We recently wrote about the many existing venues, activities, and materials designed to encourage public dialogue and informed discussion about animal research. Many individuals, institutions, and organizations contribute to public outreach and education efforts, and also take active roles in dialogue about continuing changes in practice and policy concerning animal welfare and the conduct of animal research. This post is the fourth in a series (Part 1, Part 2, Part 3) hosted by Speaking of Research to highlight a wide range of individuals and groups devoted to consideration of animal research.
The National Primate Research Centers Outreach Network
The eight National Primate Research Centers (NPRCs) are riding a wave of unprecedented communication, thanks to a new National Institutes of Health/Office of Research Infrastructure Programs (NIH/ORIP) outreach consortium. This consortium helps our members work together more effectively to educate the public on our many and varied educational programs.
Reaching thousands at the USA Science and Engineering Festival
One exciting result of the new consortium occurred April 27 to April 29 this year in Washington, D.C. Representatives from the National Primate Research Centers (NPRCs) spoke to an estimated 4,000 people who visited the NPRCs’ booth at the 2nd annual USA Science and Engineering Festival at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center.
Billed as “the largest celebration of science in the U.S.,” the festival featured more than 3,000 interactive exhibits, more than 100 stage shows and 33 author presentations. More than 150,000 people attended. President Barack Obama promoted the festival in keynotes and public service announcements. Special visitors to the festival included The Myth Busters and Bill Nye the Science Guy, plus Nobel Prize winners, best-selling authors, astronauts, and even a rock guitar performance by NIH Director Francis Collins.
The NPRCs’ booth featured a set of touchable and inflatable real pig lungs representing healthy and cigarette smoke-riddled lungs. Our activity not only demonstrated how smoking harms the smoker, but also helped us convey how the Primate Centers have discovered that second hand smoke can stunt infant lung development. Our interactive display also included a flip board with questions and answers about animal research and care.
— The California NPRC outreach team spearheaded the NPRCs’ participation at the USA Science and Engineering Festival. Some of the consortium’s other recent activities have included the following:
— Jordana Lenon (Wisconsin NPRC) represented the consortium at a PR/Media Forum sponsored by the New Jersey Association for Biomedical Research last October in Newark, N.J.
— Consortium participants plan to meet for the first time as a group this fall.
To share updates, materials and communicate effectively with one another — whether we’re planning for large events such as the USA Science and Engineering Festival, or sharing news releases and other announcements — center outreach specialists, supported by the NPRC directors and consortium facilitators, use a variety of websites and other e-media tools. We heartily contribute our share to the 188 billion emails still sent every day… and we still talk on the phone. So, although we’re working in three different time zones, from one coast to the other, we feel closer than ever in our working relationships. We plan to meet for the first time as a group this fall, and we all look forward to building new partnerships when we meet.
Students, lifelong learners benefit from many engaging programs
What are some of the many other outreach activities we plan and share? For one, we are fortunate to have developed thriving visitors programs at our centers. We host year-round K-12+ programs such as afterschool programs, campus science fairs, family science nights, science Saturdays, science teachers days, and many more activities, both on site as well as at schools and community venues. A few examples follow:
The Oregon NPRC’s tour program welcomes more than 3,000 people each year. The center also provides opportunities for young scientists to experience authentic research by supporting high school students and undergraduates in labs for summer apprenticeships.
At the California NPRC, many classroom outreach activities and lectures introduce K-12 students to nonhuman primates, biomedical research programs and careers. The center offers a large curriculum and classroom resources for teachers.
The Wisconsin NPRC provides lab demos and hands on activities for middle school and high school students participating in the annual State Science Olympiad, as well in the National Science Olympiad hosted by the University of Wisconsin-Madison last summer.
The Yerkes NPRC promotes an active speakers bureaus and tours of its large indoor/outdoor facility. Yerkes also sponsors an eight-week summer internship program for high school students. The center received more than 130 applications this year for 10 spots.
In addition to tours and community outreach programs, the Tulane NPRC hosts programs for college honor societies, summer scholars, biomedical students and career tech students. Every summer, the TNPRC mentors students who work with research technicians.
The Washington NPRC recently participated in a three-day science education event at the Pacific Science Center in Seattle. In July, WaNPRC will again host science teachers participating in the annual CURE (Collaborations to Understand Research and Ethics) tour and seminar, a program funded by an NIH Science Education Partnership Award.
Southwest NPRC is hosting “Science Teachers Day at Texas BioMed” this summer, with bus and walking tours, demonstrations, and an “Ethics of Animal Research” panel.
Specific programs for life-long learners are also growing, such as Oregon’s Road Scholar Week, and Wisconsin’s Grandparents University and College Days participation, and Yerkes’ coordination of eight-week series for two university-based life-long learning programs. In addition to coordinating active speakers bureaus that reach business, patient advocacy and other civic groups, the NPRCs’ outreach specialists themselves are also sought after as invited educational speakers at national and international conferences.
As far as outreach and higher education, most of the NPRCs are located at major research and teaching universities. They have active veterinary care training programs, in addition to offering undergraduate, graduate and post-doctoral research training programs. The New England NPRC’s commitment to education is reflected in its summer programs for pre-baccalaureate and veterinary students. The Oregon, California, and Washington NPRCs host two to three dozen veterinary and vet tech students throughout the year in two-week externships.
Learn more about the National Primate Centers and other National Institutes of Health nonhuman primate resources for research starting here.
Jordana Lenon is the Public Information Officer and Outreach Specialist for the Wisconsin National Primate Research Center at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.