Science Needs a Better PR Team

The 511 / February 3, 2020

For information in the 20th century, we called 411. The 511 includes: 

  • a handful of paragraphs about health tech or some other science-y thing
  • 1 sentence for reflection (and maybe a laugh), and 
  • 1 track I’ve currently got in heavy rotation.

Welcome to the 12 people who started following my blog these past couple of weeks.

We need more truths to be self-evident

And part of that is up to us. But a big, big part of it comes from on high. Unlike the economy, morality actually does trickle down. So, when elected officials embrace science (or disregard it), it matters. Citizens pay attention, and if leaders in politics and industry (and education, to a lesser extent) fill that space with truth, good things happen. If they don’t, others will step into that void and fill it fanciful tales that are, as Thomas Edsall notes in today’s New York Times, “by definition irrational, contradictory and inconsistent.”

It’s a wide-ranging article, chockful of good stuff and, per usual, much longer than your average opinion NYT piece. There’s a host of articles and essays in the NYT, the Atlantic, and the New Yorker that map the trajectory of Q, “his” audience, and the threat they pose to our democratic republic. The algorithms are implicated, too, and I want to add a scientific twist to this mess. Algorithms work across the political spectrum because they gradually lead us to abandon the null hypothesis. Our feeds exclude evidence that reinforces the null hypothesis. It is, I suggest, a more rigorous way to think about confirmation bias.

The null hypothesis is, of course, fundamental to scientific inquiry.

The null hypothesis of vaccine testing is that the rate of COVID infection between the experimental group (those who receive the vaccine) and the control group (those who receive the placebo) is not statistically significant. Luckily, that’s not the case, and the scientists at Moderna, Pfizer and others have been able, in scientific parlance, “to exclude the null hypothesis from the realm of possibilities.”

That parlance, though, may be part of the problem. There’s the proof in the pudding, in terms of the vaccine, but that may not be enough to boost the scientific literacy of a critical mass of Americans. Science is aaaay-maaaay-zing, and our country needs more Neil Degrasse Tyson’s out there shilling on its behalf.

President Biden’s nomination of Eric Lander to science advisor as a member of his Cabinet is a big help in this regard. The retention of Francis Arnold (Cal Tech) and Maria Zuber (MIT), along with the appointment of Alondra Nelson (Princeton) as deputy science policy chief, may be a great development in this regard. Let’s hope they hire a great marketing team.

5(1)1 — On writing and clarity

“Writers must therefore constantly ask: what am I trying to say? Surprisingly often they don’t know. Then they must look at what they have written and ask: have I said it?”

William Zinsser, from “On Writing Well”
51(1) — In rotation: fIREHOSE’s “The Candle and the Flame”

A song for these times. (I couldn’t link directly to the song, alas.) My teenager and I got talkin’ the other night about life back in the day, about fIREHOSE in particular, and cued up a few tracks from this LP. It’s still so much fun.

Please share this post with someone you know who’s interested in health, leadership, and music.

I’m also on this thing called Twitter (@randaldoane). While it may be a passing fad, let’s connect, just in case it proves enduring.

If you want to talk about branding and marketing in medtech, or a newsletter that needs more pop, drop me a line over here.

Cheers!

Sources

Seth Borenstein. “Biden picks geneticist as science adviser, puts in Cabinet.” AP News. January 26, 2021.

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Pivot: Let’s talk about a bombing

NOTES FROM A COLD CASE AT THE CLEVELAND MUSEUM OF ART

So I took a short break from the 511, in order to bring you the audio of a Zoom talk I gave for the Cleveland Public Library back in October. Unfortunately, it’s even more relevant today than it was two short weeks ago.

This story is based on an essay I wrote for Harper’s in March 2020: “‘Off the Ruling Class: Notes from a Cold Case at the Cleveland Museum of Art.” It’s about the unsolved case of the March 24, 1970 bombing of Rodin’s “The Thinker,” as well as the museum’s deft damage control that followed. Members of Weather Underground, J. Edgar Hoover, Bob Dylan, and the Rolling Stones have cameos, and this story offers us a cautionary tale about when tempers flair, discourse fails, and incendiary devices fill the void.

The Thinker, behind his pedestal, marred by graffiti: “Off the Ruling Class.” (March 24, 1970)
(Courtesy of Cleveland Memory Project: Cleveland State University, Michael Schwartz)

For my talk with the Cleveland Public Library, we had a fantastic Q&A at the end, but without NDAs for attendees, the recording is safely tucked away, never to be seen (or heard) again. In turn, I present the talk in three downloadable audio files for your listening pleasure. (Please, of course, don’t re-post the audio tracks elsewhere. Thank you.)

In the event you want to follow along with the accompanying visuals, you can find them here. While they’re not an official sponsor, this talk was fueled by Pin High, the tasty pilsner brewed by the fine folks at Market Garden Brewery, in Cleveland, Ohio.

Track 1

Prelude: On the Legacy of J. Edgar Hoover

Track 2

I. The Bombing: Motive, Ability, Opportunity: Are Weatherman Likely Suspects?
II. Point / Counterpoint: CMA’s Masterful Management of the Message

Track 3

III. The Virtue of the Commons: Making Sense of “The Thinker” in Difficult Times
IV. The Wrap


Thank you for tuning in. Our regularly scheduled programming will return next week.

If you like this project, remember: sharing is caring! Or drop me a line @randaldoane.

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Product test: Embr Wave

The 511 / December 28, 2020

For information in the 20th century, we called 411. The 511 includes: 

  • a handful of paragraphs about health tech or some other science-y thing
  • 1 sentence for reflection (and maybe a laugh), and 
  • 1 track I’ve currently got in heavy rotation.

Welcome to the 13 people who started following my blog in the past couple of weeks. The holiday threw me off schedule, but I’m back at it today.

Your personal thermostat: Embr Wave

While doing some NSF-related research for a client, I came across Embr Wave, who ran the SBIR-NSF gauntlet successfully, and now there product’s on the market. And it’s doing well. I don’t know how many units they’re moving, but nearly 1000 user reviews give it 4+ stars … or, well, you know what I mean :).

They’re also fundamentally an honest bunch: it’s presently marketed as a device for (menopausal) women, but their origin story is considerably less high-minded.

“When founders Matt, David, and Sam spent a summer needing to put sweatshirts on to stay warm in their over-airconditioned MIT lab, they began to question if the current technology used to combat thermal discomfort was really the best we could do.”

Women now claim the roles of CEO and Head Product. Good on them — and probably good for business.

I had a fortuitous December work-wise, signing a couple decent sized agreements for branding work just ahead of the holiday. To share the joy of the season, I bought a bracelet for a dear friend of mine. Since she’s relying on its benefits at night, I decided to take it for an afternoon spin.

The platform includes the bracelet and, of course, the phone-based app. The bracelet’s comfortable — and surprisingly so. I never, ever wear a watch while I’m typing, and I’m totally fine with this thing on. The preset sessions work fine for my current use: you can roll it up or down by degree of warmth or chill for 10 minutes, and it works at roughly 3 to 5 second intervals to thermoregulate your wrist and, ideally, spread a sense of warmth (or chilled comfort) across your body. The heat is localized, of course, so I don’t see myself cranking this baby up past 6 or so. But so far, so good.

They seem like a small operation, so I’m not expecting some sorta HAL-like AI to lurk inside the app. Still, it seems as if the Embr app could accommodate some custom programming for, say, 8 hours of sleep, with disruptions expected at definable intervals. (My own understanding of menopause is only second hand, of course.)

The company offers a generous return policy, too, and they’re still in holiday sale mode through Thursday. (I have, of course, no affiliation with this company.) Check it out @ https://embrlabs.com/pages/how-it-works.

5(1)1 — On structures for empowerment

““My freedom consists in my moving about within the narrow frame that I have assigned myself for each one of my undertakings. I shall go even farther: my freedom will be so much greater and more meaningful the more narrowly I limit my field of action and the more I surround myself with obstacles.

Whatever diminishes constraint; diminishes strength. The more constraints one imposes, the more one frees oneself of the chains that shackle the spirit.”

igor stravinsky
51(1) — In rotation: Ella Fitzgerald’s “Winter Wonderland”

A perfectly fine song made brilliant by the greatest singer of the 20th century.

Please share this post with someone you know who’s interested in health, leadership, and music.

I’m also on this thing called Twitter (@randaldoane). While it may be a passing fad, let’s connect, just in case it proves enduring.

If you want to talk about branding and marketing in medtech, or a newsletter that needs more pop, drop me a line over here.

Cheers!

Sources

Today, everything’s hotlinked above. Thanks!

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STEM education as equity

The 511 / December 9, 2020

For information in the 20th century, we called 411. The 511 includes: 

  • a handful of paragraphs about health tech or some other science-y thing
  • 1 sentence for reflection (and maybe a laugh), and 
  • 1 track I’ve currently got in heavy rotation.

A different mode of enrollment

Welcome to the 15 people who started following my blog since Thanksgiving.

I’m doing something a bit shorter than usual, as I have an essay on this topic under review. So, here’s the question, the key conditions, and one way to pilot a solution:

The question

With the normalization of online education, can we forge new solutions that simultaneously address:

  • racialized health inequities in the US, and
  • STEM prep for college-bound kids from underrepresented groups?
Key conditions
Ideas for a pilot program
  • Pay promising students from underrepresented groups to enroll in an eight-week hybrid summer course in CHEM after their first year of high school.
  • Apply economies of scale to develop a top-flight online lecture component for the course.
  • Employ graduate students or med students as teaching assistants in well-equipped labs for small groups.
  • Boost retention of the material by periodically priming the students during the school year.
  • Students who pass with a B- or better remain eligible to return for the next summer course in BIOL.
  • The following year, the students have the option to enroll in a college-prep MATH course.

The money is there. Is the will? Let’s see. I hope that, in just a few days, I’ll be posting a link to the essay at the top of this post.

5(1)1 — On leadership and the power of a good story

“Mobilizing others to achieve purpose under conditions of uncertainty — what leaders do — challenges the hands, the head, and the heart.”

marshall ganz, from
Public Narrative, Collective Action, and Power
51(1) — In rotation: The Go-Go’s’ “Club Zero”

Club Zero” is a welcome blast from my past, courtesy of the algorithms of Spotify, with a much punkier feel than anything the Go-Go’s landed in rotation on commercial radio back in the day.

The first single from the Go-Go’s in 19 years. Cool.

Please share this post with someone you know who’s interested in health, leadership, and music.

I’m also on this thing called Twitter (@randaldoane). While it may be a passing fad, let’s connect, just in case it proves enduring.

If you want to talk about a grant proposal you’re working on, or a newsletter that needs more pop, drop me a line over here.

Cheers!

Sources

Today, everything’s hotlinked above. Thanks!

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