Saturday, February 5, 2011

Bringing Research to the Public

The French Association for Research in Cancer (ARC) commissioned a survey to understand public perceptions of cancer research and researchers. Le Guide Santé reports that three-quarters of respondents feel researchers are the best source for cancer advice about risk and behaviors. The survey found that young people, those under 24, are more interested in than other groups in understanding how cancer affects the body.

The ARC is organizing a “debate” that brings together researchers and opens the floor to questions from the public. Internet users can asked questions at: http://www.grand-direct
This public interaction with the research establishment and the public is “unique to France" according to Brèves Santé, a health oriented web site. Indeed, reaching out this way to link bench scientists to the public is not something seen elsewhere. In the US, there are emerging outreach and “translation” activities that are being promoted by the National Institute of Science (NIH). The Clinical and Translational Science Awards (CTSA) mechanism requires academic health centers to formally structure dissemination and “bench to bedside” linkages.

At UNC, the “University Cancer Research Fund” was created in 2007 by the NC General Assembly to promote research but to also link the research enterprise to communities. The Lineberger Cancer Center at UNC-CH has underwritten a wide range of projects and programs that connect the scientists in Chapel Hill and in community based projects with patients, survivors and the general population.

The outstanding question is whether the NC and US population feels as trusting of cancer researchers as the French. Mark Hall, a professor at Wake Forest University has published a study that describes how to measures public trust in researchers but the scales and methods haven’t been used to assess how Americans feel about biomedical scientists.

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