Why scientists need to be storytellers: the role of narrative in science making and dissemination.

The weekbefore the United States Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) released its recommendations against routine prostate screening for healthy men, celebrity patients including Joe Torre and Rudy Giulianihad already lined up to challenge the population-based recommendations. To promote their position that prostate screening antigen test is life saving, these individuals relied on a powerful tool: their own personal narratives.Unfortunately, the experts whose goal is to disseminate and translate population-based evidence will, in the name of science, shun individual stories.This one-sided use of narrative has played out repeatedly from the USPSTF recommendations on screening mammography to the FDA labeling hearings on bevacizumab for advanced breast cancer. Each time, those who espouse only evidence—without narratives about real people—struggle to control the debate. Typically, they lose.

In this essay, Zach Meisel and I make the case for narrative as a key method in translating science and developing science based policies.

Read the essay at JAMA.

Commentaries and vigorous discussion at Scientific American.