Mr. Smith need not go to Washington

Austin said [in an AcademyHealth interview] that it used to be that you communicated science to policy makers through a press release. Even more important, I think, was travelling to Washington for conversations with Congressional (or other governmental) staff. (One was taught to get your argument on a single sheet of paper, no one who mattered would ever turn a page.) What has emerged is a policy discourse process built on three electronic communication layers. There is the twitterverse, where journalists and widely read bloggers process events on a time scale of minutes and hours. A tweet, however, can serve as a headline for a linked blog post, where an academic or think tank blogger frames an argument in a few hundred words. A good academic blog post, in turn, will link to the academic literature, which is increasingly online (but unfortunately not that accessible, unless you have access rights at a university library). The net result, I think, is that more scientific evidence gets into elite discourse than when I started my university career in the 1980s, and it gets there faster.

That’s from the thoughtful mind of Bill Gardner. I set in bold the bit that I hadn’t considered before in this context. I travel to Washington to talk with policymakers approximately never. Yet, I have evidence that what I write (thus, think) is reaching (some of) them. My family is grateful for the additional time I’m home, as am I.

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