Top 11 List —Things To Do To Enhance the Visibility of Nonhuman Animal Work

We can promote our science and boost support for it if many of us do a little and some of us do a lot. Here is a Letterman-style "top 11" list of things to do to raise awareness of our work, from simplest to most ambitious. If some of the tougher nuts to crack don't appeal, then give 11-8 a try.

11. Wear a CARE t-shirt

CARE has designed a fun t-shirt with a CARE/APA logo on the front and "Animals in Psychology: Humans, Rats and Other Ducks" on the back. Cotton/poly, blue-on-blue shirts, available for $14 (at cost including shipping, not for fund-raising) from Nancy Dess (email for ordering info). Buy for friends and students, too!

10. Use CARE videos in your courses

CARE has overseen the production of a series of excellent videos featuring important work with lab animals: Perception & Action and Psychopharmacology are currently available and two more: Social Behaviors and Clinical Rehabilitation are in production. Each 12-15 minute long video explains basic research with lab animals and connects it to corresponding research and/or applications with humans. Companion teaching materials are available. These videos make wonderful teaching tools, setting the occasion for good discussions of the subject matter of the research, methodology and ethical issues. A good deal to boot, at $19.95. Info at about CARE videos available here. Use them, and encourage your colleagues to use them.

9. Post an affirmative statement about nonhuman animal work on your website

Use your website to advocate for the psychological study of diverse species by posting a concise statement affirming its value to science and society and its ethical integrity. You needn't start from scratch; models are available on the CARE webpage, including a link to the 1990 APA resolution on nonhuman animals in research and teaching, a CARE statement on research with nonhuman animals in psychology, and relevant portions of the APA ethical guidelines for psychologists.

8. Talk up APA membership

APA does far more to advocate for psychology, including psychological science, than does any other organization. Dues aren't primarily a fee for goods and services, though we do get some personal benefits. Dues support an organization that lobbies the government for favorable legislation and effective policy, educates and serves the public, and supports professional development. Science is important to and well supported by APA's structure and programs, both directly and indirectly; dispel misconceptions to the contrary. Help your colleagues and students to understand how critical to the discipline their APA membership is. It is stewardship on a small, but vital, scale.

7. Give a talk or organize a colloquium to a broad departmental audience

Maybe you don't teach Introduction to Psychology, or team-teaching isn't practical. How do you reach students and faculty in areas in which nonhuman animals are not a regular fixture? Host a brownbag for other than the usual suspects? Relating field or laboratory work with animals other than humans to topics covered in, say, "anthropocentric" developmental, social or clinical psychology courses will be eye-opening to many students and good continuing-education for your colleagues.

6. Stop using "human/animal" language

Though Intelligent Designers and the Board of Education in several states don't cotton to the notion, contemporary science says humans are evolved animals. Language to the contrary (e.g. "humans and animals are quite different...) does not serve our enterprise well. Use easy alternatives, like "human and other animals" or "Animals other than humans," and encourage your students and colleagues to do the same.

5. Hold an "open house" including a tour of your lab

Invite students and faculty to see your lab. Talk about your research, teaching opportunities in your lab and the high standards of care to which you adhere. Invite discussion of ethics and regulatory compliance, such as the "3 Rs" and the issue of alternatives to live animal work. Invite feedback, open doors of communication.

4. Participate in the Exploring Behavior Outreach Program

Exploring Behavior Outreach means faculty, advanced undergraduate and graduate students, and/or postdocs go to a Grade 8-10 classroom and make a 45-minute presentation about psychological science. Feedback has been overwhelmingly positive — it's fun for everyone! CARE has developed modules for several topics studied with nonhuman animals (see www.apa.org/research/responsible/ebop.aspx). (Note: The website calls the program a "week" — but it may last any amount of time.) An army of us each visiting one classroom will reach thousands of young minds. This program is an especially good way to reach out to young scientific talent in underrepresented minority groups.

3. Write your elected representatives

You and your institution are constituents of local, state, and federal politicians. Write an introductory letter to pitch the importance of your work and say you hope you can count on their support in whatever ways are appropriate, be it bond measures, legislation, educational policies, etc. Then, when a specific issue arises that bears on our enterprise, write or call again with a more pointed request. Great, easy-to-use resources are available on the Science Public Policy webpage, including sign-ups for email action alerts (often with boiler plate letters you can use), critical petitions, quick access to your elected officials' names and email, and more!

2. Write about your work for general audiences

Directly or indirectly, we count on support for our work from the public and professionals in other fields. Write for them (and support those who do). Op-ed pieces, Chronicle of Higher Education essays, and letters to the editor reach an audience that needs to know why what we do matters. Learning how to communicate with them is an investment in the future.

1. Broaden attention to nonhuman animals in your department's curriculum

Many psychologists do not understand the contribution of research with animals other than humans to the discipline. Over the years, increasing specialization in both undergraduate and doctoral education has contributed to their ignorance. Create or exploit opportunities to reintroduce nonhuman animal literatures across undergraduate and graduate curricula by lobbying to hire faculty whose work bridges species, offering proseminars team-taught by faculty across departmental areas, and so on.