NSC 110 (47635)

Student Op-Ed Projects Published in the Austin American-Statesman

Seminar Referenced in The Scientist

Addiction: The Interaction of Scientific and Public Perspectives
Time: Monday, 3-4 pm
Location: MBB 2.204


R. Adron Harris, Ph.D., Cellular and Molecular Biology
Carlton Erickson, Ph.D., Pharmacy (Pharmacology)
Rick Cherwitz, Ph.D., Communication (Rhetoric)

Course Objectives:

  • Acquire in-depth understanding of the latest science of addiction through multidisciplinary readings.
  • Contemplate how the philosophy of "intellectual entrepreneurship" (IE) might help put science to work (e.g., how IE might assist in integrating expertise and perspectives, and increase the impact addiction research has on public knowledge and behavior).
  • Identify audiences for whom knowledge of addiction matters and frame potential messages (and message strategies) for those audiences; draft an Op-Ed or other essay (~750 words) that communicates one of more of those desired messages.
  • Propose (for institutional support or external funding) the creation of and operating procedure for an ongoing academic-civic "synergy group" comprised of scholars (from multiple disciplines in the arts and sciences who have expertise directly and indirectly pertinent to an understanding of addiction) and members of the community (from diverse arenas--law, public policy, religion--having a stake in society's responses to addiction). The objective of the proposed group would be to: (1) integrate the various disciplinary and personal perspectives on addiction; and (2) ascertain how to utilize such integrated knowledge to create positive social outcomes.

Course Topics and Schedule (under construction):

August 30 -- Course goals (Erickson)

Addiction as an interdisciplinary endeavor

The great disconnect between what science knows and what the public believes
- Reasons for this disconnect?

Myths of addiction (these challenge public and professional thinking)

September 13 -- Academic Engagement Op-Ed series (Cherwitz)

Reading assignment: Austin American-Statesman series

September 20 - The financial side of research and the academy (Harris)

September 27 - Intellectual Entrepreneurship (IE) and the academy (Cherwitz)

Reading assignment: Austin American-Statesman series

October 4 - Teamwork and outreach - two areas in conflict with the academy structure

October 11 - Overview of neurobiology of addiction

October 18 - Austin American-Statesman editor visits class

October 25 - Brain growth and 21 drinking age, harm reduction vs. prohibition

November 1 - Nicotine addiction

November 8 - Mike Stryker - neurobiology distinguished lecture

November 15 - Discussion of op-ed preparation

November 22 - op-ed pieces due, distribute to all students

November 29 - last class - discussion of op-ed pieces (paired student discussants)


(1) An effort will be made to bring to class academic experts and members of the community to help us wrestle with the challenges involved in science/public interactions. In addition, we will try to line up an editor to discuss the strategies and techniques of op-ed writing.

(2) Several class meetings will be designated as "working sessions," allowing students to collaborate in groups to develop messages, strategies and provide feedback to the writing of fellow classmates.