Category: Federal Policy

Shelia Patek’s Hill Visit Makes Science Podcast

Undiscovered: a Podcast about the Backstories of Science featured the work of Shelia Patek last week. Patek is an Associate Professor in Biology who studies the dynamics of physics and evoluntionary processes. Part of this research is done on mantis shrimp. Most people may recall Patek’s shrimp research being featured in the news this past year as part of the federally funded projects listed in Senator Jeff Flake’s Wastebook. Her Capitol Hill presentation was precipitated by that media incident. She speaks about her journey to DC on the podcast episode entitled “Wastebook.”

Professor Patek’s science engagement story is framed by the question of “what are you doing for the world?” Her mantis shrimp research may hold significant revelations on how to improve our human engineering capabilities. In December 2015, this insight was absent from Senator Flake’s team when they constructed their Wastebook describing Patek’s research as a shrimp fight club and waste of government money. The wastebook portrayed her National Science Foundation funded study as a waste of 707,000 tax payer dollars. The actual cost of her study is only a couple thousands of dollars after research overhead and facility management is taken away.


The fight club description was in reference a study led by one of Sheila’s grad students. Mantis shrimp use their hammer claw to crack snail shells and defend their territory from other mantis shrimp. The strike from their claw has been compared to a strike from a lethal weapon,  the equivalent (if not more so) than a bullet coming out of a gun. The sea creatures also sport a strong armored tail plate that endures many of these strikes. Considering the force of these offense mechanisms, there are many questions concerning how the tail plate endures that many hits without being compromised. These questions were the inspiration for the study.


Patek knew that her placement in the Wastebook represented a misunderstanding of science and the purpose of her research. She quickly posted an article refuting Flake’s placement of her study in his wastebook. Subsequently, next spring, she was invited to present her research with other scientists whose work had been placed in various wastebooks made by other senators.

She accepted and defended her research communicating why her mantis shrimp research matters with broader goal of communicating why science is important to the world. The shrimp’s hammer acceleration out paces missiles and race cars. The fact that they are able to achieve this in water may also signify great advancements from the research findings generated on these anthropods. These developments could hold critical implications for military and aviation engineering advancements .

Patek believes the knowledge that scientists generate in the lab is important and from that we’ve been able to say new things about the world. Patek’s story has also been featured in Duke Magazine, PBS, and TEDx presenations.

Listen to the full June 13th Undiscovered podcast here:

DGHI’s Diana Harvey Took Part in Capitol Hill Briefing

On June 7th, Diana Harvey, Director of Communications at the Duke Global Health Institute (DGHI), took part in a round table discussion with Washington D.C officials, staff, and global health practitioners.

The roundtable discussion was influenced by DGHI’s recent project with the Triangle Global Health Consortium. DGHI along with several other global health institutions partnered with the consortium on composing a report on global health’s vital importance to North Carolina’s economy. The report highlights the $1.2 billion per year health research funding brings to the state and the 26,000 jobs supported by the global health industry. Effectively, according to the report, “global health work in North Carolina contributed about $3.7 billion in gross state product” in 2015 alone.

Two days before the D.C. round table, Duke Professor and US Representative David Price led a panel of the report’s experts discussing global health’s role in North Carolina’s economy.

The full report can accessed at the link below.

The Global Health Sector’s Contributions to the Economy of North Carolina 

Judith Kelley Blogs for Brookings: Human Trafficking

Grading countries on their policy efforts can influence their behavior. Duke Sanford Professor Judith Kelley writes about this phenomenon in a recent Brookings blog entitled “Scorecard diplomacy: How grades drive behavior in international relations.”

Scorecard Diplomacy is also the title of Kelley’s new book in which she approaches how grading helped encourage countries to make improvements to their human trafficking laws. Kelley shows evidence that countries have taken concrete steps to improve their tier ranking on the United State Department of State’s Trafficking in Persons report from 2001 to 2014.

Her research on this issue is increasingly important as human trafficking has risen to become a prevalent international issue and part of US foreign policy legislation. Congress is currently considering the “Frederick Douglass Trafficking Victims Prevention and Protection Reauthorization Act of 2017,” also known as H.R. 2200. Kelley hopes that her research and policy insight will help congressional members and staff as they move forward with this legislation.

You can learn more about her new book and order a copy here.

Looking for more digital content?

Kelley discusses the content of her latest research with Kelly Brownell, Dean of the Sanford School, on Sanford’s Policy 360 podcast below.


Making State-Level Connections

The Policy Bridge is well-positioned to help reach out to the state level policy community. During the visit to Duke by the United States Comptroller General and head of the General Accountability Office, Jenni Owen leveraged connections at the state level to arrange for engagement opportunities between the North Carolina State Controller, county officials and Comptroller Gene Dodaro. These connections resulted in fruitful exchanges and created new connections between Duke and practitioners at the state and local levels.

When United States Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson delivered a public lecture at the Sanford School, the Policy Bridge invited N.C. Secretary of Public Safety Frank Perry and Director of Emergency Management Mike Sprayberry, both of whom attended the talk and one of whom joined Secretary Johnson, faculty, and students for a private dinner following the talk. These opportunities have yielded further interaction between Duke faculty and state leaders.

For a panel discussion and reception at Sanford featuring policy and practice leaders in the fight against human trafficking, the Policy Bridge provided names of key contacts within Duke and the broader community that would likely be interested in attending. The outreach resulted in enhancements to the event, including:

  • Duke Law alumna Libby M. Coles, Chairperson for the NC Human Trafficking Commission, attended the event and spoke about her organization from the podium during the Q & A.
  • Lina Nealon, founding director of Demand Abolition, a national program to combat human trafficking by focusing on the demand, attended the reception.
  • A Masters in Social Work student working with an anti-human trafficking case management program called Project FIGHT had a table at the reception.

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