Leave the conference room and head straight to the local tap room.

When irony is just too much.    In my never-ending effort to help “average” citizens get involved in science and science policy matters, I had quite an eye-opening experience Saturday night.
Local bartender (granted he was drunk) said to me ” I defriended you on Facebook you know. I got tired of what you were posting. Science this and science that, waa, waa, waa.”
Me: “Why, I never grow tired of your posts about your new baby’s pooping schedule.”
Him: “Seriously, you shouldn’t be writing about stuff like that. We need to stick together. Let those people [finger quotes] write about and think about that and let us talk about stuff we should be talking about. You need to remember your place in this world.”
Me: “Hmmm. I may need to find a way to filter certain [finger quotes] voices from any crowdsourcing, participatory activities I’m planning…(thinking back to people telling me why we shouldn’t have the public weigh in on science policy issues…  “you haven’t met enough people if you really think everyone should be invited to weigh in.”)
Him: “Well now that we have an understanding, I’ll refriend you on FB.”

Clearly Joe doesn’t feel worthy of taking a seat at the “participatory” table. It’s unfortunate and surely Joe’s not alone. He doesn’t want to learn about issues he feels he has no business talking about. Joe has no shortage of opinions. He’s also an influencer (he made a point of telling me he has more friends on facebook than I do…nice). By enlisting people like Joe, real change can start to take place. But Joe needs to be convinced that he’s entitled to participate. I’ll work on Joe but anyone involved in science and policy should consider having these types of conversations outside of their labs, offices, classrooms and conferences. Go to your corner tap room from time to time to take the pulse of the American public. I promise you , you’ll learn something.

For those of you who may be wondering what’s become of the effort to Reopen the Office of Technology Assessment, with public participation, I’ll have something to report in a few weeks!