As the fall leaves begin to make their way earthbound, undergrads scurry around campus and you find yourself hunkering down in blanket on a brisk evening or two, Fighty Squirrel is here to remind you, beloved faculty, it’s time to nut up. Paperwork, students, evaluations and talk requests now likely overwhelm you now that it’s officially Fall.  With each of these tasks, you face a unique opportunity to either nut up or shuffle some part of your training, wisdom and experience down the line in the hopes someone else will handle it.

Hold onto your nuts, faculty. Each of the reviews you do, evaluations you give and seminars you speak at, there is a chance for you to carefully place a pearl of wisdom, a ‘nut’ if you will, into the dialogue.

I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve seen amazing research symposium bringing together experts in medicine, science and technology only to have each and every one of them pass the ethical buck. The phrase, “we’ll leave that part of the discovery to the ethicists to figure out” makes Fight Squirrel’s blood boil and is surely messing with my prehibernation rituals. I’ve seen too many scientists walk away from the dialogue following amazing their discoveries in stem cell biology, data acquisition and organ transplant biology leaving the field adrift while ethicists, lawyers and bureaucrats are left to play catch up in a field they know nothing about.

Check your nuts. If you ask scientists how they see their data impacting society, the vast majority slowly walks away from their victory lap of publication and say this idea is beyond their scope of expertise. I would argue it is EXACTLY the scope of any individual who trained in the field.Every day, physicians and scientists are faced with ethical challenges involving information, safety and health. While we take our ‘responsible conduct in research’ credits, I’d challenge you to find more than a few attentive eyeballs.

The ones with their eyes open? Those are the newbies. The new PI, the new med student or resident all are in hyper attentive mode. Each of these people is convinced they are going to be facing real world ethical challenges they didn’t know about and their decisions are important. It is the faculty that teaches them that they are not ‘their’ issues by not engaging in labs and clinics with hard life concerns. Nut up, faculty. It’s your obligation to engage your peers and the public. Send some Op/Ed letters. Talk to your News department about your passion for freely accessible data, STEM training or funding. You’re smart people and the world needs your input. Even if you turn out to be wrong.

Winter is coming. Don’t say the Fighty Squirrel didn’t warn you.

Practical guide to outreach for scientists: AAAS <– These guys are occasionally wacky, but they are out there trying and developing content and the Squirrel respects that.

Ethics in real life: Love Janet Stemwedel’s blog here. Even though our spell check freaks out with each time we recommend her, she’s well worth the read.

 As always, I welcome other links or requests for autographs and headshots. Like pictures. Not shooting at me. Squirrels don’t like guns. This post and our gun comment are not the official policy of Vice Chancellor Squirrel, Squirrel University or Squirrel Funding Agency. Just the voice of a humble squirrel that can type.

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