FIGURE 6-3. An infrastructure for life science communication is like the Metro. It has well-defined pathways, destinations, intersections, policies, and cultures. One must conduct research to understand the bedrock and social dimensions in which it exists. It can also be adaptable, with new pathways and destinations created in response to social need. This way, one may choose from multiple paths to reach any destination. Source: Brooke Smith, slide 13.

Our infrastructure has organizations (governmental, industry, academic, and nongovernmental), policies (e.g., requiring grantees to engage in communication activities), culture (including promotion and tenure), and at least some research to tell us how to build it and modify it over time. Of course, we have yet to build the infrastructure, maintain it, and adapt it over time and, importantly, added Smith, we have not yet devised good ways to monitor and evaluate our success.

We have many more questions than answers right now, observed Smith. But the biggest takeaway, she said, is the convening function the National Academy of Sciences has played and how this has moved us forward. We need to encourage our respective communities to coalesce around this effort. For now, she suggested that the roundtable and other interested parties should continue to communicate, connect with each other, and meet until “our community of practice around science engagement” reaches “a point where we can really think about the collective infrastructure.”

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