Grad Studies/Postdoctoral Training Available

Ian A. Paul, Ph.D. iapaul at
Tue May 30 11:10:01 EST 1995

Nonetheless, the basic idea that Crwydryn expressed is valid.  The point 
is that when you are dealing with a non-scientist, employing technical 
terminology or worse, jargon, to describe your work is not only 
counterproductive, but is generally perceived as arrogant and pedantic.  
Neither of these public perceptions will aid either scientists or the 
quest to maintain and increase scientific funding.

However, I do agree with Matt that it is important to avoid 
oversimplifying to the point of vagueness.  This, too, can result in the 
negative perceptions of scientists as either fuzzy/vague thinkers or as 
"talking down" to the non-scientist.  My own approach to situations when 
I am asked to describe what I do is to begin with a very simple thumbnail 
description (a'la the type of description requested in Animal Care and 
Use Committee protocols) and to allow the questioner ask for more detail 
if the want it.  

For example, I have spent the past six years studying the ability of 
chronic antidepressant treatments to reduce the potency of 
[3H]5,7-dichlorokynurenic acid binding to the strychnine-insensitive 
glycine recognition site of the N-methyl-D-aspartate receptor complex.  
While this description might be informative to one or two dozen other 
scientists, I find that I can usually sum it up by saying that I study 
the role of a population of nerve cells in the brain in drug treatments 
for depression like Prozac.  I find that this type of description is 
simple enough to prompt questions from interested non-scientists and to 
politely encapsulate my work for those who are not particularly 

As a side note, I have used this type of description with quite a number 
of folks over the years, ranging in education from middle school on up 
and have found that the vast majority of people ask additional questions 
which allow me both to better describe my work and to slip in information 
concerning the poor state of scientific funding and the critical role of 
non-human animals in biomedical research.

Best to all, 


Ian A. Paul, Ph.D.
Laboratory of Neurobehavioral Pharmacology and Immunology
Department of Psychiatry and Human Behavior
Division of Neurobiology and Behavior Research
Box 127
University of Mississippi Medical Center
2500 North State Street
Jackson, MS  39216-4505
Tel.:  (601) 984-5883/5898
Fax.:  (601) 984-5884/5899

"Listen, strange women lying in ponds distributing swords is no basis 
for a system of government!  Supreme executive authority derives from 
a mandate from the masses, not from some farcical aquatic ceremony!
I mean, if I went around saying I was an emporor because some moistened 
bit had lobbed a scimitar at me, they'd put me away...."

                             - Dennis ("I'm 37, I'm not old!")
                               Monty Python and the Holy Grail

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