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Coordinated messaging key to federal support: Cooper

Apr. 25, 2013, 9:56 AM

U.S. Rep. Jim Cooper, D-Tenn., center, is flanked by graduate students, post-doctoral fellows and faculty prior to a talk he gave last week on the future of science funding. (photo by Stephan Doster)

In an era of budget cutting and belt-tightening, how can science get more support from the federal government?

Through more assertive self-promotion, continuous and coordinated messaging and creative marketing.

That was the message U.S. Rep. Jim Cooper, D-Tenn., gave to Chemical Biology graduate students and post-doctoral fellows during a talk last week entitled, “Dawn or dusk for science funding?”

Last year Cooper helped launch the “Golden Goose Award” to educate Congress and the public about the value of funding basic scientific research. These awards should come out not every year, but every month, he said.

“We live in not just a 24-hour news cycle. We live in a one-hour news cycle,” Cooper said. “To hold the public’s attention, you have to grab it.”

Advocacy groups, government agencies and academic medical centers also could have greater impact in Washington if they coordinated their messages better. “In politics, there’s strength in numbers,” he said.

And finally, science must recognize that “marketing is part of life,” Cooper said. “The power of the brand cannot be denied.”

Thus, chemical biologists could call themselves “drug discoverers,” he said. “Then people, including your own family members, would have some idea what you do … Don’t hide the ball.”

“How do we make the sun rise?” Cooper asked. “Unify and speak. Unify and ask. Unify, and the politicians will come to you. Unify and spark their imagination, and you’ve got the whole world on your side.”

Cooper’s talk was sponsored by the Vanderbilt Chemical Biology Association of Students and by the VUMC Postdoctoral Association.

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