2009 has been a big year for Speaking of Research as we went global with debates in Dublin, presentations in Ystad (Sweden), and rallies in the Los Angeles. In the US, Speaking of Research also had the opportunity to get the advocacy message outo to hundreds of scientists and researchers at 2009 annual meetings of both the Society for the Study of Reproduction in Pittsburgh and the Society for Neuroscience in Chicago. We also expanded our repertoire of social media (e.g. YouTube and FaceBook) to include Twitter – ensuring our message can be spread as widely as possible. This has clearly been effective as our website traffic has been increasing by approximately 50% every 6 months.
Just as we haven’t stopped, nor has the world of biomedical research. There have been advances in genetically modified monkeys, progress in combatting Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy (DMD), the use of gene therapies for cerebral X-linked adrenoleukodystrophy and Leber’s congenital amaurosis and research into repairing heart damage. Read all about these and more in our Science News section.
Sadly, the animal rights activists and extremists have also not slept this year. The Animal Liberation Front (ALF) have struck across the US with a home visit (with paint stripper) to the UCI chair of pathology, arson attacks against a UCLA Professor’s car, vandalism to lab suppliers in Nevada, and threats made across the web to researchers across the country. Given many university’s preference to play down or bury stories of animal rights extremism against them it is hard to get a clear indication of the total level of attacks made by the “anti-vivisection” community. There has also been a rise in attacks across the rest of the world, particularly in the campaign against Novartis Chief Executive, Daniel Vasella, who’s holiday home was firebombed, and parents’ graves were desecrated. It is in response to such attacks that we developed a new page on the website specifically to deal with AR Extremism.
However there has been a shining ray of hope in the US. After the attack on Professor David Jentsch’s car in Los Angeles, a group of professors and researchers founded Pro-Test for Science (originally named UCLA Pro-Test). In April 2009, Pro-Test for Science (supported by Speaking of Research) organized a rally in support of life-saving medical research. This demonstration attracted almost 800 people, and provided a platform for researchers to explain the importance of their research to the Californian media. Many UCLA officials came out to speak out against extremism and in support of science. Read the full report of the rally.
The rally also begun another campaign. Supported jointly by SR, Americans for Medical Progress and Pro-Test for Science, Tom Holder announced the creation of the Pro-Test Petition – a public petition to support the use of animals in medical research. So if you haven’t already, sign up now! This petition has already gained a following of close to 12,000 signatories – and the number continues to grow.
So here is the tip of the iceberg of the events of Speaking of Research in 2009. To win public support we cannot slack now, and I urge as many new people as possible to get involved in our growing committee.
Wishing you a Happy New Year
The Speaking of Research Committee