SCONC tomorrow at Duke: Influenza - What's more contagious, the virus or the hype?

When writing the other day about how blogging has been of benefit to my career, I neglected to mention my recent invitation to the board of Science Communicators of North Carolina (SCONC).

Founded in June 2007 by Karl Leif Bates and Chris Brodie, and now headed by President Ernie Hood (Radio In Vivo), SCONC is a group of "science writers, journalists, public information officers, teachers and institutional communicators from academia, government labs, industry, museums and schools -- just about anyone interested in communicating science," who aim to improve public understanding of science and medicine.

For those of you who are in the area, please join us tomorrow evening:

Science Communicators of North Carolina

INFLUENZA -- What's more contagious, the virus or the hype?

Join us for an informative, free-wheeling backgrounder about the seasonal flu, H1N1, the history of pandemics and what you should (and should not) be doing about all of it.

Director of the Duke Global Health Institute

Chief, Infectious Diseases Section, Durham VA Medical Center

September 30, 2009 -- 6-8 p.m.

Duke University
Sanford School of Public Policy
Auditorium 5
201 Science Drive
Map -

Travel Directions:
The Terry Sanford School of Public Policy is at the corner of Towerview and Science
Drives on Duke's west campus (near Cameron Indoor Stadium).

Public parking is available in the Bryan Center lot, one block north on Science Drive, or in a small surface lot one block south on Science Drive.

For the latest flu information from Duke, see

Our gracious hosts, Duke's Sanford School of Public Policy, will be celebrating this week their inauguration as Duke's tenth school. The previously-known Terry Sanford Institute for Public Policy was founded by the eponymous president of Duke and former North Carolina governor. Sanford's role in national history was sealed by his 1960 primary endorsement of John F. Kennedy over Lyndon B. Johnson, a controversial but pivotal move by a Southern politician.

A high-profile program of activities are planned for the elevation of the Institute as a School including journalist and Duke alumna, Judy Woodruff, and Ernest Mario, namesake of the Rutgers School of Pharmacy, longstanding Duke trustee, and pharmaceutical company executive.

A full list of the inaugural events for the Sanford School of Public Policy can be found here.


More like this

Abel: I think the topic -- trying to get the balance right -- is extremely important. But that title is really horrible. It implies that all there is is hype. I trust the program will be good but the title is really really bad. Just my two cents.

Do you think they answered the question?

An interesting comment came up after the event from a young science communicator who does outreach/PR for a science group. She said she feels she hears the same comments from scientists about how "bad" the media is in covering science, no matter what the science topic at hand is.

Given SCONC's conversation with the speakers about the lack of specialization in most newsrooms today, do you think that the speakers were aware of the massive disruption in the reporting side of science news (and how it effects the quality of reporting)?

I'm not sure they exactly answered the question although I got more of the feeling that we should always be recognizing that regular old seasonal flu is pretty tragic: 36,000 US deaths per year. IIRC, each doc questioned whether H1N1 deaths would top that but also agreed it is a real crapshoot right now. They seemed much more ominous about a H5N1 bird flu outbreak someday.

I agree with you wholeheartedly that scientists and physicians don't truly appreciate the transformation of the newsrooms today. The few people hired to cover health reporting are juggling dozens of other assignments covering other areas and there are a plethora of truly excellent science and medical journalists no longer with the large media conglomerates. In our area, a major US research and technology center, I can only name two science/medicine reporters out of our newspapers and public radio stations.

I did appreciate that Dr Merson asked us how "they" can help us better communicate accurate health information to the public. But it's hard to do when there are really so few well-qualified people being paid a living wage to do this communication.