The Training Page

From the NCI-DCEG’s Fellows Committee

NCI-DCEG Fellows Connect

More than 700 of NIH’s 3,800 fellows work outside NIH’s main Bethesda campus. As one of those 700, I can say that we are determined to be a vital part of the NIH enterprise. I’m in NCI’s Division of Cancer Epidemiology and Genetics (DCEG), which is home to more than 100 fellows who work in eight research branches. DCEG has offices on Executive Boulevard in Rockville, Md., and runs a laboratory in Shady Grove, Md.

We are working with the DCEG Office for Education (OE) to meet the the challenge of working outside the main campus. The OE has partnered with NIH’s Office of Intramural Training and Education to bring workshops to Rockville on interviewing skills, writing curriculum vitae, and making the best of mentoring relationships as well as workshops in population sciences.

To further meet the needs of DCEG fellows and to share ideas and facilitate communication among us, Jackie Lavigne (chief of the DCEG OE) and I recently created the DCEG fellows (DFel) committee. DFel supports NCI-DCEG fellows in all aspects of training and career development and advocates for our interests. It also fosters interaction among us, between us and the rest of the DCEG community, and with other NCI and NIH fellows, whether they are on or off the main Bethesda campus.

DFel alerts NCI trainees to the abundant opportunities available to us. “DFel helps to ensure that my office is making the best use of NIH and DCEG resources to address the training needs of our fellows,” said Lavigne. Under her leadership, DCEG received the North American Congress of Epidemiology’s 2011 Alexander D. Langmuir Award for Training Program Excellence and Innovation.

Since DFel’s inaugural meeting in early 2011, our subcommittees have coordinated a DCEG alumni social event at the North American Congress of Epidemiology conference in Montreal; begun developing a DCEG fellows’ wiki; and piloted an epidemiology fellows editorial board. I hope that DCEG fellows will seek out DFel as a resource and consider joining the committee.

To join DFel, contact Jennifer Major (majorjm@mail.nih.gov or 301-451-9873) or Britton Trabert (trabertbl@mail.nih.gov or 301-451-4435). DFel meetings are open to all DCEG fellows and held on the last Wednesday each month, 1:30–2:30 p.m., at 6120 Executive Boulevard, room 6081. Reminders are sent to all DCEG fellows before each meeting.


Special Essay

The Parallel Worlds of Science and Journalism

For four days in mid-February, thousands of scientists gathered at the Washington Convention Center for the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS).

In the rooms tucked away on the mezzanine level of the conference center, behind the security guards at the doors, lay a humming world of journalists and press briefings. While most meeting attendees sat through sessions of up to three hours on a given topic, accredited journalists at the meeting were offered 30- to 45-minute press conferences with the presenters before their sessions, during which they could garner the key messages that would be discussed during the scientific session, question the presenters, and record snippets of distilled information for broadcast or publication.

Some argue that “scientists are not good communicators,” but many journalists disagree. A veteran press attendee at the meeting was Robyn Williams, host of The Science Show on ABC Radio National, Australia’s national broadcaster. “Some scientists are brilliant communicators,” he said, noting that, as in any field, some people are able to explain their work, while others struggle.

Another stalwart of science journalism at the meeting was the former science editor of The Guardian newspaper in the U.K., Tim Radford. He shares Williams’s view that the idea of scientists lacking communication skills is a misnomer. He believes that the problem might be in the multiple forums they can be required to communicate in. Scientists have “natural gifts” in clarity, observation and knowledge, which should make them well-suited to communicating their work to the public, given the right training and encouragement.

The public will have to be encouraged to understand what scientists do and why it’s important. In the words of Albert Einstein, “if you can’t explain it simply, you don’t understand it well enough.”

To read this essay in its entirety, go to http://fellowshipoffice.niddk.nih.gov/newsletter/vol4_iss5/page2.htm.