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Poster Sessions

Penn was also represented with two posters. Zenobia Cofer presented a poster on science communication called “Wine, Cheese & Science,” an event organized by the BPC to give postdocs the opportunity to present their work in nontechnical terms. The second poster, “Biomedical Postdoctoral Council at the University of Pennsylvania: A Model for Executive Organization and Collaboration Among Postdocs” was presented by Doreen Becker and dealt with the organization and the structure of the BPC, with an emphasis on the collaborative environment fostered by the BPC. The poster session provided a great platform to meet postdoctoral associations and offices from other Universities and institutions and exchange ideas and thoughts.

“Wine, Cheese & Science” Is Not Just for the BPC: Presenting Science Communication Initiatives at the NPA 2016 Annual Meeting

by Zenobia Cofer, Ph.D.

Developing the skills to explain science to scientists and/or laypeople is no easy task. Often we, as scientists, get stuck in the details of our work, depending on the technical terms that everyone in our respective fields recognizes. But what if we are directing our knowledge to someone out of our field, or more frighteningly, to a lay person? This inability or inflexibility to sufficiently communicate our research to any and everyone is actually a major problem that many postdoctoral programs and the National Postdoctoral Association (NPA) are trying to address.

My main purpose of attending the NPA 2016 meeting was to present a poster about Penn BPC’s effort to develop postdoctoral scientists ability to communicate science in nontechnical terms. The BPC addressed this issue by organizing “Wine Cheese & Science” (WCS) (featured in a previous BPC Newsletter), a set of 10 minute TED-Ex style presentations, that was held on September 10, 2015. These presentations featured six postdoctoral researchers discussing their work and its overall importance, in lay terms. During the poster session, I met many individuals that were actively trying to think of similar ways to engage postdocs, have them meet each other, and help interested postdocs to present their work to the greater population. Kathleen Flint Ehm, the director of the Office of Postdoctoral Affairs at Stony Brook University, mentioned that their postdocs had conducted a program similar to WCS, with presenters receiving coaching from the Alan Alda Center for Communicating Science. While the presenters were excited about the opportunity to engage a different audience, they were disappointed in the audience turnout. Additionally, a frequent question I received was whether an event like WCS was effectively targeting the community if the audience consisted of mainly postdoctoral researchers.

Since science has specific terms unique to each discipline, WCS did give presenters the opportunity to engage a greater audience, albeit, one of highly educated people. Two WCS presenters also volunteered with my science outreach group, Science for All, at the Fumo Family Library. The presentations were well received by the audience and patrons look forward to meeting more scientists to learn about their research. Presenting the WCS poster at the NPA 2016 conference was a great opportunity for me to meet other postdocs from different parts of the country with similar ideas and interests. The opportunity I had to network with postdocs and program officials emphasized that there is a community effort trying to address ways to engage our own communities and the public.

Conclusions – Who Are Postdocs?

The NPA meeting ended with the Town Hall meeting, where speakers from the National Center for Science and Engineering Statistics presented data from a recent pilot study illustrating the existence of poor categorization of postdocs, and reinforcing that international postdocs form the majority of U.S. postdoc population, and these international doctoral degree holders have fewer faculty appointments compared to U.S. doctoral degree individuals . Throughout the meeting, numerous networking opportunities arose to meet new and old colleagues and discuss issues related to the postdoc community. Next year’s meeting will mark the 15th meeting and will take place in San Francisco, California.

BPCNewsletter, Spring 2016 6