Bayer's Making Science Make Sense Wins Lifetime Award
Charting the future of public relations
Holmes Report

Bayer's Making Science Make Sense Wins Lifetime Award

At a time when the demand for scientifically literate, educated workers has never been greater, science in America is under unprecedented attack. Religious activists continue to campaign against the teaching of evolutionary biology, with sporadic success.

Paul Holmes

At a time when the demand for scientifically literate, educated workers has never been greater, science in America is under unprecedented attack. Religious activists continue to campaign against the teaching of evolutionary biology, with sporadic success. The current administration has been accused of manipulating scientific data for political ends.

In the last few years, an increasing number of national reports and commissions have warned the U.S. is in danger of relinquishing its role as global leader in science and technology due to a growing shortfall of American scientists and engineers, coupled with rising competition for these professionals from other countries that are now engaged in their own scientific pursuits.

At the same time, the U.S. has a disappointing track record when it comes to attracting women, African-Americans, Native Americans, and Hispanic Americans to science, technology, engineering, and mathematics, also known as STEM fields.

The latest data published by the Commission on Professionals in Science & Technology show that women comprise only 25 percent of the STEM workforce and minorities much less than that. Some experts, including the National Science Board, the governing body of the National Science Foundation, argue that if the U.S. could attract more women and minorities to STEM fields, the country could resolve the growing talent pool problem and global competitiveness issues simultaneously.  

That’s why the Making Science Make Sense initiative, launched by pharmaceutical giant Bayer Corporation back in 1995 and sustained over more than a decade, has been such an important initiative, and why it becomes the third program in the history of our SABRE (Superior Achievement in Branding and Reputation) Awards to receive the prestigious Lifetime SABRE Award.

The initiative was designed to advance science literacy through hands-on, inquiry-based science learning, employee volunteerism and public education. And it was as timely in 1995 as it is today. In June of 2005, the New York Academy of Sciences hosted a conference attended by more than 200 scientists, who met to discuss “The Flight from Science and Reason.” There were lamentations about what experts described as the “scientific illiteracy” of the American public, and concerns that science was portrayed as the villain in Hollywood movies.

As a science and research-based company with major businesses in health care, nutrition and innovative materials, Bayer believes it has a major stake in helping to ensure that today’s students are well prepared for tomorrow’s workplace. The company believes new technologies and concepts and increasing global market competition will continue to demand a workforce that is flexible, scientifically literate and equipped with the critical thinking, problem solving and team working skills fostered by a quality science education.

Margo Barnes, then recently named senior vice president of corporate communications at Bayer—a German-owned chemical and pharmaceutical company that had been known in the U.S. as Miles (as a result of the fact that its rights to Bayer aspirin had been confiscated during World War Two and awarded to a rival company)—recalled warnings by activists that a new gene research facility could “introduce DNA into the community” and cited a call for the government to “ban chlorine” as examples of the absurd extent to which anti-science feelings were taking hold.

So Bayer conducted research into the issue and came to the conclusion that while most young children demonstrated an interest in science at an early age—in how and why the world around them works—somehow the education system was dulling that interest. As a result, the company sought to create a program that would address the issue at the elementary school level, to find way to nurture that spark of scientific interest rather than extinguishing it.

Said Barnes, “One of the problems with the way companies have approached the science education issue over the years is that most of them have developed proprietary programs. We are under no illusions. Bayer cannot solve this problem all by itself. One of the things we wanted to do from the early stages is reach out and form partnerships with other companies or institutions, government bodies and not-for-profit organizations that have the same agenda.”

Working with New Jersey and New York-based public relations firm Spector & Associates and Pittsburgh advertising agency Dymun Nelson & Company, Bayer launched a major corporate advertising campaign, public relations and community relations outreach (volunteers addressing civic groups) and even the company’s own radio  show, which airs on 40 stations around the country.

The company also selected a spokesperson, Mae Jamison, the first African-American astronaut, who was part of the crew of the spare shuttle Endeavor in 1992. In addition to being an astronaut, Jemison is a physician, a chemical engineer and an educator, who earlier had helped found The Earth We Share, a science camp. Jemison continues to work with Bayer on Making Science Make Sense today.

Said Jemison at the time: “Ironically, as the rate of worldwide technology advances increases, students are shying away from science and technology careers in increasing numbers. The problem begins in elementary school. Each child is born motivated and intensely curious about the world in which they live. But something happens in school. Because by the time they reach third grade, most students are saying they don’t like science.”

Today, the program takes an integrated approach that includes educating the public about the importance of science literacy; supporting hands-on, inquiry-based science programs for students and teachers; and encouraging employee volunteerism—more than 1,000 Bayer employees provide support in the classroom and for extracurricular activities.

It’s an approach that has earned Making Science Make Sense several awards, including two presidential accolades: The President’s Service Award in 2000 and The Ron Brown Award for Corporate Leadership in January of 2006.

Volunteer programs include hands-on experiment demonstrations; environmental learning programs; science fair judging; science career days, expos and festivals; and speaker’s bureaus.

And Bayer has spearheaded seven science education reform programs (Kansas City, Mo., Bushy Park, S.C.; Clayton, N.C.; Elkhart, Ind.; New Martinsville, W.Va.; Pittsburgh, Pa.; and West Haven, Conn.) that are changing the way science is taught and learned in grades K-8. The reform ideas are based on the five elements of exemplary science programs identified by the National Science Resources Center: hands-on materials, centralized materials support, teacher training, assessment and community support.

The hands-on approach is the key. At some point during the educational process, according to Jemison: “Students are asked not to use the experimental learning method that has served them so well, mainly because it is easier to ask them to memorize only. Questions like ‘Why do we need to breathe’ are met with diversion if they are asked out of turn, especially if the adult doesn’t know the answer.

“Rote memorization and standardized cookie-cutter teaching methods demand that students leave most of their motivation, creativity, energy and curiosity outside the classroom door. Yet these are the very hallmark of science and critical thinking.”

So in 1992 in its U.S. headquarters city of Pittsburgh, Bayer spearheaded ASSET, an independent, non-profit organization that implements standards-based systemic hands-on, inquiry-based science education. After starting with five schools in two districts, ASSET has grown to serves 48 school districts, and involves more than 3,000 teachers and 125,000 students in 5,000 classrooms in four western Pennsylvania counties.

University of Pittsburgh researchers have conducted performance evaluations of ASSET students using questions from the 1995 Third International Math and Science Study and found that ASSET students are performing on almost the same level as Japan, which ranked just behind top-rated Singapore and Korea; ahead of students in England, Hungary, Czech Republic and Canada; and significantly ahead of their U.S. counterparts.

Another initiative was founded in 1993 as part of a 30-year Development Agreement between Bayer and the City of Berkeley. Biotech Partners is a non-profit organization that connects youth to the world of biotechnology. It provides a comprehensive, hands-on, bioscience education and job training program for populations underrepresented in the sciences, most notably students of color, young women, and those from low-income households.

Biotech Partners’ work has impacted more than 700 students and involves more than 35 corporate, government, education and health care partners.

Bayer has also forged long-standing, deep-rooted partnerships with the National Science Teachers Association, the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the U.S. Department of Education, the National Science Foundation, Points of Light Foundation and the National Science Resources Center.

Each year since 1995, Bayer has partnered with the National Science Foundation and the National Science Teachers Association on public opinion research designed to gauge the state of science education in America. To date, audiences polled have included parents of girls and boys ages 5 to 18; the general public; U.S. college students; new workforce employees and their managers; the nation’s K-12 science teachers; the nation’s Ph.D. scientists; elementary school principals; human resources directors; and most recently CEOs of some of the nation’s fastest-growing science and technology companies.

Those CEOs were concerned by warnings that the United States is in danger of losing its global leadership role in science and technology due to a potential shortfall in the number of scientists and engineers it produces, coupled with an increase in global competition for these professionals and feared competition from international companies.

At the same time, they acknowledged that their industries still suffer from a lack of female, African-American, Native American and Hispanic American STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) workers, but did not appear to fully recognize the untapped talent pool embodied by these underrepresented groups.

“Diversity is and will continue to be a driving factor behind the country’s success in making scientific and technological advancements,” said Bayer Corporation president and CEO Attila Molnar. “The challenge we as CEOs face in working to bring students into STEM fields is providing them with the early, pre-college educational foundation in science and math; encouraging them as they move through the STEM education pipeline; and then creating a corporate culture that recognizes and honors their professional accomplishments: what we are calling the ‘Need, Seed and Feed.’”

That was just part of on overall 2006 public relations effort to mark more than a decade of Bayer’s commitment to the Making Science Make Sense program.

Another successful year began in January, when Bayer was presented with the Ron Brown Award for Corporate Leadership (designed to recognize companies that have demonstrated a deep commitment to social initiatives that not only empower employees and communities, but also advance strategic business interests) at a White House ceremony.

To build on that success, Bayer’s senior executives asked the Making Science Make Sense leadership team to consider the program’s next 10 years, and specifically how the company could further develop the program with maximum benefit for all key audiences, internally and externally. So Bayer and its long-time public relations firm Carway Communications embarked on the process of shaping the program for the next 10 years.

The team established several objectives for the campaign:
 Reinforce Bayer’s reputation as a socially responsible corporation using the well-established Making Science Make Sense brand
 Establish Bayer as a national voice for growing a diverse U.S. STEM pipeline
 Reaffirm Bayer’s role as the nation’s premier private sector advocate for science education reform and science literacy for all
 Maintain Bayer’s commitment to its communities and reinvigorate its sites’ enthusiasm by investing in local Making Science Make Sense programs
 Raise awareness of all issues among key audiences – internally, all employees top down; externally, corporate and government officials, science and education opinion leaders, students, parents, teachers, community leaders, the media and public-at-large

The strategy was to use the Making Science Make Sense umbrella to take on the STEM diversity issue as a major platform for the coming years, using the research, a new high-profile national event that would showcase the company’s commitment, and new communications tools that could articulate Bayer’s corporate social responsibility activities and Making Science Make Sense diversity messages.

So building on the survey findings, Bayer convened its first-ever STEM Education Diversity Forum in Washington, D.C., featuring 14 K-12 best practice education programs with proven track records of bridging the gender and diversity gaps and attracting an audiences that included corporate executives and other science and education influentials. Jemison moderated the lively and provocative discussions and Nobel laureate Leon Lederman delivered a keynote address on the topic of why building science literacy and a diverse STEM pipeline matter.

Also at the forum, Molnar announced publication of Planting the Seeds for a Diverse U.S. STEM Pipeline: A Compendium of Best Practice K-12 STEM Education Programs, a 77-page book outlining 21 best practice K-12 programs and other resources to help companies forge new education partnerships. The compendium was sent earlier this year to all forum attendees and participants, as well as nearly 10,000 STEM industry CEOs and executives; hundreds of science industry and education organization leaders; and key federal and state government officials and legislators.

In conjunction with the forum, an opt-in Making Science Make Sense E-Newsletter system was launched. To date, nearly 100 people have registered to receive updates.

Bayer also announced major new investments in three of its local Making Science Make Sense programs. In February, the company announced a $150,000 grant to the Kansas City Science Initiative, a partnership between Bayer and the Kansas City Missouri School District, to underwrites the purchase of hands-on science curriculum materials and provide ongoing teacher professional development for all K-5 classrooms in the district.

During the same month, Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell earmarked $10 million in his proposed education budget to take the Bayer-spearheaded K-8 science reform program, ASSET, statewide, In March, Bayer and ASSET representatives and Governor Rendell visited several ASSET science classrooms and hosted town hall meetings. In early July, the Pennsylvania legislature approved the budget, and in September, statewide rollout of the ASSET program commenced. 

In August, the company announced a $150,000 grant to Biotech Partners, a nationally recognized model for school-to-career partnerships founded in 1993 by Bayer and the City of Berkeley to provide a comprehensive, hands-on academic and job training program in Berkeley and Oakland public schools for students underrepresented in the sciences.

The above activities resulted in Bayer’s CSR and Making Science Make Sense messages securing coverage in 57 print stories, 22 television segments, 693 radio broadcasts and on nearly 150 news and educational websites in 2006, reaching an international audience of nearly 350 million. Major placements included USA Today, Associated Press, Knight-Ridder Business News Service, The Contra Costa Times, The Oakland Tribune, The Kansas City Star, The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, The Bergen Record, Chemical and Engineering News, New York’s News12 Westchester, Washington D.C.’s Newschannel 8, San Francisco’s KGO-TV, ABC Radio Network, Voice of America Radio, CNN Radio Network and Sirius Satellite Radio’s Martha Stewart Channel and Shades45 Channel.

In April, the Carnegie Science Center presented Bayer with its 2006 Media Award, recognizing the importance of Bayer’s annual Bayer Facts of Science Education public opinion research project and its impact on educating the general public.

And now the program has earned our Lifetime Achievement SABRE Award, which will be presented at our annual awards dinner, scheduled for May 8 at the New York Sheraton Hotel.

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