Today, the APHA is encouraging you to be prepared with their annual Get Ready Day! Across the country, people will be preparing for disasters, and encouraging people to consider how they are ready for any disasters that might happen.
The typical image that comes to mind when people think of getting ready for natural disasters is the “Y2K bunker,” where people have months of canned goods, water jugs, and matches, preparing for an apocalypse where we live in a Walking Dead or Mad Max style wasteland, struggling for survival. These individuals may or may not be sporting a beard and wearing camouflage gear in the middle of suburbia.
But that’s not what we’re talking about (although similar principles apply). A disaster could be anything ranging from a fire, a flood, a terrorist attack, or something more localized such as a storm taking out power in your neighbourhood, or a tree falling down on your house. These sorts of events will happen, and being prepared can help you and your family stay safe throughout.
Anyone who has been following my posts knows that I have a huge weakness for sci-fi and science, and if someone was to marry the two of those together, I’d be there immediately. Especially if it involved Battlestar Galactica, Star Wars or Middle Earth.
Well, it happened.
The Canada Aviation and Space Museum is currently hosting Star Wars: Identities. Star Wars: Identities is a travelling exhibit that highlights human development using the mythos of the Star Wars universe. I had been keeping an eye on this exhibit as a few years ago I had been to the Indiana Jones and the Adventure of Archaeology exhibit in Montreal, which was excellent, and the same organization (X3 Productions) was responsible for this one. And when I found out they were using Star Wars to teach people about psychology, I knew I had to go.
You see, we all have questions about how and why people turn out the way they do. Even people raised under the same roof can have wildly disparate personalities, and can view the world through very different lenses. The exhibit highlights the difference between Anakin and Luke Skywalker, and how, despite coming from the same planet and having (similar) genetic makeup, their lives take two very different trajectories based on their experiences and the environments they are exposed to.
An issue that keeps coming up at conferences I’ve been at lately has been the role of industry in public health. It’s an interesting question, as funding for prevention requires a level of political will and foresight that will not lend immediate dividends, and may not for 10, 20 or even 30 years. Given how many politicians now exist in a perpetual election cycle where any misstep is captured and covered ad nauseum, not having immediate payoffs are a risky proposition. Add to this an aging population that requires immediate and tangible medical care, and (in those countries that have public healthcare) there is a tough decision that has to be made: immediate and tangible dividends, or long term goals that you may not be around to enjoy.
As a result, groups have turned to other partners to acquire funding for public health interventions. These range from other public health groups, NGOs/NPOs as well as industry. While there isn’t much controversy surrounding the first two groups, the third raises no shortage of concerns among both public health people and the public. The basic question is this: Can we partner with industry, and if so, how can we partner with them in a way that keeps both sides happy?
I’ve been mulling this post over for a while now, as there isn’t an easy answer to the above question. As mentioned above, this is an issue that keeps coming up – especially in the obesity area (which comprises one of the focuses of my PhD dissertation). It culminated in an event organized by the Canadian Obesity Network – Student and New Professionals National Executive where they invited 4 speakers to speak on the issue – ranging from those who were profoundly against partnership, to those who were all for partnership, and even those in between. I’m not going to go into whether or not you *should* partner with industry, as both sides of this debate have been covered very well by Dr Arya Sharma and Dr Yoni Freedhoff in their respective blog posts on the topic.
Last year, I had a chance to speak at TEDxQueensu (embedded above). My basic premise is this: Science is awesome, but science needs to do a better job of communicating that awesomeness to non-scientists. We’re sitting on the frontiers of human knowledge, and yet we cannot get others as excited about this issue that we’re very, very passionate about. It’s something I’ve touched upon within the world of science fiction, by having celebrity spokepeople for science and even by using humour to engage non-scientists. After reading up on inspirational leadership, I realized that the way we can communicate science more effectively is to cast off the typical way we view science for academic purposes (ie the peer reviewed manuscript/IMRaD) and consider it as part of a whole.
We need to tell the story of science – the background, ie. why your research happened, and then the consequences, ie. why your research matters. An academic presentation works very well when your audience knows the background to the area, but when talking to non-scientists, or even those outside of your immediate area of study, you have to take a step back and tell them why the research even matters before delving into your specific study.