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Learning and laughing: CIRM's elevator pitch contest

I'm having WAY too much fun this morning reviewing entrants in the most recent competition sponsored by the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine. This contest pits scientists against one another as they battle not for funding, but for the title of the 'best elevator pitch.' The idea, as described here by the institute's senior director of public communications Kevin McCormack and communications manager (and my friend!) Amy Adams, is to help researchers improve their ability to describe their lab work as articulately and quickly as possible.

Amy and Kevin have great fun parodying exactly how bad some scientists can be at explaining their work, while encouraging grantees to take their turn in front of the camera during a meeting earlier this month. (Amy's white knuckle grip on her coffee cup while a researcher gabbles on about gliogenesis in infant monkeys made me laugh out loud.) You can see all the entrants on CIRM's YouTube channel - including several from Stanford.

One condition of the contest was that the talks last no longer than 30 seconds - a goal that many of the researchers were unable to achieve. But nearly all of the pitches contain great, plain-language explanations of CIRM-funded work. If you're in California, and want an overview of  your Prop. 71-driven tax dollars at work, you should take a look.

Local media has also taken notice of the elevator pitch challenge. Yesterday, ABC aired a piece that included a gentle jab at our own Irv Weissman, MD, an excellent communicator who may need a bit longer than your typical elevator ride to tell his story - or maybe just a very (very) tall building. Erin Allday from the San Francisco Chronicle has also written about it.

Contest winners will be announced within a few days and I'm looking forward to seeing whether any of our Stanford folk will be on the list. Regardless of the outcome, I heartily applaud CIRM for coming up with such a fun way of helping scientist hone their communication skills, and for the participants for being such good sports. It's made my Friday morning a lot brighter.

Previously: A call to fix the "crisis of communication" in science

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