Mind the Science Gap ends

MTSG_H8I’m sad to report that Mind the Science Gap, a science communication training blog from the University of Michigan School of Public Health,  has ended.

In January 2012, Mind The Science Gap was launched as a unique approach to helping public health graduate students at the University of Michigan hone their science communication skills.  Since then, we’ve seen nearly 400 posts, over 4000 comments, half a million page views, and some fantastic writing on science and public health.  And most importantly, the course has provided nearly 40 early career public health professionals with a unique set of communication skills.

Unfortunately, all good things have to come to end at some time, and Mind The Science Gap is no exception.  The course started as an experiment in how social media can be used to develop and enhance science communication skills.  In this it was highly successful.  But it was also extremely time consuming, dependent on feedback from readers and other science communicators, and reliant on the participants being able to navigate complex and sometimes controversial topics from the get-go.  And as my time has become increasingly taken up with my academic responsibilities as department chair and director of the University of Michigan Risk Science Center, I sadly find myself having less time than necessary to devote to the course and its students.

On top of this, it has become increasingly difficult to encourage readers and other science writers and communicators to provide critical feedback to the course participants.

Read more on their website, & read some of the almost 400 posts that you may have missed.

Extending Gene-Environment Interactions into Policy Domains: The Case of Tobacco Taxation

FletcherLecJason Fletcher,  associate professor of public affairs at the University of Wisconsin, will present the first seminar of the 2013-2014 invited speaker series on population health issues sponsored by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Health & Society Scholars program (http://www.sph.umich.edu/rwjhssp/) and the Center for Social Epidemiology and Population Health (http://www.sph.umich.edu/cseph/).

A specialist in health economics, economics of education and child and adolescent health policy, Professor Fletcher focuses his research on examining social network effects on adolescent education and health outcomes, combining genetics and social science research, estimating long-term consequences of childhood mental illness, and child and adolescent mental health policy.

  • Date:  13 November 2013
  • Time:  4-5:30
  • Location:  Lane Auditorium, SPH 1

Video from this year’s Risk Science Symposium with Mark Lynas now available

The Risk Science Center has announced that the video of this year’s Bernstein Symposium is available online.  If you weren’t able to attend, it was a fascinating lecture and panel discussion: Why Is It Hard to Pivot Based on Science?

Mark Lynas, an author, journalist, environmental activist, and Visiting Research Associate at Oxford University, presented the lecture, then joined a panel for a lively discussion.

Find the link on the Risk Science Center web site.

Gunning for trouble

From Michigan Today:

They’re young. They’ve been injured in an assault—so badly they went to the emergency room. And nearly one in four of them has a gun, probably an illegal one. What happens next?

A new study by the University of Michigan Injury Center provides data that could be important to breaking the cycle of gun violence, which kills more teens and young adults today than anything except auto accidents.

In the new issue of the journal Pediatrics, the team from the U-M Injury Center reports data from interviews with 689 teens and young adults who came to an emergency department in Flint, Mich., for treatment of injuries from an assault. Their study is titled “Firearm Possession Among Adolescents Presenting to an Urban Emergency Department for Assault.”

In all, 23 percent of the patients reported they owned or carried a gun in the last six months—and more than 80 percent of those guns were obtained illegally. Of those with guns, 22 percent said it was a highly lethal automatic or semiautomatic weapon. The study excluded guns used for recreational hunting and target practice.

Those with guns also were more likely than those without guns at their disposal to have been in a serious fight in recent months, to use illegal drugs or misuse prescription drugs, and to express approval for retaliation after an injury.

Read the complete story here.  Read the article in Pediatrics here.

Teachers as Internet celebrities?

MTSG_H8From the School of Public Health’s Mind the Science Gap (summer edition):

It is a truth universally acknowledged that lazy (read: efficient) students will find ways to use new technologies to get their homework done faster, and certainly this has been observed with the World Wide Web. Curiously, students have also been observed using the internet for educational purposes unrelated to their coursework or even beyond the parameters of their syllabi. Even more shocking has been the discovery that non-students are using the internet for educational purposes as well, as though learning were a leisure activity.

In this brave new world, Duolingo, a language-tutoring website, boasts millions of users, Coursera is able to report a profit despite offering online courses for the price of free, and the YouTube has taken it upon themselves to devote an entire division of their company to the growing market of educational videos.  Rest assured that these trends have not escaped the notice of some very clever people (and especially prescient department chairs), who have realized that the future of education – as well as science and public health communication – is on the web. The consequence of this epiphany is my summer research project: we know that the Internet is a powerful tool, but how do we make educational content that people actually care about?


Though many people think of the Internet as a sort of deplorable wasteland of cat pictures and Game of Thrones references (I’m looking at you, reddit and tumblr), there are a number of tractable efforts in play to wield the web as a tool for education and outreach. The aforementioned Duolingo and Coursera are excellent examples, as are the well-known Kahn Academy, CodeAcademy, and a myriad of “edutainment” Youtube channels.

What bewilders me most is the sheer volume of interest that these outlets receive. I mean, there are literally millions of viewers subscribing to YouTube channels devoted to every academic subject imaginable, from science and literature, to mathematics and history. And there are a million users anon who are brushing up on their Spanish with Duolingo, taking refresher courses in calculus with the Kahn, or learning biostatistics on Coursera.

Clearly, there is an interest being served here, and if we can understand what draws people to these kinds of resources, then we can improve the dialogue between academics and non-academics, and potentially even use these avenues to disseminate public health information.

Naturally, this is easier said than done.

Read the complete post, and comment here.

Risk Science Center cohosts a workshop on assessing the risk of innovative materials


From the University of Michigan’s School of Public Health Risk Science Center:

A one-day workshop co-organized by the University of Michigan Risk Science Center will address the unique characteristics and properties of innovative materials, and the challenges of ensuring their safe development and use.

The Risk Assessment of Innovative Materials Workshop, organized in collaboration with RSC, 3M and the Northland Chapter of the Society of Toxicology, will be held on Thursday 1 August at 3M’s Innovation Center in St Paul, MN. For registrations, please visit the workshop website.