC and the Department of Life Sciences Communication 2016-17 Lenore Landry Scholar
The 2016-2017 academic year marked the first year of the University of Wisconsin’s UniverCity Year program, where twenty-three classes across campus teamed up with the City of Monona to work on projects aimed at helping the city address key programs. The Department of Life Sciences Communication continued our tradition of engaging with Wisconsin communities by having two classes team up with UniverCity to help the City of Monona tackle projects while providing students an opportunity to immerse themselves in real-world professional experiences. One of LSC’s capstone classes developed a city-wide leaf management campaign, while students in LSC’s Information Radio class produced public service announcements for the city.
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Sixteen students were honored for their academic achievements and received scholarships and awards thanks to the generous gifts from donors. Warren Nesbitt, a 76′ graduate of LSC, served as the guest speaker. Warren, who is President of SolutionTrack Associates, reflected on his time in LSC and his successful communications career before giving students advice for their future careers.
Alumni, donors and friends traveled from near and far to attend and pass along their generosity to a new group of students, enabling many of these students to go above and beyond. Thank you to all the generous donors for supporting our students and for all they invest in LSC!
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The use of narrative in science has become a particularly active area of research in recent years. Narrative can be a powerful tool for any form of communication and science is no exception. But it is not as easy as it may seem. When using storytelling in science, there are many questions to address. What does research tell us about what is effective when using narrative in science? What should the plot line be? What platform is best? What is the length and format? These are just a few of the questions communicators must address when composing a narrative about science.
This semester, LSC debuted a new course focusing on this emerging area in science communication – LSC 430: Communicating Science with Narrative. The course, taught by Professor Shiela Reaves, explores how storytelling can be used to communicate complex scientific topics to non-expert audiences. Students examine the impact of metaphor in science writing, the scientific paradigm shifts surrounding narrative theory, and how news-editorial thinking can be used in the sciences.
“Although storytelling is ancient to the human species, it is relatively new in the life sciences, and many scientists are not aware of the persuasive impact of non-fiction storytelling found in the news media. By understanding the power of storytelling to change minds, our students can stand out in the field,” notes Reaves.
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