Speaker emphasizes educating community on importance of research

March 1, 2012

Make science and research a part of everyday conversation – that was the message from Mary Woolley, president of Research!America, during her visit and lecture at Baylor College of Medicine.

Research!America is a nonprofit public education and advocacy alliance working to make health research a higher national priority. Woolley was a guest of Dr. Bill Brinkley, dean emeritus of the Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences and professor of molecular and cellular biology at BCM.

Pushing for researh funding

She spoke about how the United States is falling behind in research and scientific innovation compared to other countries. She also talked about how the average person's lack of knowledge about what is going on in research facilities across the country is reflected in federal funding.

"Falling behind can have serious consequences," Woolley said. "There is an economic impact when it comes to funding science. Jobs are created and health care issues can be handled in a more efficient and effective way."

A push for funding for research that improves health care and policy changes is the goal of Research!America. Woolley said that while these political issues must be dealt with at the national level, it can start here at BCM and in the Houston community.

Reach out

"Our public officials affect funding and policy change, but we have to remember that they serve us. We have to make sure they know research and scientific growth is important to this community," she said. "We do that by speaking up."

Reaching out to local politicians or representatives is one way to start. Woolley spoke to the researchers and scientists in the attendance, suggesting that simply talking to their neighbors or friends about their work at BCM can change the public's view on exactly who scientists are and what they do.

Woolley praised Brinkley, long-time advocate for Research!America and a former board member, for his work with the Baylor Research Advocates for Student Scientists program. The BRASS program pairs graduate students with members of the Houston community. Students share their knowledge of science while the BRASS volunteers support the students through cultural enrichment and also represent their communities' interests, concerns and hope for scientific growth.

"Talking about what you do as researchers, even to just one other person, is the start," Woolley said. "You can't conduct science in a vacuum."