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Workshop Series: The Value of Research in Society

The Value of Research in Society

A BPA workshop series


Join us in our workshop series to explore our role as researchers in society alongside experts


Become a wise researcher and more thoughtful citizen! 

The world around us is facing many societal and public health challenges, and while facts are negated by politicians and media, it is becoming increasingly clear that research and society are not independent. As researchers what is our contribution to society?


Reconnect with your initial love of research!

Academia is a highly stressful endeavor and along the road to tenure there is a strong pressure to check off every box for our CVs. In the midst of difficult projects, applying for funding, writing papers and applying for jobs, we sometimes lose contact with the inner drive that initially brought us to research. This workshop series is designed to extract us from our daily stress and bring inspirational dialogue to reconnect with our love of research.


Learn about the value of research with experts and debate with your peers!

What is the value of research? How does it contribute to making society better, either directly or indirectly? Does it make us, individually, better? This year, the Berkeley Postdoc Association is organising a workshop series to explore answers to these questions. We hope that these workshops will spark enthusiasm for the job we do and inspiration for how each of us can be part of the world. 


Open to all researchers—postdocs, grad students and faculty, as well as people outside academia but interested in discussing the value of research in society—join us for five 1.5 hour seminars with discussion throughout the year! Topics will include the role of research in (1) society, (2) art, (3) the political debate, (4) making the world better, and (5) public outreach.


Part 1: Research & Wonder

Anand Varma - Photographer at National Geographic

Tuesday 9/29, 5:00-6:30 PM

In our first workshop of the series ‘The Value of Research in Society’, we will discuss the role of wonder in research with the help of our guest speaker Anand Varma, photographer at National Geographic.

At the heart of every researcher’s journey is wonder for an observation, idea, or unresolved question. How can we nurture this wonder throughout our journey? Can it help us communicate better with others? Anand Varma is a photographer at National Geographic. His work is driven by a deep love for the observation of the surrounding world and a trust in scientific approaches. With his photography, he sparks wonder in other people’s eyes and tells the story behind the science of everything from honeybee health to hummingbird biomechanics. At the crossroads of art and science, his unique journey is a source of inspiration for other researchers.

In this 1.5 hr workshop, we will hear about Anand’s work, followed by a group discussion about the role of wonder in our personal journey as researchers and in the way we communicate with others. 


Part 2: Research & Politics

Shaughnessy Naughton - Founder of 314 Action 

Tuesday 10/13, 9:00-10:30 AM PST

In our 2nd workshop of the series ‘The Value of Research in Society’, we will discuss the role of researchers in politics with the help of our guest speaker Shaughnessy Naughton, chemist and former congressional candidate, now the founder and president of 314 Action, a nonprofit advocacy organization committed to advocating for the voices of scientists to be heard in Washington.

How can research help the democratic process and participate in political decisions? It is becoming increasingly clear that academic research and politics are not independent. Researchers can be very positive actors in democracy because they are trained to discuss facts critically and bring fact-based solutions. Shaughnessy Naughton was working in drug research when she became increasingly convinced that the political decisions in the U.S. needed more input from trained scientists. After running for Congress in Pennsylvania, she used her political experience to found 314 Action in order to unite the scientific community around the political process, and advance a pro-science agenda. Her group has helped many STEM professionals be elected in public offices.

In this 1.5 hr workshop, we will hear about Shaughnessy’s work, motivations, and ideas, followed by an active group discussion about our role as researchers in the political debate. 


Part 3: Research & Ethics

Stuart Ritchie, Ph.D.
Author of 'SCIENCE FICTIONS - How Fraud, Bias, Negligence and Hype undermine the search for Truth"

Monday 01/25, 9:00-10:30 AM PST

In our 3rd workshop of the series ‘The Value of Research in Society’, we will discuss the importance of maintaining high ethical standards when doing research and communicating our results. Our guest speaker Stuart Ritchie, Ph.D. is the author of 'SCIENCE FICTIONS - How fraud, bias, negligence and hype undermine the search for truth’ 

Stuart Ritchie’s thought-provoking book is a wake-up call for the academic community to face the challenges posed by misconducts in research and find solutions to maintain our ideals of honesty and objectivity when conducting our work.


In this 1.5 hr workshop, we will hear Stuart Ritchie’s talk and have an active group discussion about our role in improving ethical behaviour in research.


Part 4: Research & Communication

Nsikan Akpan, Ph.D.
New York Public Radio

Thursday 03/25, 4:00-5:15 PM PDT

In our 4th workshop of the series ‘The Value of Research in Society’, we will discuss the importance and impact of research communication for society. Our guest speaker Nsikan Akpan, Pathobiology Ph.D., is the Health and Science Editor at New York Public Radio, and previously was the digital science producer for PBS NewsHour and science editor for Nat Geo.

In this 1h 15min workshop, we will hear about Nsikan Akpan’s experiences and perspectives from his trajectory of Ph.D. to a Sci Comm Master’s to science journalist in the public media sector, and then have an active group discussion about our societal role in communicating research.


Part 5: Research Institutions & Society

Carol Christ, Ph.D., Chancellor of UC Berkeley

Monday 05/10, 5:00-6:00 PM PDT

What is the role of research institutions in society? In our 5th workshop of the series ‘The Value of Research in Society’, we will explore this question with our guest speaker Carol Christ, English Ph.D., Chancellor of UC Berkeley.

In this 1hr workshop, we will interview Carol Christ about perspectives on what role can and should an institution play within its own walls, in its immediate community, and in society as a whole. This will be followed by Zoom breakout-room discussions and general questions from the audience.

To attend the workshop, register here. You will receive an email with a link to the zoom event shortly before the event.






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