Writing for Science Policy with Rescuing Biomedical Research

Earlier this summer, I had the opportunity to participate in the Rescuing Biomedical Research Writing Program. In this program, I wrote 2 blog posts for their blog. Here, the audience is people who care and know a decent amount about science policy issues. This was unfamiliar territory for me. Could I, someone whose writing experience was limited to the general public, get the hand of this audience? I struggled, but I successfully published an article on the grant resubmission process at the NIH and a second article on indirect cost payments

For the first article, Chris Pickett, director of Rescuing Biomedical Research, gave me an article to respond to and clear guidelines regarding the content and structure of the post. I read about the grant resubmission process on the NIH blog, went down several rabbit holes on the details of grant submission and resubmission and wrote a first draft. Chris sent it back to me covered in comments and sentence rewrites. I doubted myself and my writing abilities, but I tried again. I focused my sentences and paragraphs to make them shorter and more direct. I removed information that didn’t directly support my point. After 4 revisions, we had a final version that was posted to the blog. I felt like I had succeeded with this new audience!

However, I wasn’t done. The second blog post was to be my idea, which meant that I spent several days scouring science policy websites and science journals. I found 3 different articles that were not a good fit for the blog before finding the article about indirect cost payments on the Science Magazine website. Here, I struggled because my existing knowledge is mostly in science communication for the public, not necessarily for science policy experts. I also needed to find an article that was broad enough to allow me to write about the science policy issue without having too narrow a focus.  But, with trial and error and mentoring from Chris Pickett, I started writing about indirect cost payments. My first draft was long and meandering, spending too much space describing indirect costs and not enough discussing why indirect costs matter. After 5 drafts, however, we had a publishable post that was clear, concise and directly discussed the policies that impact indirect costs.

After writing these 2 posts, I feel more confident discussing science policy and how it impacts science and scientists. My belief that science policy is an integral part of science communication was solidified. Overall, the program gave me the opportunity to expand my experience by writing for a new audience on topics that directly impact my work as a scientist.

Unfortunately, the program has been discontinued for the time being due to time constraints at Rescuing Biomedical Research, but follow them on Twitter for updates. Contact me – I’m happy to discuss this experience or science policy in general.

About Torrey Truszkowski

Torrey is a sixth year PhD candidate in neuroscience at Brown University. Her research investigates the connections between brain cells that process sensory information. She hosts the Providence, Rhode Island Nerd Nite (nerdniteri.com) and teaches science communication. After graduating, she plans to embed science communication into her work. Find me on Twitter @TorreyTruszko
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