Project focus: Andrea will help to evaluate the impact of CienciaPR’s culturally relevant strategies across programs, understand how CienciaPR’s work can be a model to advance civic science, and strategize to increase the organization’s capacity to train more scientists in culturally relevant strategies and foster civic participation.
Andrea Isabel López serves as the Civic Science Fellow for CienciaPR. Andrea holds an MPH in Community Health from the CUNY Graduate School of Public Health and Health Policy. She completed the Margaret E. Mahoney Fellowship with the New York Academic of Medicine, where she explored barriers to care in the Latino community and the role of community health workers. Andrea has also worked as a Research Project Coordinator and Associate Researcher for multiple NIH-funded projects based at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai and the Albert Einstein College of Medicine. Andrea has over five years of experience in different areas of the research and public health fields, including community-based participatory research, clinical research, and project management. She is the recipient of an NIH research supplement to promote diversity in health-related research programs and the Gilman Scholar Scholarship. Andrea was born in San Juan, Puerto Rico, and is committed to advancing health equity for the Latino community and improving representation in the research field. Andrea proudly carries her cultural background and believes that engaging the public, especially underserved communities, in a meaningful way through the research process is an essential component in advancing all research. Some of her research interests include: social determinants of health, civic science, and community-based participatory research.
1. What was the focus of your work as a Civic Science Fellow? What did you do?
As a Civic Science Fellow, I evaluated the impact of Ciencia Puerto Rico’s communication strategies and developed a tool to increase the capacity to train scientists in culturally relevant communication strategies. The two deliverables I worked on were a paper exploring the impact of CienciaPR’s culturally relevant science communication and a workbook to walk researchers and communicators through the practice of reflexivity.
For the paper, we explored the impact of CienciaPR’s collaboration with El Nuevo Día (END), the newspaper of record in Puerto Rico. CienciaPR established a collaboration with the newspaper to publish culturally relevant science stories written by members of the CienciaPR network. The findings indicate that these contributions increased the amount of culturally relevant articles published in END. Articles authored by CienciaPR were also more likely to feature elements that are culturally relevant for Puerto Ricans, be authored by STEM experts, and were more frequently located in Puerto Rico.
The reflexivity workbook provides an overview of reflexivity and how researchers and communicators can integrate it into their practice. For context, reflexivity is a process where we are making an active effort to be self-aware and reflect on our identities and positionalities and the identities and positionalities of anyone who might influence or impact our work. This process also requires an understanding of what motivates our work and what influences us to engage with it. The workbook includes guiding questions and exercises to help readers navigate this process through the different stages of their work.
2. How do you hope your work as a Fellow will influence the future—for yourself, an organization, a community, or a field?
I hope my work as a fellow will showcase Puerto Rican scientists and their contributions to science and the importance of incorporating a reflexive approach to our work.
As part of my evaluation of Ciencia Puerto Rico’s collaboration with El Nuevo Dia (END), I highlighted the value of this scientist-media partnership and how it has improved the representation of locally relevant science in Puerto Rican media. CienciaPR’s contributions to END have made science more accessible and approachable for Puerto Ricans, showcased Puerto Rican contributions to science, and highlighted the archipelago as a location of significant contributions to scientific knowledge. These efforts help counter stereotypes about who can be a scientist and where research is conducted. This study is also the first analysis of culturally relevant science content in mainstream Puerto Rican media. I’m hopeful it will be the first of many similar reviews and will serve as a basis for continuing to support this work and Puerto Rican science.
When it comes to incorporating a reflexive approach to our work, during my fellowship, I developed a reflexivity workbook. The goal of this workbook is to provide researchers and communicators with a place to start their reflexivity practice. While reflexivity has a proven track record in fields like public health and anthropology, it is not yet a mainstream practice for science communicators. There is also limited information and training materials available for reflexivity beginners. This workbook hopes to address this gap and turn reflexivity into a common practice for science communicators.
3. What’s one insight you’d share from your work as a Civic Science Fellow?
Reflexivity is an empathy and humility tool that can impact how we relate with others, even outside of our work. During my time as a Civic Science Fellow, I had the privilege of focusing on reflexivity and how to communicate it to different audiences. I started my work with a literature review of existing resources and then moved on to develop a reflexivity workbook. As part of the formative work, I also interacted with different people who helped me review the content for the workbook and whose opinions helped shape the final product. During this time, I also prioritized practicing reflexivity as part of developing the workbook. Few people have the opportunity to immerse themselves in reflexivity full-time and understand how to use this tool and communicate its effectiveness. After spending months exploring reflexivity, I find myself practicing it on a regular basis, especially in my day-to-day life outside of work. I find that I interact with people with a lot more humility and empathy and am a much better listener. And while I was familiar with reflexivity and knew how to practice it in my work, I wasn’t expecting to see it impact my life outside the fellowship.