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Ambassadors of Science: Helping Others Understand a Science-Based Framework

Ambassadors of Science: Helping Others Understand a Science-Based Framework

By Janine Saunders, EdD, MPH | February 21, 2017
Program Manager, ETR

Neil deGrasse Tyson famously said, "The good thing about science is that it's true whether or not you believe in it." During this time of fake news and alternative facts, promoting science-based approaches is more important than ever. If you’re like me, you encounter people every day who, knowingly or unknowingly, are making decisions based on false information. 

Some people don’t know the facts. Others simply don’t care. For those who are open-minded, however, the chance to learn more about important issues from a credible source (you!) may make a big difference.

February is National School-Based Health Care Awareness Month. What a great opportunity to spread some facts about school health. Here are a few good ideas to get you started!

5 Easy Steps

  1. Start by asking questions! Too often, social scientists jump right into talking about the facts. And why not? Facts are cool.

However, we’ll be better ambassadors of science if we first demonstrate our openness to others’ ideas. When we find out more about their questions or concerns, we can craft our message in ways that address their greatest interests. Ask your friends what they already know about school-based health and start there.

  1. Learn five interesting science-based facts about school health. What school health science issues are most compelling to you? Get clear on the details and have authoritative resources to back them up. Some of my favorites include:
  1. Talk about the “fallacy of one.” We all carry natural biases based on personal experience. Most people can point to a person that they know who whose life experience ran contrary to prevailing scientific evidence (e.g., “My grandfather smoked a pack a day his whole life and lived to be 98.”)

We need to point out that scientific conclusions about groups cannot be made on the basis of a single case. While it is true that one person could smoke and live to be a nonagenarian, it is far more likely that a smoker will die prematurely. On average, in fact, smokers die ten years earlier than nonsmokers. For every person who dies from smoking, there are another 30 living with a serious tobacco-related illness.

And since we are talking about school health, it is important to remember that each day more than 3,200 adolescents smoke their first cigarette.

  1. Enthusiastically share the beauty, fun and wonder of science. Once of my favorite resources is the IFLScience website. This site promotes the fun and funny side of science, along with lively videos and stunning images from around the world. I share their posts with colleagues all the time.

Talk about interesting findings you’ve recently come across in your work. Right now, for example, I’m working on a really cool evaluation of middle school comprehensive sex education curricula in two Bay Area school districts. One of the outcomes across both districts is a significant increase in sexual health knowledge among the students. That’s an exciting finding. Which is why I’ve been subtly dropping it into my cocktail party conversations of late!

  1. Close the conversation by finding common ground. Focus on the positive school health outcomes that everyone can support. All people want children and adolescents to be healthy, thriving and ready to learn at school. School health programs can do all of the above and more by bringing health care where kids are. Further, by giving young people the science-based information they need to make healthy choices, we are setting them up for a lifetime of success. Who can argue with that?

Let’s Do Some Sciencing!

I was recently driving my ten-year-old and his friends back from a field trip. That’s always a great opportunity for eavesdropping. One of his friends asked, “What does your mom do at her job?”

My son said, “She helps people answer complex questions using science. She sciences all day.” He is right, and I love doing it.

I would also love to hear more about what you are doing. What strategies are you using to promote science-based frameworks? What experiences have you had talking to colleagues?

Let’s keep that flame alight. Keep on sciencing, friends.

Janine Saunders, EdD, MPH, is a Program Manager at ETR and a proud scientist. She can be reached at

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