FOJBI Friday: Tara Alpert, Molecular Biochemist

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The Friends of Joe's Big Idea is a vibrant community of talented people we think you should meet. Our feature "FOJBI Friday" introduces some of these cool communicators of science, in their own words. This week: Tara Alpert

Background

I am a graduate student at Yale University in the Department of Molecular Biophysics and Biochemistry. I study the kinetics of RNA transcription and splicing, and how those two events are coupled.

Importance of science communication

I think science can be broken down into two basic parts: discovering new information and disseminating that information to others. One reason we put so much emphasis on publishing in high-quality journals is that we know our results will reach a broader audience if we publish them in Science or Nature. But we often fail to consider that 98 percent of the world won't be reading those journals, no matter how big their impact is among researchers.

In the past, books like Charles Darwin's On the Origin of Species were best-sellers in the public arena, not just among other scientists. The public is interested and they can understand scientific research, but we often create barriers between them and our research out of fear that the science might be misconstrued. In fact, I believe it is our responsibility to explain our findings in a way everybody can understand. We need to create a back-and-forth dialogue about research and what results do and do not mean if we wish to stop the spread of misinformation.

With cases of previously extinct diseases rising anew, it is abundantly clear, just in terms of public health, that there is a broken cog in the machine that must be fixed. I think at least part of the answer lies in better communication by scientists in explaining our findings to the public.

Future plans

After finishing my degree, I hope to work in the field of science policy. I will also remain committed to education, as I believe that is the most promising avenue to begin repairing relations between the public and the scientific community.

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