on the part of investigators to engage the public and the press about both animal use in research and the regulations that govern the use. Some fear that discussing their research will make them targets and they perceive the potential for harm as very real, noted Nelson. In addition, the benefits of engaging the public in these issues may not always be immediately tangible to scientists. Nelson informally surveyed his colleagues and found that many perceive the scientific press to be understanding, rational, accurate, and unbiased. Others suggested that the general press, however, was negatively perceived by some, aligned with specific interests, and interested in the story, but not necessarily in accuracy. Scientists are required to understand the regulations and policies governing animals in research. Many of the scientists who spoke with Nelson believe the press does not fully understand these regulations, but that they have a responsibility to “get it right” when reporting to the public. The question then, Nelson asked, what is “right”?
Scientific progress depends on public perception and acceptance, Nelson said, and he offered several observations and suggestions regarding methods to increase opportunities for success in engaging the public:
• Public confidence may increase with public dialogue. Information fosters understanding, and understanding fosters appreciation. The cycle of mistrust must be interrupted for progress to be made, and who better to do that than those directly involved in the science, Nelson asked.
• Increasing opportunities for interfacing with the public. Frank discussions with the public about animal research regulations and the use of animals in science may dispel the notion of “ivory towers and dark secrets which reside within research laboratories.”
• Train scientists to communicate clearly about animal research. Having someone else communicate for the scientific community dilutes the message, Nelson noted. Connecting a scientist’s name and face with a news item could help foster a relationship and build trust. In speaking about their research, Nelson suggested that scientists should
o Give general examples rather than elaborating on specifics.
o Consider the audience’s previous knowledge when delivering information.
o Describe efforts by scientists, regulators, and government agencies to minimize animal numbers and pain and distress.
o Help people understand the process of cost-benefit analyses when using animals in research.
o Ensure accurate representation of the science. Public confidence may increase if the public has access to accurate information.