Public Education and Awareness Committee Action Plan
In April 2020, the Board of Directors approved this Action Plan and a phased implementation of the listed activities over the next three to five years in support of the Strategic Plan. The activities will be reviewed by the Board for funding on an annual basis.
ASHG strives to be a key central and essential resource for genetics and genomics information for the public with particular emphasis on the general public, underserved populations, educators, policymakers, members, and news media. Given the Society’s vision that people everywhere realize the benefits of human genetics and genomics research, there are opportunities to present positive, balanced, and impactful information and to deliver it to curious and hopeful audiences.
With these tenets in mind, ASHG can effectively develop and deliver messages that reflect key issues: the benefits and the importance of human genetics and genomics research, improving health, and promoting wellness; and the celebration of genetic diversity. ASHG must work to articulate and communicate the value and excitement of this important area of research, the opportunity and impact of research participation; and the field’s commitment to responsible stewardship and use of information.
- Members who are trained and empowered to be more effective in communicating the benefits of genetics and genomics research to the public.
- Curiosity among young people, who are inspired and encouraged to study genetics and genomics or become more aware of these issues as a result of ASHG educational products and information.
- Widespread support for genetics and genomics research among key audiences including the general public, underserved populations, policymakers and the news media, resulting, in part, in greater interest in research participation.
- A greater number of ASHG members engaged in public outreach and strengthening the genetics and genomics community’s capacity to communicate to the public.
- Communication should enhance and underscore ASHG’s reputation as a trusted source of authoritative, high-quality information about genetics and genomics research.
- ASHG should maintain a consistent focus on its priority audiences: the general public, including underserved populations and crucial sub-audiences of educators and policymakers, with leadership from GPAC. The media is an audience with its own characteristics, and an important vehicle for reaching the other key audiences.
- Members of the public should know that ASHG and the genetics community are responsible stewards of important technology, working to realize benefits, and in so doing, understand and resolve issues that provide reasons for caution.
- Strategic communication should be delivered in a way that is relevant to everyday experiences and through in-person and evolving digital channels.
- ASHG should convey support for future genetics and genomics discoveries and progress, reflected in ASHG public resources that integrate the Society’s positions on advocacy matters, such as the need for and the prohibition of genetic information discrimination in employment, and the importance of STEM education.
- ASHG should ensure broad representation of diverse genetics and genomics research areas, personal stories and ancestries, and perspectives that reflect the breadth and depth of the field.
- The Society should ensure quality enhancement is informed by effective metrics that monitor and measure impact and reach.
- Messaging: Communicating Broadly and with Underserved Communities
Given that the ASHG/Research!America survey revealed intergroup differences in the responses, it will be important to develop and maintain a key messaging framework that can be adjusted for use with all ASHG audiences, including an emphasis on underserved populations. As part of this undertaking, the Society will work to reach a diverse audience that will serve, in part, to achieve the Committee’s mission. To do this, we first need to understand why there are different responses between groups and how to best reach the groups that have lower genetics knowledge or lower support for genetics research. Messages will be reflected in language describing ASHG programs and topics, including the annual meeting and public-facing materials.
- Communicate the Benefits of Genetics and Genomics Research –
- Creation of a set of resources that assist in communications efforts to talk about genetics and genomics research with an emphasis on diverse communities. Continue to reinforce privacy and confidentiality issues.
- Assess development of basic consistent ASHG messaging campaign architecture to celebrate diversity and to communicate the value of genetics to reach a wide array of audiences. A construct of “One Humanity, Many Genomes,” could be created to organize and message genetics information that allows people to consider how advances in genomics may unlock the mysteries to centuries old questions, answer questions about life, and reinforce the commonality of all humans.
- Development of Media Outreach to Underserved Communities – As highlighted in the ASHG/Research!America survey, there is a need for additional vehicles to reach underserved communities to discuss the value of genetics and genomics research. Right now there is a lack of knowledge and some misconceptions about human genetics. ASHG will work to find the channels that reach these audiences effectively and use the new messaging framework to communicate effectively about the benefits of this important area of scientific research.
- Communicate the Benefits of Genetics and Genomics Research –
Increase the effectiveness of existing ASHG programs to communicate the benefits of genetics and genomics research to the public, and participation in it. Help increase the number of scientists who are trained and willing to engage in ASHG’s diverse public engagement strategies. Enhance field-facing training strategies that leverage existing platforms such as ASHG’s communications workshop and high school and undergraduate workshops or other venues to improve capacity for public communication and opportunities for engagement.
- High School Workshop – develop toolkit and teaching curriculum designed to provide information to members in order to create activities for high school students with an emphasis on communities with underserved populations. Consider hosting the workshop in the same location where the Annual Meeting is held each year off site from the convention center.
- Community Outreach Toolkit – Develop a toolkit for members and other geneticists to participate as coaches in regional events, such as the Science Olympiad or Regeneron Science Fair, which showcase science as a potential career and foster greater awareness and support of genetics concepts. Place high emphasis on involvement of students from underserved populations.
- Communications Workshop – revitalize ASHG’s communications workshop at the annual meeting to serve as a training vehicle for members interested in communicating with reporters in their areas, conduct TED Style talks to communicate the value of genetics research, etc. Support and enhance the development of seasoned media spokespeople within ASHG’s membership by offering message/media-training to key volunteers. Would require hiring experts to come in and present information for members to retain and use in their work.
- Resources & Development
Sustain and strengthen public programming focused on celebrating genetic diversity.
- Development of Discover Genetics – with year 1 emphasis on content that advances diversity goals. Using and curating available resources (via NHGRI, NSGC, and others) and supplementing with fresh writing, video, graphics, and other materials – the creation of a resource for people at a high school level with an interest in genetics and genomics. This might start on the Discover Genetics section of the ASHG website and in the future evolve into a freestanding site such as discovergenetics.org (domain is available).
- Video – Produce a series of short videos to distill complexities around genetics and genomics with live interviews, animations, visuals, and graphics to serve as story-telling vehicles to communicate positive aspects of the field and explain key concepts.