Grad Studies/Postdoctoral Training Available
Ian A. Paul, Ph.D.
iapaul at fiona.umsmed.edu
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
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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