PhD Student, Jimin Hu, Pushes for Better Science Communication

PhD Student, Jimin Hu, Pushes for Better Science Communication

­Jimin Hu realized that, as COVID-19 spread rapidly around the globe, timely and accurate science communication was essential to ensuring the public understood their part in preventing its spread. Unfortunately, since COVID-19 is a novel disease, conveying the science around it can be particularly problematic. Having observed both encouraging advancements and depressing setbacks in COVID-19 science communication, Jimin thought a forum that discussed how to effectively promote science communication around the pandemic would better inform the public.

“As the outbreak worsened, I saw many creative ways that effectively communicated the science about COVID-19, while seeing the negative consequences due to inaccurate or insufficient communication,” said Jimin. “I thought it would be beneficial to learn from the ways we were effective and change the ways we weren’t. Having this forum would be informative for both science communicators and bench scientists who are interested in science communication to discuss strategies that would help the general public make the best decisions about COVID-19, or other scientific topics involving urgency and uncertainty.”

After a discussion with her advisor, Dr. Michael Boyce, and with his encouragement and support, Jimin proposed putting together an Education and Professional Development (EPD) Session on communicating the science behind COVID-19 during the Annual Meeting of the American Society for Cell Biology (ASCB). She reached out to Dr. Richard Sever, the co-founder of bioRxiv and medRxiv and a member of ASCB’s national Public Information Committee (PIC) to ask if he would co-sponsor her proposal. After accepting her invitation, Dr. Sever and Jimin submitted their plan to members of the ASCB, who said they would support a standalone webinar on this timely topic before their Annual Meeting in December. In the end, Jimin coordinated logistics with the forum panelists and moderator. She also closely collaborated with the PIC, organizing, finalizing and marketing the webinar.

The webinar, which was recorded and can be viewed on-demand, focused on how to communicate information accurately in a time of urgency and uncertainty, and how scientists could enhance the general public’s trust and understanding of science. It was a great success, with 157 attendees during the live session and panelists who are experts in COVID-19 research, science publication (scientific journal and pre-print) and journalism, including:

  • Richard Sever, Co-Founder of bioRxiv & medRxiv
  • Kizzmekia Corbett, Scientific Lead, Coronavirus Vaccines & Immunopathogenesis Team, NIAID, NIH
  • Arturo Casadevall, Chair, Department of Molecular Microbiology and Immunology, Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and Founding Editor in Chief, mBio
  • Apoorva Mandavilli, Science & Global Health Reporter, The New York Times

Kathleen Hall Jamieson, Director of the Annenberg Public Policy Center at the University of Pennsylvania, an expert in science communication research and the 2020 recipient of the National Academy of Sciences’ Public Welfare Medal, moderated the panel.

Co-organizing the webinar with the PIC has given Jimin a greater understanding of current efforts in communicating science to the general public. It was such an amazing experience that she was inspired to apply to join the PIC. Recently accepted to the committee, she starts her term in 2021 and looks forward to working with the group to expand the science communication channels they provide to ASCB members and determine ways to reach more diverse audiences through social media outlets.

“Creating the forum was a highly fulfilling experience. I’ve participated in student programming as an undergrad and graduate student, but serving a professional audience felt totally different,” Jimin stated. “The generous support from everyone involved helped make the event happen. I’m grateful for the opportunity to facilitate this important discussion on COVID-19 science communication, and hope the audience found it as valuable as I did.”

 

Jimin Hu is a fourth-year PhD student working in the Boyce Lab. She studies how a protein post-translational modification, O-GlcNAcylation, regulates protein functions in diverse physiological processes.