SPEaC’s Frequently Asked Questions

General Information About SPEaC

What does “SPEaC” stand for?

SPEaC stands for the Science Policy, Education, and Communication Club at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas, TX.

How do you pronounce the club name?

We pronounce “SPEaC” the same way the word “speak” is pronounced.

Why are there so many areas of focus in your club name?

We focus on science policy, science education, and science communication because we believe that they are interconnected. Good communication skills are required for educating others about science, for discussing science policy, and for disseminating scientific results. Science policy shapes our education system, and science literacy amongst the public and policymakers in turn affects the types of scientific policies that are developed. Being informed about and involved in all of these areas will make us better scientists and better citizens.

What is your connection to the UT Southwestern Postdoctoral Association (PDA) Outreach Committee/Career Development Committee, the UT Southwestern Graduate Student Organization (GSO), the Science Teacher Access to Resources at Southwestern (STARS) program, and/or other career and outreach groups?

SPEaC is an independent group that was created in early 2014 by UT Southwestern students and trainees, and we host our own events and activities; however, in some cases we may choose to co-sponsor or participate in events with other groups on campus.

Participation in SPEaC

Who is allowed to participate in events? To attend meetings?

All students and trainees at UT Southwestern are welcome to attend our meetings and events and/or to volunteer for our outreach opportunities. This includes graduate students, medical students, health professions students, postdoctoral fellows, and medical residents.

What types of events does the club sponsor?

The club sponsors many types of events. For example, we have monthly meetings during which attendees learn about the club and discuss current science policy issues. We also host seminars and workshops on improving science communication skills and have a blog to which club members can contribute. We have educational outreach events in which volunteers perform science demonstrations and talk to members of the public, and we also have outreach events during which club members meet with lawmakers to discuss science policy. You will find examples of each type of event described in our blog, so please peruse it to learn more about us, and then let us know in what sort of events you would like to participate!

I am a UT Southwestern trainee interested in SPEaC. What would I gain from participating in SPEaC events and meetings?

Our goal is to provide career development opportunities for trainees at UT Southwestern, so participating in our events will help prepare you for science careers inside and outside of academia. Participating in our discussions will also help you stay informed about current policies affecting the practice of science.

What is the time investment for SPEaC members? Do I have to remain an active member to participate in the club?

You may invest as little or as much time as you would like in SPEaC. You are welcome to participate in as many individual meetings or events as you are able, and we do not require that you attend our meetings in order to volunteer for our outreach events, attend our communications seminars, or participate in science blogging. Regular involvement, however, will give you more opportunities for career development and will be more enriching.

Science Policy Information

What is science policy?

Science policy refers to national and local policies, laws, and regulations that govern the scientific enterprise (for example, setting the National Institutes of Health’s annual budget). It also refers to the process of using scientific research to inform public policy (for example, using scientific findings to guide the FDA drug approval process).

Are you a political advocacy/lobbying group?

No. While some of our meetings will revolve around open and friendly discussion regarding current issues in scientific policy, SPEaC will not take an official stance on specific policy issues. All opinions expressed by SPEaC members are theirs alone and do not represent the club as a whole or UT Southwestern. Come join our discussions!

What is the difference between political advocacy/lobbying and science policy?

Political advocacy includes asking lawmakers to prioritize science funding or to consider a particular policy stance. Many organizations have professional lobbyists that communicate with congress or local lawmakers to promote their specific interests. Science policy, on the other hand, is a broad term encompassing all the public policies that affect or are affected by scientific research.

If you are not a political advocacy group, what is your goal when meeting with lawmakers or policymakers?

Many lawmakers/policymakers and their staffers do not have an extensive background in science and are forced to make science policy decisions based on their limited experience. At our meetings with local offices, we offer our professional experience as a resource for lawmakers and policymakers, their staffers, and others who are in a position to make policy recommendations. We also hope to build a relationship with local political offices so that we may become more educated about public policy.

What are Capitol Hill Days?

Capitol Hill Days are particular days during which professional organizations sponsor scientists to travel to Washington, D.C. and talk with members of Congress (in both the Senate and the House of Representatives) about their concerns and interests.

Contacting SPEaC

Who should I contact for more information regarding SPEaC?

If you have further questions about our group that were not answered above, or you would like to be placed on our email list, please contact one of our officers listed on the Leadership page or email us here.


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