Jane Lubchenco’s message to scientists

My second week at UC Davis, and I’ve already met Jane Lubchenco. Last night the NOAA administrator gave a public lecture to a packed auditorium here on campus. Although her talk wasn’t particularly beefy, I captured a few interesting tidbits:



It was refreshing to hear a government official state her steadfast optimism, and urge scientists in the audience to adopt new tools and approaches. To prevent (and effectively cope with) climate change, the public needs to be engaged. This is a new world we live in. She highlighted the importance of social media in driving a scientific revolution.

After the talk I wanted to talk directly to Jane and ask her about social media and online tools. [Sidenote: Afterwards I had to find an empty room and do a little dance - SQUEEEE!] How can we use these most effectively? What should we be doing as scientists?

I had to wait in line and be supervised by a military guard, but I talked to her!!

She basically had no idea. The online world is so new, so untested, and everyone is sitting in the dark. There are no agency initiatives yet poised to harness the power of the internet. She said scientists should use their personality. By default, this has to start with a bottom-up approach.

If that’s the case, how the hell are we going to pull this off?

Blogs and twitter can be the jumping off point, but changing the culture of ocean science has to be so much more than that.

If you love science–and you’re in a position to make a difference–let’s work together to be the marine Steve Jobs. Scientists are busy, but we will always make time for a cause we believe in. Those of us predisposed to communicate (the Deep-sea News Crew) recognize that we must lead our brethren.

Let’s stay positive, be quirky. Bring in the humor. As Kevin noted on his recent chat with Dr. Kiki, a doom-and-gloom message doesn’t motivate anyone. We shouldn’t potray scientists as old white guy authority figures telling you what to do. I’m not your mother. I’m your neighbor, your friend.

Let’s make scientific videos that go viral. Lets teach people about the science in their *homes* and *everyday lives*. Hydrothermal vents are definitely awesome, your average Joe doesn’t run into tube worms on his commute to work. Let’s make people stakeholders in their local communities–their beaches, their coasts, their salt marshes.

I’m begging you: scientists can’t do this alone. The best science results from collaboration, and the best science communication must follow suit.

To impact society, we must connect some very distant dots. We must bring together scientists, writers, editors, techies, entrepreneurs…the list goes on. At Deep-sea News we’re desperate get everyone thinking about the oceans, but we’re also limited by time and resources. We need help from the right connections. It needs to start NOW. This one’s a game changer.

Holly Bik (141 Posts)

I am a computational biologist at the University of California, Davis. My research uses DNA sequencing and genomics to study microbial eukaryotes (yeah, nematodes!) in marine ecosystems, with an emphasis on evolution and biodiversity in the deep-sea. I can neither confirm nor deny that I like Unix more than I like going to sea.





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5 comments on “Jane Lubchenco’s message to scientists
  1. Thanks heaps for live tweeting, posting a recap, and asking that social media question.

    “To impact society, we must connect some very distant dots” feels true, as does “a doom-and-gloom message doesn’t motivate anyone.” I have a plan to begin to test the latter, and I’d love to get your input. Hopeful.

    See you at #scio12.

  2. Scientists like Lubchenko are making an impact on policy that is made by lawyers, not scientists. Your blogs help make people aware of the science behind policy decisions but we need more scientists influencing policy makers.

    • Couldn’t agree more! Thankfully there are some programs like the AAAS policy fellowship that retrains PhD’s for policy expertise. But these are way too few and ar between. We need more degree programs focused on solving real world problems. Nothing at all wrong with basic research, but let’s not fool ourselves about how shit gets done in DC!

  3. There’s certainly a bridge to be built. The Science community can do more to make the purpose and principles (if not the detail) of its work more accessible. The general public also needs a better basic understanding of science to avoid being manipulated by a cynical media or shady lobbying groups!

  4. These people including Jane in my view have a agenda and putting fisherman out of work is one of them!! They use flawed data and change their ways of collecting data to suit her (LUBCHENKO) former employers views which my view after working for PEW and other radical environmental groups how can she be put in such a neutral position job that requires unbias mind!! Her mind is made up and views will never be changed so the science will always lean towards putting fishing communities in the USA out of jobs! Then again Isn’t that what Obamas all about killing jobs! 30K high paying workers waiting to lay a oil pipeline from Canada to Texas killed by Obama he needs more research?? No he wants to get past election then flat out say NO!!!

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