The first couple of weeks of September always tend to get busy. Many colleagues take time off in August to align their vacation with the school break and the Congressional recess. Returning to work after the Labor Day weekend and frantically clearing their overflowing inboxes and responding to backlogged emails, means more messages in everyone else’s inbox. It’s a vicious cycle but a necessary one. So I came into the office with a more than usual email load. Messages included a variety of topics and follow up tasks—request for the review of a blogpost, question on budgeting for a grant, organizing for the upcoming climate rally in NYC, and the most important of it all– an email from Microsoft Outlook saying my “mailbox is almost full!” So, I was forced to carve out time for something we all like to do but never get to—managing and cleaning our inbox.
Today we also kicked off our organization-wide employee performance evaluation process for FY14. At UCS we do a 360-degree evaluation, which entails getting feedback on each individual from multiple colleagues, their supervisors, supervisees, peers within and outside the Center that they work with closely. The process lasts nearly a month, culminating in one-on-one meetings with folks you supervise to go over their self-evaluation and the feedback from them and others. I sent out emails requesting feedback from a few people for the staff I supervise. I’ll be chatting with them briefly about their feedback in the coming weeks as well as providing feedback on other staff for whom I receive requests.
Today I met with our Executive Director, Food & Environment Program Director, and the Center for Science and Democracy Director to prep them for a meeting with the Acting Surgeon General. Earlier this year I’d coauthored two reports on sugar- ‘Sugar-Coating Science: How the Food Industry Misleads Consumers on Sugar’ and ‘Added Sugar, Subtracted Science: How Industry Obscures Science and Undermines Public Health Policy on Sugar.’ Based on this comprehensive reporting, we mobilized UCS supporters to submit comments to the Food and Drug Administration supporting their proposal to including a line for ‘added sugar’ on the ubiquitous nutrition label found on the back of all food products. More than 21,000 of our supporters submitted comments. This year marked the 50th anniversary of the Surgeon General’s report on the health effects of tobacco that inspired public policy actions in the following decades to curb smoking. We used this timing as an opportunity to mobilize our supporter to write to the Surgeon General to commission a similar authoritative report on the health effects of sugar. Our supporters submitted more than 17,000 such requests. Given this backdrop we secured a meeting with the Acting Surgeon General to understand how we can make progress on this issue.
As I mentioned in yesterday’s blogpost, we just wrapped up the publication process for the food policy toolkit. Now we are moving on to the outreach phase for this project, brainstorming and deciding on getting this resource to the people and communities who’d benefit most from it. We’ll be spending FY15 on these activities. In the short term, I’m signed up to do a Tweetchat in October and meetings with food policy council representatives from our target localities at the upcoming American Public Health Association conference in New Orleans in November.
Finally, the Center is testing a new model of training and deploying scientists as technical resources in their communities. Our pilot project is unfolding in southern California on fracking, given that this region is at the risk of becoming the largest urban oil field if local leaders allow development. You might recall from my blog on Tuesday that fracking is a contentious and highly charge issue, and our interest is in getting independent and credible information to citizens so they can fully participate in a democratic dialogue on the topic. We’ll be hiring an onsite coordinator to help us assess the information needs of five communities in southern California and then help us connect them to our Science Network members. I wrapped up the day with a review of the leading applicant for this position.