Webinar February 21: Approaching Scientific Controversies in Toxicology and Public Health

By Larissa Williams posted 02-03-2022 14:43

Katie Paul Friedman, Chair
Jaime Mirowsky, Chair

Katie Paul Friedman and Jaime Mirowsky are the authors of this blog.

Is use of marijuana safe? Is climate change driven by human activity? Are endocrine disruptors driving obesity? Are vaccines safe? Scientific reporting in the mainstream media may drive undergraduate interest in toxicology but teaching the science behind these seemingly contentious issues requires an understanding of the rhetoric used in media reporting as well as access to knowledge bases that support evaluation of the existing evidence for hazard and risk. In the Undergraduate Educator Network webinar “Approaching Scientific Controversies in Toxicology and Public Health,” hosted by the FUTURE Committee, experts support undergraduate educators by discussing how to analyze scientific “controversies” in the news and approach risk communication in science for public health issues. Lessons from this webinar also will be helpful for nonacademic toxicologists who communicate about science with various audiences. The two presentations will be followed by discussion.

February 21, 2022
12:00 Noon–1:15 PM (ET)
Contextualizing Controversy: Using Argumentation and Debate in the Science Classroom

Catherine E. Morrison, PhD
Teaching Professor and Director of Debate
Department of Communication Studies
Harrington School of Communication and Media
University of Rhode Island

The science educator acts as a guide between the public concerns about science policy controversies that students bring with them into the classroom and the specialized practices of scientific argument within particular fields. By contextualizing scientific disputes and the deliberative processes that create consensus, educators can invite students into scientific discussion, teach them how to argue like a scientist, and empower them to critically evaluate public science controversies.

Pursuing Research with Integrity on Controversial Topics: Marijuana in the Immune System

Barbara Kaplan, PhD
Associate Professor, Comparative Biomedical Sciences
Center for Environmental Health Sciences
Mississippi State University

The focus of Dr. Kaplan’s research is elucidation of the mechanisms by which drugs and chemicals alter immune function, with a focus on chemicals from marijuana. There is a lot of interest in the potential for marijuana or its chemicals for therapeutic use and societal pressure to decriminalize marijuana for recreational use. With that comes a lot of misinformation about marijuana, so Dr. Kaplan has sought out various opportunities to improve her science communication skills. This presentation will provide specific examples of how she has communicated about the science of marijuana to various audiences and in the classroom.