Tag Archives: public outreach

Society for Neuroscience Today: Session on Animal Research and Public Outreach

Are you among the almost 30,000 neuroscientists are attending the annual Society for Neuroscience (SFN) meeting in Chicag0 this week?  Are you looking for a session aimed at building outreach and education efforts for better public understanding of animal research?  If so, SFN’s Committee on Animal Research has a session today at noon.

ME13  ANIMALS IN RESEARCH PANEL: Proactive Strategies to Increase the Positive Public Perception of Animals in Research.

Tuesday, Oct 20, 2015, 12:00 PM – 2:00 PM  N427

Panelists: Jason Goldman, PhD; Michael Mustari, PhD; Dario Padovan, PhD; Rolf Zeller, PhD

Description:  As scientists become increasingly visible and engaged with the public through blogs, citizen science, traditional media, and other outlets, there is also increasing interest in open communication to gain public support for animal research and to underscore its critical contribution to scientific and medical progress. This panel will answer questions like: How can scientists and organizations engage the public and speak effectively about animal research? What strategies and venues (both novel and time-tested) are being employed to engage different audiences and how can interested scientists learn and contribute? What challenges exist in this area and how are different groups addressing them?

Contact: advocacy@sfn.org

Panelists include:

  • Prof. Rolf Zeller is a developmental geneticist that studies the molecular mechanisms governing organogenesis. He is a founding signatory of the Basel Declaration, by which researchers endorse the highest standards of ethically responsible animal research. He is the founding president of the Basel Declaration Society (BDS), an international grass-root organization dedicated to the Basel Declaration and actively promoting education on animal experimentation and the dialog with the general public, politicians and moderate critics.
  • Dario Padovan is the current president of Pro-Test Italia, which is an association that aims to promote and disseminate information about scientific research to the public. He was one of the founders of Pro-Test Italia and was the first chair of its Scientific Committee. He has masters degrees with honors in biological sciences, nutrition and dietetics, and bioethics.
  • Dr. Michael Mustari earned his Ph.D. in neuroanatomy from the University of Washington.  He is currently a Research Professor of Ophthalmology (UW). Dr. Mustari also serves as Director of the Washington National Primate Research Center (NPRC) at UW. He is responsible for providing scientific and administrative leadership to ensure an optimal environment for the care and well-being of nonhuman primates, which often provide the best animal models for studies of complex systems. All 7 NPRCs support the NIH mission of advancing scientific knowledge needed to develop new treatments and cures for diseases.
  • Dr. Jason G. Goldman is a science writer based in Los Angeles. He writes about human and animal behavior, wildlife biology, ecology, and conservation for various publications. He was editor of The Open Laboratory 2010: The Best of Science Writing on the Web, is co-editor of The Complete Guide to Science Blogging, and hosts a podcast called The Wild Life. He received his PhD at the University of Southern California.

Animal research openness in action – from Cambridge to Florida

Last week we published an article calling on all involved in animal research to speak up for science as animal rights activists held their annual World Week for Animals in Laboratories (WWAIL), writing:

This year, if your university or facility is among those that attract attention during WWAIL, we ask that you join in the conversation by providing protestors, public, and media your own voice.  Whether it is via banners, websites, or talking with reporters– speak up for science and for public interests in advancing scientific understanding and medical progress. Although it may not matter to those committed to an absolutist agenda, it can matter to those who are interested in building a dialogue based in fact and serious consideration of the complex issues that surround public interests in the future of science, health, and medicine.”

The past few days have seen several great examples of just the sort of engagement with the public that we had in mind, including videos form two top universities in the UK that take viewers inside their animal research facilities.

The first comes from the University of Cambridge, who have published a video entitled “Fighting cancer: Animal research at Cambridge”, which focuses on how animals used in research are cared for and how the University implements the principles of the 3Rs. It includes interviews with Professor Gerard Evans of the Department of Biochemistry, who uses mice in studies of lung and pancreatic cancers, and Dr Meritxell Hutch of the Gurdon Institute, who has developed 3D liver cell culture models that she uses to reduce the number of mice required for her studies of tissue repair and regeneration, as well as with members of staff as they care for the animals.

The second example is another video, this time from Imperial College London, which also show how research staff care for the animals used in research, and features an interview with Professor of Rheumatology Matthew Pickering, who studies the role of complement proteins in liver damage in mice.

For the third example we cross the Atlantic to South Florida, where animal rights activists are trying to close down several facilities in Hendry County  that are breeding monkeys for medical research, a service that is hugely important to biomedical research. One of the companies being targeted by the animal rights campaigns is Primate Products, so we were delighted to see Dr. Jeff Rowell, a veterinarian and President of Primate Products, speak up about the vital work they do in an interview with journalist Amy Williams of local news outlet News-Press.com.

Primate products

During the interview Dr. Rowell discusses how the work of Primate Products is misrepresented by dishonest animal rights campaigns, including the inaccurate and malicious allegations made by the group Stop Animal Exploitation Now (SAEN) in 2010. As we discussed in a post at the time, these allegations were based on the deliberate misrepresentation of photos taken during veterinary care of injuries several macaques received in fighting with other macaques when housed in social groups (a normal though infrequent behaviour in the species in the wild and in captivity).

The News-Press.com article also shows that there is still a lot of work to be done to improve openness in animal research, as the three other companies that are breeding monkeys for research in Hendry County refused to speak with the Amy Williams, a shame considering that it was their decision to base themselves in the county that triggered the current animal rights campaign. While they are justifiably nervous of speaking with the press (some journalists and publications are arguably beyond redemption) the truth is that the “No comment” approach works for no-one apart from those who oppose animal research. In speaking at length with Amy Williams, Jeff Rowell has provided an excellent example that his colleagues in Hendry County would do well to follow.

The initiatives we have seen from the University of Cambridge, Imperial College London, and Primate Products over the past few days are extremely welcome, and we applaud them for their efforts. Nonetheless, we acknowledge that the future of medical science will never really be secure until they are the norm rather than the exception.

Before we conclude, it’s worth noting that it’s not just in the US and UK that researchers are beginning to realise the importance of openness in animal research to counter misleading antivivisectionist propaganda. In Italy Prof. Roberto Caminiti, a leading neurophysiologist at the University La Sapienza in Rome whose work is currently being targeted by animal rights activists, was interviewed recently for an excellent video produced by Pro-Test Italia, in which he discusses his primate research and how it is regulated.

Speaking of Research

Time for a change?

Scientists and the scientific community receive some fairly standard advice when it comes to direct response to some animal rights groups’ stunts and campaigns. What is it?  Typically some variant of:  Ignore it.

  • Don’t give them free publicity, the attention just helps them grow.
  • Don’t acknowledge that their campaigns affect us, it will just reinforce and encourage them.
  • They win if it gets to you; they win if you take time and energy away from your science in order to respond.

The question is whether this advice, fairly standard over at least the last couple of decades, is good advice.  Is ignoring animal rights and absolutist campaigns a good idea?  Is it effective in the short-term? Does it decrease an individual scientist’s risk of being subjected to harassment campaigns?  Does it decrease an institution’s exposure to activists’ campaigns and “bad” publicity?

Picture Credit: Lorenzo Todaro

Pro-Test Italia: They’re not ignoring the problem.

What about the long-term?  Does an “ignore it” strategy work against the goal of promoting public understanding of the role of humane, necessary and legal nonhuman animal-based research is science and medicine? More broadly, does a blinder-based strategy hinder efforts to increase scientific literacy and understanding via scientists’ participation in public education, outreach, and engagement?

Unfortunately, there is little solid data or empirical study to support an evidence-based approach in selecting the best strategy for responding to various campaigns by groups opposed to nonhuman animal research.

What if we look to the current state and conclusions of those engaged in fighting back against other anti-science campaigns?  Campaigns to undermine other areas of science and medicine, ranging from evolution to climate change to vaccines, have resulted in significant negative effect on the public, science, and scientists.  Viewing all of these, we see that almost without question, more public engagement and accurate information is what is required to mount an effective defense and to bring informed, serious consideration to a public that otherwise may fail to hear us above the noise.  We also see robust education efforts  for evolution, climate change, and vaccines.

We have written many times here about education and outreach programs for nonhuman animal research and the perils of “no comment” approaches. On the animal research front, history also provides evidence that we should not always ignore what appear to us as outrageous and ridiculous stunts and campaigns. Ignoring them does nothing to diminish their impact or growth. Nor does silence provide help for those who would like to respond but may not have full or accurate information with which to address the issues activists raise.

Despite being primarily ignored by the scientific community for decades, animal rights groups have not gone away. Their number, reach, income, and supporters have only grown. Consider PETA, for example. Founded by two activists in 1980, it is now arguably the most famous animal rights group in the world. They also claim to have three million members and supporters. PETA’s 2012 revenue of over $30 million, with $15 million going to outreach and international grassroots campaigns, solidly demonstrates its growth over 30 years.

Ignoring PETA has not made them go away.  Nor does PETA’s success depend upon attention directed at them from the scientific community.  At this point in time, a mix of celebrity endorsements, stunts, and emotive campaigns successfully drive and sustain PETA’s publicity. Additional efforts by the scientific community to counter campaigns of misrepresentation, provide accurate information, and to condemn PETA’s promotion of violence toward scientists can at least make sure that the voices of scientists are heard in the media coverage. In some cases effective engagement early on can help journalists to see that the claims are inaccurate, and stop the story in it’s tracks.

On the contrary, an argument can be made that ignoring PETA’s escalating antics and failing to advance a public counter to their claims may have facilitated the success with which PETA has gained support.  For example, if there is no public response or condemnation when PETA does something like releasing a videogame that promotes “beating up” scientists, the game is unlikely to go away. There will be little chance that scientists will reach this audience in order to counter the game’s gross misrepresentations of laboratory animal care.  If we say nothing, the individuals playing the videogame, the game’s designer, and those providing positive media coverage of the game will fail to receive the message that it is not ok to promote violence against scientists (or others with whom you disagree). In effect, violence against scientists will be further “normalized” as a tactic that can be rationalized or acceptable.

PETA's MMA game depiction of animal research.

PETA’s MMA game depiction of animal research.

Failing to respond to PETA’s game and failure to launch a sustained and effective response to other animal activist campaigns has another downside. Without a firm response we may signal that animal-based research is a relatively weak target for activists’ campaigns. Scientific animal research is a tiny fraction of all human use of nonhuman animals. Yet the energy and resources activist groups direct toward this use likely outstrips that directed to agricultural use.  There are multiple reasons for this.  Among them is that the great majority of the public eats animals and is unlikely to be sympathetic or comfortable with campaigns against agriculture.

Another reason is that laboratory research and science in general are more difficult for the public to understand. As such, they are easier to misrepresent, particularly if the scientific community doesn’t effectively, consistently, and strongly counter with facts. Finally, scientists likely appear to be relatively easy targets for harassment.  Can we counter this effectively?  Yes.  Beyond engaging in more public scientific education, there are a number of ways to protest when PETA does something like launch “Cage Fight.”  Draw public attention to it.  Explain why it should be condemned.  Write to the fighters and their sponsors. Write to the celebrities endorsing it, to the company that designed the game.  Ask scientific societies to speak out against this tactic.

It is sometimes puzzling that the scientific community expresses relatively little interest or sustained attention to the efforts of animal activist groups that aim to end our work.  Competing time demands are the primary reason, but probably not the whole story. Rather, many may be unconvinced that the activities of these groups will have any substantial effect on science, the public, or the future. Parallels to the effects that climate change denialists, anti-vaccine proponents, or creationists have had on science and the public suggest otherwise.

It may also be the case that most scientists are simply unaware of the scope and depth of activities by groups like PETA.  Rather than assuming knowledge of the current state, reach, and effect of anti-animal research activism, take even a few minutes to pay closer attention to PETA and other groups.  View their materials not only through your eyes, but also those of students and other citizens who have a voice in policies that affect science.

One starting place:  Look at these four websites—each designed for a specific demographic group.

In other words, ignore the standard advice and consider that it may be time to change strategies. Consider that our efforts at education, outreach, and public engagement need to continue to evolve in order to be responsive and relevant. When we largely ignore groups that oppose animal research, we also remain ignorant of the messages and information that the public receives about our work.  In turn, we miss opportunities to bring scientists’ knowledge and perspectives to discussion that is occurring in widely-consumed public forums– blogs, facebook, twitter, and other media.  These discussions will not stop or wait for scientists to contribute, they will simply continue without the balance that we could provide.

The rise of groups like PETA has demonstrated that the ear of the public is attuned to hearing about animal research, especially so for those who have grown up with PETA.  In order to be heard, however, we also need to listen and to understand public questions, concerns, and priorities. Despite all of the escalating pressures on science, it is time to renew and increase efforts to more broadly communicate to the public that our science is in their interest and to their benefit.

Some may choose – as animal rights groups and absolutists advocate—to believe that animal research should end and that all should forgo the benefits that it produces for society. More likely however, is that those who understand the necessity and benefits of the work will also understand that the choices PETA offers are not harmless. It is for this reason that groups like PETA have the most to gain when we remain silent. In absence of counter with accurate information they are able to paint a picture of a world in which ending animal research has no downside for the public.  It is up to us to show this cartoon vision is false and to engage the public in serious dialogue about the challenging decisions that science presents to all of us.

Speaking of Research

Raising the bar: What makes an effective public response in the face of animal rights campaigns?

For some scientists and institutions engaged in animal research,  activist campaigns against them are a fact of life.  These campaigns vary in tactics, scope, and longevity. At one end of the scale are the limited scope campaigns, perhaps when a paper reprints, more or less verbatim, an activist press release manufactured from misrepresenting publicly-available records. At the other end are sustained campaigns aimed at driving a scientist out of research by using mail and phone harassment, home protests, car fire, or threats of targeting children.

Somewhere in between are other types of campaign that should be of concern to those interested in public views of animal research. One is the sustained high-profile, multimedia effort targeting a specific scientist or research area. Another is the lower profile, insidious, and sustained misrepresentation of animal research, including promotion of ideas such as:  diet is the cure for most diseases; there are non-animal alternatives that could successfully achieve the same scientific goals as animal-based research; most research animals are not covered by any regulation; to name just a few.

These campaigns, and their consequences, affect everyone—scientists, physicians, medical charities, patients, policy makers, the public— with an interest in the current and future conduct of ethical, humanely conducted animal research aimed at progress in scientific understanding and medical advances.

Why?  Because animal research depends on democratic support, with a majority who agree upon its need, its benefits, and the conditions under which it is conducted.  It also depends upon the willingness of scientists to choose to spend their lives pursuing questions that currently require animal research.  Finally, it depends upon public and private institutions’ willingness to provide the support and facilities for the work.

Animal rights activists understand this, and over many decades have developed and refined multifaceted approaches aimed at undermining each of these three cores that are necessary for continued research.  So-called “Hearts & Minds” campaigns undercut public understanding and appreciation of research.  They can also work against institutions and individuals by devaluing the true benefits of their work and increasing fear of unwanted, negative attention.

Meanwhile, harassment campaigns directed at specific individuals or institutions – while giving every appearance of affecting only a tiny fraction of scientists who are targeted – actually have disproportionate jmpact because they contribute to a general impression that there is a risk to researchers’ personal safety.

Beyond duress to individuals, these campaigns have a much broader and damning net effect:  They contribute to creating a climate in which scientists, institutions, medical charities, and others are less likely to speak publicly about the value of animal research.  In turn, they then contribute to decreased opportunities for serious,  fact-informed, and civil public dialogue about animal research.  They also lower the likelihood of the public receiving accurate information in the face of activists’ campaigns that rely on gross misrepresentation of the conduct, need, and benefit of animal research.

Viewed from this perspective, it seems clear that those institutions, organizations, and individuals, who maintain the belief that they are not personally affected by the issue because they have not been directly targeted by animal rights activism must be persuaded to reconsider.

What can be done to counter this ongoing public campaign against animal research?  We have written previously and extensively about many approaches, venues and organizations engaged in effective ongoing efforts to explain the role of animals in research (here, here, here and here).   We believe that the responsibility for public engagement and education about animal research is one that is shared by the entire community.

So what makes an effective public response in the face of animal rights campaigns?

evaluating response to public interest in animal research graphic for SR post 02.18.13To begin with, we acknowledge that there are very different domains of public engagement with animal research.  Although they may have overlap in the broad goal of increasing public understanding, fact-based consideration and dialogue about research, they also differ in audience, participants, time-line, and goals, among other things.  Two general domains include:

1)      Outreach and education. Designed to provide the public with accurate information about animal research, including education about its conduct, goals, relative harms and benefits.  Successful outreach and education programs include sustained efforts that may include full-time groups, communicators, and educators working in concert with scientists, clinicians, animal care staff, veterinarians and others, or may occur as service without formal support. The range of venues and creativity in outreach and education programs is broad.  It includes face-to-face activities – laboratory visits to scientific talks, science festivals, community events, school workshops, for example.  It also includes articles, newsletters, web posting and other educational written, oral, and visual material disseminated publicly.

2)      Response to specific campaigns and events.  Ideally, also designed to provide the public with accurate information about animal research. Designed to counter inaccurate information, provide balance and context where needed, and defend those who are attacked.

Both of these domains are essential to build public understanding of animal research and to promote opportunities for continued progress in serious consideration and fact-informed public dialogue of some of the challenging issues involved in this area.  It is also the case that there are few norms for what good programs in either domain might look like.  As a result, what we see currently is widespread unevenness across institutions and organizations in terms of how they handle these activities.  Even the degree to which individuals, institutions, and organizations engage in any response varies markedly.

What would an optimal, successful response to an animal rights campaign look like? There is obviously no one answer, but if we arranged common response types we’ve seen over the last few years, we can identify some that are clearly less than effective.

The worst response is no response. Over and over again institutions discover that it simply makes it appear as if they have something to hide. Then, activists and the media emphasize the “suspicious” silence.

One up from no comment is the completely generic comment.

“The University of X conducts well-regulated animal research according to the principles of the 3Rs. Our research aims to better understand diseases such as diabetes and AIDS”

While better than no comment, it does nothing to address the media or activist concerns. Any institution which does only this has its reputation tarnished, and convinces activists that the institution will not challenge their accusations.

The middle of the road response is immediate and specific to the claims made. It will address and allay fears that an institution is ignoring its responsibilities to animals, explain the role of animals in research, and talk about specific research going on in the institution. This statement should include a comment from a very senior administrator, to show the institution is serious, and should include a link to the institution’s animal research policy. This statement should not only be provided to inquiring journalists, but also sent to any media outlet which has run the story. If those media outlets did not contact your institution first, then take this up with the editor – it is not acceptable to repeat claims without checking them first.

Institutions can improve these responses further, by inviting journalists or local politicians to view the facility. The best tours are led by someone with a clear understanding of both the science and the animal welfare implications around the lab (e.g., a scientist, a head veterinarian). This also serves to make personal connections with journalists and to immunize them against further animal rights campaigns.

Institutions should also be aware that publicly-available documents, ranging from USDA reports to veterinary clinical records, are often used by activists to generate news releases that may not be examined critically by reporters or others reading them.  As a result, the information in these documents can be presented in a way that lacks appropriate context or interpretation.  As we have written previously, this is one area which institutions and professional organizations could address more effectively by increasing their efforts to provide accessible explanations.  For example, when materials are released to open records request, an institution can provide a cover page that offers explanation of terms, places numbers in context, or otherwise demystifies documents in order to allow a more informed, balanced, and open view to a reasonable reader.

However, the very best response is to get in there first. Don’t wait for animal rights campaigns to start your outreach – proactively offer tours to the local community, provide speakers for local schools- engage with those who may defend or turn against you.  Also recognize that just as the science and discoveries occurring within your institution are of interest beyond the local community, so is news about your animal research programs.  Reaching those audiences with accurate information about the animals’ humane care and value to a wide range of research should be an explicit and supported goal in communicating science news.

Speaking of Research

2013 AMP Michael D. Hayre Fellowship in Public Outreach

Today’s guest post is from Elizabeth Reitz, who is the program director for Americans for Medical Progress. They are now starting their 2013 Michael D. Hayre Fellowship in Public Outreach – a great program which played a huge part in starting Speaking of Research in 2008. Please share this with friends and colleagues.

Americans for Medical Progress needs your help to reach young research advocates to be considered for our 2013 Michael D. Hayre Fellowship in Public Outreach.

Please help us get the word out about our Michael D. Hayre Fellowship in Public Outreach by sharing the news with your friends and colleagues, and asking others to pass the information along.  The application process is now open and AMP will accept applications through Friday, April 12, 2013.

At Americans for Medical Progress (AMP) we are committed to fostering innovative outreach programs that engage the next generation of research advocatesThe AMP/Hayre Fellowship supports college students and young adults in creating innovative peer education projects focused on the importance of animal research to medical progress.  Fellows receive a $5,000 stipend and project support.

Named in memory of AMP’s late chairman, Michael D. Hayre, DVM, ACLAM, the Fellowship program began in 2008.  Tom Holder, a founding member of the U.K. student group Pro-Test, was the Inaugural Fellow. During his time as an AMP Hayre Fellow, Tom developed the foundation of what has now become Speaking of Research.  You may read more about the Fellows and learn about their lasting contributions to advocacy.

If you have additional ideas on how to get the word out about the Fellowship, or if you would like more information, or if you can offer other support for the AMP/Hayre Fellowship in Public Outreach, please reach out by email or at 703-836-9595 x104.

Thank you for your ongoing enthusiasm for the AMP mission and our mutual commitment to share the importance of science and biomedical research with future generations of advocates!

Elizabeth Reitz, Program Director, AMP

Public Outreach – A Toolkit for Investigators

That public outreach is an increasingly important part of the scientific life in the 21st century should be news to no-one, and this is as true of biomedical research as of any other field of scientific endeavor. Allyson Bennett has written extensively for us on this subject, highlighting both the benefits of public outreach, and the perils of not engaging in it.

Of course getting involved in public outreach and education can be a daunting prospect if you have no previous experience of it, which is why we support initiatives such as the Michael D. Hayre Fellowship in Public Outreach, and recently launched our “Many Voices Speaking of Animal Research” series that highlights different approaches to public outreach, the most recent of which focused on community engagement at the University of Guelph in Ontario.

This week we are pleased to welcome a new initiative to the growing list of resources available to support public outreach.

The American Physiological Society has launched the online resource “Public Outreach – A Toolkit for Investigators” which offers scientists and scientific institutions advice on engaging with the public on animal research issues. The toolkit includes presentations delivered by Speaking of Research committee members Bill Yates, Dario Ringach and Jim Newman at a symposium earlier this year, which examined the topic from a range of perspectives.

We thank the American Physiological Society for making this valuable new resource available to the scientific community.

Speaking of Research

Part 4: Many voices speaking of animal research

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.

The 2012 USA Science and Engineering Festival, which included a learning station hosted by the National Primate Research Centers, drew 150,000 people to the Walter E. Washington Convention Center in Washington, D.C., this April.

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.

Volunteers from the National Primate Research Centers educated the public about the effects of smoking on infant lung development at the 2012 USA Science and Engineering Festival.

— 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:

—  The Yerkes NPRC continues to host a booth on behalf of all of the NPRCs at the Society for Neuroscience’s annual meeting.

— 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.

More than 4,000 people participated in activities at the National Primate Research Centers’ booth over the festival’s three days at the end of April.

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.