Speaking to the West Coast: A Review

I have now finished a five day speaking tour of research institutions on the West Coast. Here’s what happened.

Monday April 20th – I headed out to the University of Washington. My first engagement was a speaking slot on the Dave Ross radio show about the importance of research (Listen to the interview here). At midday I give a talk on “Standing up for Science” to grad students, scientists and animal welfare technicians – with many people asking for further information on how to go about actively standing up for research. Finally I was invited to speak to a large class of high school students, and offer them an insight into what happens inside labs, using actual photos and video clips of the inside of biomedical facilities.

I attended your talk on Monday and wanted to thank you for speaking with my students. Your sense of humor and knowledge really seemed to engage my students and I (and they) appreciate it.” – Danielle Thompson, Teacher.

Tuesday April 21st – Having flown across to Oakland the previous night, I prepared myself for a day at University of California, Berkeley. My main event of the day was a discussion with graduate and post docs, lasting a couple of hours and ending with some encouraging suggestions of individuals wanting to start Speaking of Research chapters at Berkeley.

Wednesday April 22nd – Another day, another airplane trip (the first one without a delay), and I arrived in Los Angeles. Heading straight over to UCLA I was given the opportunity to speak with scientists and animal care technicians – many, fed up with the tactics of animal rights activists who have plagued institutions like UCLA, causing animal-rights-related violence to escalate in the US.

Thursday/Friday 22nd/23rd – I arrived at Oregon Health & Sciences University (OHSU) during an animal rights demonstration. A grand total of 7 activists gathered to demonstrate against vivisection, whatever OHSU had been doing to address the animal rights issue was clearly working. Soon I discovered what it was – public outreach! OHSU, which also has one of the eight national primate research centers in the country, was actively addressing the animal research issue in the public domain. This was the first place I had visited which was taking such a positive approach, and it seemed to be paying off nicely.

I gave a handful of talks at both OHSU and the ONPRC (Oregon National Primate Research Center), all of which went down excellently with the scientists and technicians who were fed up with being vilified by local animal rights groups. One talk was filmed, and I hope to have the video up soon.

Overall the experience was refreshing. Some institutions were doing more than others to ensure information on the importance of medical research was available to the public, and these institutions were repeating the rewards. Scientists and students were certainly supportive of the aims of Speaking of Research, as well as the past actions of Pro-Test. I am thoroughly looking forward to my next speaking engagements (I will mention these in an update soon).