Science Wednesday: Swapping Stories

Each week we write about the science behind environmental protection. Previous Science Wednesdays.
By Aaron Ferster

Last week science communication colleagues from across the Agency gathered together at a conference center outside of Washington, DC to talk shop and finalize a strategic communication plan for effectively sharing EPA research results and outcomes.

Paul Anastas, the assistant administrator for the EPA’s Office of Research and Development, the science arm of the Agency, has placed a premium on science communication. “Great work, done invisibly, cannot have impact,” he says. “Communication is essential in the design, definition, conduct, transfer, and implementation of the work we do if we are to have an impact.”

Dr. Anastas was not just talking to the members of the science communication team, but to everyone involved in research and development at EPA. Never the less, as you could imagine, as those on the front lines of communication we all found his words rather energizing.

While at our meeting, we reviewed communication plans and consulted with one another to identify best practices across EPA’s various research labs centers, and offices. We spent time discussing ways to quantify and track our work so we can make sure we set appropriate goals, effectively reach and serve intended audiences, and work efficiently.

As the science writer on the team, my favorite part of these meetings is always listening to stories about EPA research. This meeting was a good one for identifying great science stories. Just a few examples include:

  • EPA researchers working to build a computer model that simulates embryonic development, a “virtual embryo” that will serve as a screening tool for testing the toxicity of chemicals on the developing embryo.
  • n a research project already underway, an interdisciplinary team of EPA researchers and their partners are studying the effects of near-roadway pollution on human health.
  • Across the country, EPA ecologists and other experts are exploring ways to better understand and quantify “ecosystem services,” the myriad ways that natural ecosystems benefit human society.
  • One research project still in the planning stages will involve tapping advanced environmental monitoring technologies placed on commercial aircraft to gather data for analysis into important environmental such as tracking climate change and air pollution globally.

And these are just the first examples on my list of notes from the gathering. My colleagues and I will be working to share all of them through this blog, our Science Matters newsletter, EPA’s Web site, and other places over the coming weeks and months. Please stay tuned!

About the author: Aaron Fester is the lead science writer-editor in EPA’s Office of Research and Development, and the editor for Science Wednesday.

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