Jim’s 2017 Highlights

April 2018

Though 2017 had a strong negative undercurrent due to the Trump presidency and for me personally due to continuing grief over my wife Shemi’s death in mid-2016, there were many good times that I want to highlight. These bright spots made a tough year much much better.

Healing visit to Indian Country in New Mexico

Before attending a Voices for Healthy Kids Strategic Advisory Committee meeting on a Pueblo near Albuquerque, I spent a couple of days visiting special places in New Mexico. This was an inspirational and healing visit for me.

This is part of Bandelier National Monument, where Native Americans lived for many centuries in dwellings carved into the volcanic stone.

I was encouraged to visit this place where the Tsankawi people lived. It was spectacular.

I was amazed how generations of Native people had worn these grooves into the rock just by walking during their daily activities. I thought of these as pedestrian highways.

More of the pedestrian grooves. They still work. It is easy to walk on them. And you can see the landscape is outstanding.

This is the main square in Santa Fe that was made very festive at night during the Christmas season. This plaza has been attracting pedestrians for centuries.


February and October. World Bank. I had two interactions with World Bank staff in 2017.

Through Mike Pratt our group received a contract with the World Bank to help them collect accelerometer data in Malawi. This is the group with their certificates, along with Andrea Varela Ramirez (Colombia, Brazil, top left) and Bob Wang (China, bottom right).

In October I presented a seminar to World Bank staff from numerous work groups about the health impact of urban design and transportation.


February. ALR Conference in Clearwater, Florida

Dr. Janna Lynott, who directs the Age-Friendly Communities program at AARP, was our keynote speaker.

Here is Chair Rodney Lyn with two speakers.

This is our panel of decision makers: Otis Johnson, former Mayor of Savannah, GA; Kristyn Wong-Tam, City Councilor of Toronto, Canada, and Toks Omishakin, with Tennessee Department of Transportation.

I was pleased that my highly valued colleagues from the Notah Begay III Foundation presented some of their work to promote active living in Indian Country: Olivia Roanhorse and R. Goldtooth.

Our final panel on lifespan approaches to studying and improving physical activity: David Bann from University College London; NiCole Keith from Indiana University; Adrian Bauman from Sydney University; moderator Jenny Mindell from University College London.

We fought traffic and survived during the bike ride.


March. Society of Behavioral Medicine in San Diego, including my presidential duties and party at my house.

With my SBM presidential successors and wonderful colleagues, Gary Bennett and Sherry Pagato.

A photo from my presidential address.

With David Marquez, SBM Program Chair. It was a pleasure to work with him on shaping an outstanding program.

Former doctoral student Jodi Prochaska is now Professor at Stanford University and mother of two children. We don’t get together often enough.


March, May, August, October. Four visits to Australian Catholic University in Melbourne. These are just a very few of the professional, social, and natural high points of these visits.

March. My first night in Melbourne I went to an Adele concert.

March. On my arrival Ester Cerin and Tony Barnett took me on a long urban hike that included this scene along the Yarra River.

March. During the urban hike we saw this odd architectural juxtaposition.

March. A nice dinner with colleagues: Jenny Veitch, Anna Timperio, Billie Giles-Corti, Jo Salmon.

May. With early career researchers at ACU Institute for Health and Ageing.

May. Neville Owen and I celebrate the release of his new book.

May. I make it a point to get out in nature each visit.

For a report on the August visit that included my UCSD colleagues Terry Conway, Kelli Cain, and Carrie Geremia, please see my separate blog post:


October. A good view of Central Melbourne. This concentration of activities is why Melbourne is routinely named World’s Most Liveable City by The Economist magazine.

October Tony Barnett, Ester Cerin, and I on one of our many outings to enjoy the city.

October. At the conference on Healthy Liveable Cities, organized by Billie Giles-Corti. The social event included a combination of entertainment and advocacy.

October. A great Melbourne scene with a mix of transport modes featuring a very attractive tram.

October. Though everyone is sitting in this photo, they had to walk to come enjoy this park in the heart of Melbourne. One of many great parks.

October. I am now affiliated with the Mary MacKillop Institute for Health Research at ACU, so I thought I would take a selfie with Saint Mary.

October. A typically lively street scene in the Melbourne CBD.

Neville took me out on another delightful bushwalk.


April. March for Science. San Diego.

With Elena Martinez, Jesse Nodora, Maria Zuniga—and many thousands more.

It’s good to see young people committed to science.

A small sample of marchers.


June. UCSD Graduation. One of my regrets about (semi-)retirement is that I will have less contact with students. I have been blessed with the chance to mentor many outstanding doctoral students and postdocs. Here are my last two.

Jessa Engelberg and Christy Thornton. It was such a pleasure working with them.

The Dalai Lama was UCSD Commencement speaker June 2017. I was selected by lottery to be one of about 100 faculty to be in a receiving line during a breakfast encounter. It was an honor I never thought I would experience. This was the most special moment of the year for me.

Lobsang Lama (left) was an intern with our research group, and she also graduated. I welcomed her parents on their first trip to the USA, along with Lobsang’s sister. They are Tibetans living in Nepal.


July. Southern tour to reconnect with family, friends, colleagues.

Colin Armstrong was my first doctoral student when I was at San Diego State University. We had a reunion in Nashville. He is on the faculty at Vanderbilt University.

My graduate school mentor at Memphis State University was Kenny Lichstein (far left). I got to visit with him and part of his family in Nashville.


September. New York City. Center for Active Design Award.

On September 27, 2017 I was presented I attended the Center for Active Design Excellence Awards celebration in New York City. I was pleased and honored to receive the Thought Leadership Award. I had the opportunity to give a short talk and participate in a panel discussion. You can learn more about the Awards and the Center for Active Design:

Photo credit: Yetsuh Frank, Courtesy of Center for Active Design.  My award was presented by Joanna Frank, President and CEO of the Center for Active Design.

Photo credit: Yetsuh Frank, Courtesy of Center for Active Design.  Here is the panel moderated by WNYC’s Paige Cowett (far right) and including Linda Gibbs, Principal at Bloomberg Associates, Justin Garrett Moore, Executive Director of the NYC Public Design Commission. You can watch a recording of the 27-min panel at

I always enjoy exploring the streets of New York City on foot, partly because I am in the company of so many other pedestrians.


October. Washington, DC. National Academy of Medicine induction.

My guests at the induction ceremony and dinner. Karen Glanz (Univ of Pennsylvania), Charlotte Pratt (National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute), David Berrigan (National Cancer Institute).

The other inductee from Society of Behavioral Medicine was Karen Emmons of Harvard University.

Our group had a special reception and tour of the National Civil Rights Museum, which brought back many painful memories. This was a painting in the Memphis airport.

This is also a painting in the airport, showing the vibrancy of African American culture in Memphis.

The Mayor tells us about life in a very small town in northern Mississippi.

I had a chance to spend time with my cousin Nita Carr, who lives in Memphis. Here we are in the hat department of Schwab’s store on Beale Street, one of my favorite stores anywhere.

It was a treat to tour the legendary Sun Studios with Lisa Klesges.

This is the studio where Elvis, Johnny Cash, Jerry Lee Lewis, Carl Perkins and many African American artists got their start.


September. National Academies of Science, Engineering, and Medicine. Roundtable on Obesity Solutions. Workshop on built environments and obesity. Washington, DC. This workshop was particularly meaningful to me, because I was on the planning committee.

The opening panel was composed of Daniel Rodriguez (UC Berkeley), Karen Glanz (University of Pennsylvania), and Rodrigo Reis (Washington University of St. Louis).

The panel on promoting equity through built environment solutions.

The panel on local actions to improve built environments, with former Maryland Governor Perris Glendening speaking.



Thank you for checking out my 2017 highlights blog. I posted new videos on my Active Living Clips youtube channel. 2018 is starting out almost as busy as ever, which is why I did not get this 2017 blog completed until April 2018!


Driverless cars and possible health effects

Blog post: Sallis, J. Driverless cars could be better or worse for our health—it’s up to us. The Conversation. Blog posted January 2, 2018.

The article was the basis of an ABC (Australian Broadcasting Corporation) TV interview about driverless cars. Aired on morning news January 8, 2018.

In Memoriam: Xiaobo (Bob) Wang

Jim Sallis. September 25, 2017

Dr Xiaobo Wang contacted me by email in 2015 and expressed an interest in being a visiting scholar with our research group at UCSD. He was Associate Professor of Physical Education at Zhengzhou University of Light Industry in China, with a background in exercise psychology. Because I cannot agree to sponsor everyone who requests to visit with us, we scheduled a phone call. The call reassured me that Dr Wang was well-acquainted with our group’s work, he had specific plans to use the visit to start new research directions, and his English was very good. Thus, I agreed to sponsor his visit. Dr Wang and his family began their visit about February 2016 and stayed until February 2017. During this time I got to know Bob (his preferred English name), his wife Lilly, and their 5-year-old son Prince very well.

Bob spent almost every work day at the office, and he became friends with all the staff and students. He was always in a good mood and was enthusiastic about learning from everyone. He participated in meetings, learned from Kelli Cain how to use accelerometers, and received substantial tutoring in statistics and study design from Terry Conway. His primary goal was to develop and publish a manuscript using one of our databases. Bob’s main interests were in youth sports and physical activity. Because he was very tall and had been a lifelong basketball player, this sport was a main focus of his teaching and research. We decided he would lead a paper based on our TEAN study of adolescents. He was eager to learn about built environments, so his paper topic was the interaction of built environment and psychosocial variables to explain adolescents’ active travel. To pursue this paper he had to conduct several literature searches, become familiar with a complex study, and learn new statistical methods. He persevered and produced a manuscript in collaboration with the whole study team. The paper received positive reviews from Preventive Medicine and was accepted before he departed in February 2017. It appeared in print soon thereafter. He was very pleased with this outcome, because he had fulfilled the terms of his visiting scholar grant and believed this paper would help him obtain funding for research to be done in collaboration with our team.

Bob received a Certificate of Completion of an accelerometer training from Kelli Cain. 2017.


Bob participated in the accelerometer training with colleagues from the World Bank, Malawi, and Peru. 2017.

During the visit, Bob and sometimes his family, participated in our team’s social events. Here are some photos of our social times together, including a trip to the Anza-Borrego Desert East of San Diego.

Bob and Prince with Jim in Anza-Borrego Desert. 2016

Prince with sculptures in Anza-Borrego Desert. 2016

Bob, Prince, and Jim at a holiday celebration in San Diego. 2016

July 4th luncheon 2016. YiYi Lee from Malaysia, Jim, Bob, Shemi, Lilly, and Prince. At Jim and Shemi’s home in San Diego.

Bob, Jim, Prince, Lilly. On the pier in Pacific Beach, CA. July 4, 2016.

Bob at the SPARK Trainers’ Meeting. San Diego. Summer 2016.

YiYi Lee, Jim, and Bob enjoy a day in Tijuana, Mexico. 2016

Bob attends a private tour of Tijuana. This is the restaurant where the Caesar Salad was invented. 2016.

Bob, on a pedestrian shopping street in Tijuana, Mexico. 2016.

During Bob’s time in San Diego a very sad event occurred in my life. Shemi, my wife and companion for 39 years, became ill, was hospitalized, and died. Bob did everything he could to support me in this difficult period. He was the only person who visited Shemi and I in the hospital virtually every day. I appreciated deeply these visits, his concern, and his friendship. I think these actions revealed the strength of Bob’s character and his goodness as a person.

With all of these positive professional and personal memories, it hit me very hard when I learned that Xiaobo Wang died suddenly September 16, 2017 at about age 38 years. I was informed by a Chinese colleague who was collaborating with Bob to jointly sponsor my first visit to China. Apparently, Bob was doing what he loved, playing basketball, when he had a heart attack and died immediately. He was taken to a hospital but could not be revived. This was news that came as a complete shock and surprise, because no one expects such a young and healthy person to die with no warning. The news of Bob’s death hit me hard, and as I informed other members of my research group, I had to watch their sadness and disbelief. My heart aches for Lilly and Prince who will mourn Bob the rest of their lives. They will have to carry on and make the most of their own young lives, but they will carry a weight of sadness. Our whole team sends love, best wishes, and positive thoughts to Lilly and Prince. We will miss Bob too.

My Chinese colleague told me that Bob had a strong wish for me to visit China, so I will continue my plans to do so. I will do my best to spend some time with Lilly and Prince so we can mourn together and remember our good times together with Bob. Peace to Bob, Lilly, and Prince.

Bob’s farewell lunch in San Diego. February 2017.


IPEN Team at ACU

IPEN Coordinating Center Makes Connections at Australian Catholic University in Melbourne

Jim Sallis. September 25, 2017.

The core team of the IPEN Coordinating Center took a very long field trip to Melbourne, Australia in August 2017 (i.e., 16-hour flight from LAX). The purpose was to establish an in-person relationship with colleagues at Australian Catholic University (ACU). A key reason Jim Sallis became a Professorial Fellow at ACU was to strengthen IPEN in several ways. Ester Cerin, IPEN principal investigator for the Hong Kong studies and lead statistician for IPEN, is Professor at ACU. Jim’s regular visits to Melbourne allow more face-time to move IPEN projects forward. There are several other IPEN investigators in Melbourne, including Takemi Sugiyama and Tony Barnett at ACU, Neville Owen at The Baker Institute, Jo Salmon and team at Deakin Uni, Billie Giles-Corti at RMIT, and Suzanne Mavoa and Hannah Badland at Melbourne Uni. ACU is supporting a full-time biostatistician to work on IPEN papers. He was hired in July 2017 after an open search, and his name is Muhammed Akram. Though IPEN Adolescent data are only now ready for analysis, NIH funding has ended. Thus, ACU is generously providing part-time support for the core IPEN Coordinating Center team of Terry Conway, Kelli Cain, and Carrie Geremia. Thus, the strong and experienced IPEN team is able to lead data management, data analysis, and manuscript coordination, along with Publication Committee chairs Ilse de Bourdeaudhuij (Adult) and Erica Hinckson (Adolescent), to maintain IPEN’s productivity. Though this group will be geographically dispersed most of the time, it is clear the headquarters of the IPEN Coordinating Center is now at ACU in Melbourne.

The IPEN CC team (Terry, Kelli, Carrie) spent a busy, productive, and enjoyable 2 weeks in Melbourne during the August winter. The Institute for Health and Ageing (IHA) hosted this visit. The centerpiece of the visit was 3 workshops to introduce the IPEN team and their skills to IHA members and beyond. I want to thank the IHA team for being so welcoming to the IPEN team. The first workshop was literally an introductory session during which each IPEN team member described their backgrounds and specific expertise. The second workshop was an overview of the project management, quality control, and database practices, protocols, and tools the IPEN staff has developed over the course of managing numerous international and US-based projects funded by NIH, CDC, and several private funders.

Carrie, Kelli, and Terry get to know Chinatown in downtown Melbourne.

Here we are in one of Melbourne’s beautiful parks, with the exhibition building in the background.

The third workshop, led by Kelli Cain, was an extensive 3-session training in accelerometer methods used in our San Diego-based studies. Participants learned our protocol-based methods for collecting the data, then downloading, screening, and managing the data. They wore accelerometers for several days, then practiced by downloading, cleaning, and visualizing their own results. The participants included colleagues from IHA, other units of ACU, Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology, Deakin University, and The Baker Institute, so it was a useful network-builder for everyone involved. We appreciate the large number of attendees and their active engagement in all the workshops.

Because this was the IPEN team’s first visit to Australia, we spent off-duty hours exploring the city, which was a pleasure. Living and working in the heart of the city meant there were constant discoveries of interesting streets, unique shops, never-ending parks, and a seemingly-infinite number of restaurants and cafes in all directions. We particularly enjoyed searching for the well-known alley art that is scattered around Melbourne and nearby cities. This search stimulated a fair amount of walking, and a few example photos are shown below. Melbourne’s central business district is a great example of a dense, mixed-used, lively, walkable city. Walking or taking transit everywhere was a very different lifestyle from the car-centric experience that is more-or-less required in San Diego, and I believe the IPEN team appreciated the benefits of the Melbourne approach. They were not surprised when it was announced during our visit that Melbourne was named by The Economist as the “world’s most liveable city”—for the 7th consecutive time. Jim was interviewed about this honor, and the article can be found at:

In agreement with our colleague Billie Giles-Corti, Jim pointed out that only those in or near the central city experience the full benefits of the liveable/walkable city. Residents of the suburbs are mostly car-dependent and endure long commutes to work and elsewhere.

This is Hardware Lane in Melbourne, which is packed with restaurants. Similar pedestrian zones are fairly common there, though very unfamiliar in San Diego.

Alley art in Melbourne.

More alley art.

The delight of walking around the city is more than matched by the wonders of nature in Australia. Thus, we organized a weekend excursion to get immersed in nature. We piled in a van with IPEN colleagues Ester Cerin, Neville Owen, and Tony Barnett, and our first stop was a traditional Aussie lunch of meat (or veggie) pies on the way to the Healesville Animal Sanctuary. The Sanctuary houses most of the famous Aussie fauna in a naturalistic setting. There was so much to see there we spent about 3 hours, and we still missed some animals. We continued on to Marysville, which was destroyed in a fire several years ago, but beautifully rebuilt. We started a bushwalk from the center of town and walked through some old growth forest to the spectacular Steavenson Falls. Of course, we posed for photos there.

The IPEN team enjoying Steavenson Falls.

The other important lesson in Aussie culture was attending an Australian Rules Football game, which was held at the much-beloved Melbourne Cricket Grounds. The “MCG” holds about 100,000, so the 50,000 attendees only half-filled it. It goes without saying we walked from our hotel to the MCG. We had a special treat when football legend Paul Salmon explained the game to us and told us some of the history. Paul is married to Prof Jo Salmon, who is an IPEN Adolescent investigator, so both of them are stars in their respective fields. IHA staff Jerome Rachelle sat with us and helped us understand some of the complexities of the game.

Australian Rules Football star Paul Salmon (left) gives us a tutorial before a game at the Melbourne Cricket Ground. With Irene Estaban-Cornejo, a Spanish colleague who is a visiting scholar in Melbourne.

At the Melbourne Cricket Grounds with Jerome Rachelle of ACU, the IPEN team, and Irene Esteban-Cornejo.

The 2 weeks were full of walking, exploring, preparing for and delivering workshops, making new friends, developing collaborations, and getting to know Melbourne, so the time went quickly. We appreciate that Prof Wayne McKenna and James McLaren made time to meet with the IPEN team. Wayne and James are responsible for developing and supporting ACU’s research programs across all the campuses, and we thank them for understanding the value of basing the IPEN Coordinating Center at ACU. This collaborative relationship will ensure the continued production of groundbreaking science published in high-impact journals and communicated broadly to decision makers around the world. The result of our visit was development of a strong bond between IPEN and ACU teams that is just the beginning. I want to express my thanks to Prof Marita McCabe, director of IHA, and all who welcomed us with open arms and organized a bittersweet goodbye reception on our last day. See you soon.

The IPEN Coordinating Center team at ACU. Ester Cerin, Terry Conway, Kelli Cain, Carrie Geremia, Jim Sallis, Muhammed Akram.

Colleagues at ACU’s Institute of Health and Ageing gave us a very nice farewell party.

After the August 2017 visit Ester Cerin, Takemi Sugiyama, and their groups, along with the IPEN team, transferred to the Mary MacKillop Institute for Health Research at ACU. We are joining David Dunstan, who was already affiliated with the MacKillop, and John Hawley, an exercise scientist, who is the new director of the Institute. The MacKillop Institute at ACU is now the home of the IPEN Coordinating Center.

Are Sidewalks for Pedestrians?

June 13, 2017
By Jim Sallis


This post first appeared on the America Walks blog:

At America Walks, we are committed to people-first design. Unfortunately, in practice in many communities across the US, individuals are not prioritized on our streets and sidewalks.  Dr. Jim Sallis explores the topic in this guest blog post on the growing trend of motorized rideables on our sidewalks, an added element that has the potential to knock down the pedestrian yet another peg on the hierarchy of users. Dr. Sallis reminds us all that we need to be vigilant to this trend and others that create spaces where people who walk feel uncomfortable or threatened. Take action—add your voice to the growing walking movement, make such topics issues for local government to address, and educate yourself as to the rights you have (or should have) as a pedestrian.


The answer to the question should be an obvious “yes”, and among advocates for walking the answer is “YES”. But in reality the answer is becoming “no” more and more often. Technology is disrupting businesses of many kinds, replacing jobs that have benefits with gigs, making it cheaper to be driven around town, and delivering everything so you can stay home all the time playing computer games. Now technology is taking aim at disrupting sidewalks. I guess we should not be surprised.

I was alarmed 10 years ago when Segways promised to revolutionize transportation. They were able to change laws in many cities to make them legal occupants of sidewalks. However, they never really took off due to cost, and maybe people could not figure out where or how to park them. But you can count on technology to “progress”, so just in the past couple of years I have noticed a profusion of new personal transport devices showing up on sidewalks. First there were “hoverboards”, that were very small, brightly colored, and popular with children. Unfortunately they developed a habit of catching on fire. But there are many more choices now.

There is a new category of products called electric rideables. I have seen electric skateboards, numerous versions of two-wheeled hoverboards, single self-balancing wheels that whiz you along, three-wheeled devices, electric scooters you stand on, electric scooters you sit on, and apparently dozens of segway-type gizmos. There are websites devoted to this rapidly expanding category and lots of reviews. Google it. This has to be a great business opportunity because everybody hates to walk, don’t they?

For those few of us who still enjoy actual low-tech walking, it seems like we need a place to do it. That place is most often the sidewalk. And that is where I have been seeing these “rideables”. This brings up many questions. Is it legal for the rideables to be on the sidewalk even though they typically move faster than pedestrians? Are riders liable if they injure a pedestrian? How do pedestrians like sharing the sidewalk with rideables? Will pedestrians be driven off the sidewalk by rideables? That couldn’t happen, could it?

One of my favorite magazine articles of the last few years was in the Smithsonian in 2014.  It described how car companies invented the crime of jaywalking in the early 20th century to keep pedestrians out of the street so cars could take over. The car companies wrote the laws and lobbied city councils to pass them, with the noble intent of protecting pedestrians. The less-noble real intent was to stop the bad publicity created by cars killing and maiming people every day. To add insult to injury they chose the name “jay” which meant hillbilly or bumpkin. The implication was that smart and sophisticated people drove, and ignorant people walked.

So, as cars took over the road, pedestrians were driven out of the street. Could we see rideables take over the sidewalk, making pedestrians obsolete? There’s nowhere else for pedestrians to go. Filling the sidewalks with rideables would be great for business, so maybe we have to give up. We don’t want to threaten the jobs of rideable-makers do we? You can’t stand (or walk) in the way of progress.

Is the motorization of sidewalks on the agenda of walking advocates? It should be. Walking on the sidewalk is in the process of being disrupted by new technology. These small businesses are planning their growth. It looks like a clash of technology and profit versus health and quality of life. Taking a walk is usually the high point of my day. Taking a walk is the healthiest thing most people do in a day. What will be the effect on pedestrians of sidewalks filling with rideables? Whose interests will determine whether rideables become legally protected? As advocates for walking it is up to us to start asking these questions.

Life Is Change: Professional and Personal Updates

May 2017.
I want to explain why and how I am semi-retiring. Though my work has been meaningful and gratifying over many years, I am ready to slow down my activities. 2016 was a momentous year for me. In my Presidential Lecture to Society of Behavioral Medicine in March 2017 I explained how Charles Dickens’s book “Tale of Two Cities” seemed to describe my 2016. “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.” Most of the events were excellent, such as highly-visible publications from our IPEN collaborations, leading three papers in the Lancet, being elected to the National Academy of Medicine, and being President of SBM, which included holding the Annual Meeting in San Diego. However, the biggest event of the year for me was traumatic. My wife and life partner of 39 years, Shemi, passed away on August 16, 2016. I appreciate the many heartfelt notes I received from friends and colleagues around the world. The remembrances of Shemi were touching and helped me focus on the many good times. Besides being a gentle person, great cook, and hostess, Shemi had a fertile creative life that resulted in dozens of artworks, plus stories and poems. I encourage you to visit the website I built for Shemi so you can enjoy scenes from her life and creations of her mind.
After Shemi’s death I decided to semi-retire so I could focus my energies on projects of highest priority and find more time for things I enjoy other than work. My retirement from UCSD was official at the end of January 2017, but I will continue to work on current grants. I am committed to ensuring the results of IPEN Adolescent and other projects are published and disseminated. Mike Pratt’s arrival as a Professor in the UCSD Department of Family Medicine and Public Health provides an opportunity for extension of our active living work, because Mike has been collaborating on IPEN and Active Living Research for many years. Mike has already taken the lead on new grant proposals, working closely with our experienced staff. My main role will be to support, not lead, new projects.
My official retirement gives me freedom to pursue other opportunities. As of February 2017 I became a Professorial Fellow at the Australian Catholic University (ACU) in Melbourne. I am attached to the Institute for Health and Ageing, and my main goal is to support the growth of excellent research within this new Institute. Although I will not be moving to Australia full-time I will visit several times each year. The connection with ACU builds on strengths, because my long-time IPEN colleagues Ester Cerin and Takemi Sugiyama are there, among others. Being together with Ester will produce important benefits for IPEN and other built environment studies. We are hiring a Research Fellow with advanced skills in statistics to work closely with Ester in analyzing IPEN data. ACU is supporting core staff of the IPEN Coordinating Center who are based at UCSD so we can continue our productivity. Thus, ACU is becoming a much more important center of action for IPEN.
Melbourne is a very comfortable place for me, having spent several months of my sabbatical there in 1995 and making several visits since then. Melbourne is the capitol of physical activity research in Australia, with longtime friends and colleagues including Neville Owen at Baker IDI and Swinburne University; Jo Salmon, Anna Timperio, Jenny Veitch and others at Deakin University; Billie Giles-Corti at Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology; Brian Oldenburg at University of Melbourne; and David
Dunstan, Gavin Turrell, and Andrea Nathan also at ACU. I look forward to spending more time with these and other colleagues in Melbourne while enjoying the cultural amenities of the city.
I am looking forward to this change in focus and pace of professional activity. In speaking at the SBM Leadership Institute in March I emphasized the value of seeking out change and driving change, not just reacting to it. My new situation is a chance to act on my own advice. I am ready to start new adventures, some of them including the combination of dance and music, which can unite my professional and personal interests. I plan to stay active in research, writing, advocacy, and mentoring. I want to support others in taking the lead in fulfilling my career’s mission of using evidence to move toward a more physically active world. Of course, I am committed to enjoying movement every day, and I envision that semi-retirement will allow me to more fully appreciate the wonder of life in our magnificent but fragile world.

March for Science: A Good Walk for an Important Purpose

James Sallis, PhD

April 22, 2017

What does it take to get scientists to leave the comfort of their labs and climb down from their ivory towers? Apparently it takes denial of evidence, belittling of science, disrespect and intimidation of government scientists, and dramatic budget cuts for every research program in the federal government to prod scientists to hit the streets and raise their voices. To put it mildly, street protests are not a comfort zone for most researchers. Why did thousands of scientists, science educators, engineers, entrepreneurs, and fans of the scientific enterprise March for Science on Saturday March 22, 2017 in hundreds of cities around the world? Because we understand the essential role that science plays in every aspect of our lives: protecting the health of the planet, improving the health of people, making our education system more effective, creating new technologies that will hopefully be designed to enhance quality of life for people, and learning more about how our vast and wonderful world works.


With colleagues and students of public health and medicine at the San Diego March. We look happy, but we are also upset, energized, and determined.

My sign refers to our SPARK physical education and physical activity programs that began with NIH-funded grants. The evidence-based programs have trained thousands of teachers, improved the lives of millions of young people, and created dozens of jobs over 25 years.


Like many others I have been appalled by the recent verbal and fiscal attacks on evidence of all kinds, science in general, and climate science most particularly. There is a celebration of ignorance and propaganda over systematic generation of evidence. Efforts of the Administration seem designed to overturn the Enlightenment so we can go back to the Dark Ages when dogma and superstition ruled. As scientists we have dedicated our careers to advancing humanity through research. Many of us do applied science, and our goal is for our evidence-based solutions to the many problems facing our country and world to be applied in the real world.

But let’s not be naive and think that everyone loves science. Current attacks on science and government regulation are merely spikes in a long-term trend. Getting serious about reducing carbon emissions is bad news for the fossil fuel industries. EPA regulations are not welcomed by chemical industries. FDA regulations are an annoyance to the pharmaceutical industry. Prevention efforts led by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention are fought by food and beverage industries, as well as tobacco, alcohol, and gun industries. Evidence from independent, government-sponsored research often threatens the bottom line and images of these industries, so they fight science through lobbying and campaign donations. These are all powerful industries that see themselves as benefiting from less research, at least less of certain types of research.

To counter this opposition, who is fighting for research and evidence-based policy making? Scientific organizations speak up for research, but their resources are tiny compared to the industries working so persistently and effectively out of the public eye. What can be done to increase support for science and evidence? That was the theme of my Presidential Lecture at the Society of Behavioral Medicine Annual Meeting in March 2017. “Research translation” is about getting evidence used. The movement of evidence from scientific journals to real-world application does not happen automatically or by magic. It requires action, and some of that action needs to come from researchers ourselves. The people and organizations who can use the evidence in education, business, practice, and policy need to know about the evidence. So, an important role of scientists is to take steps to communicate research results to potential “end-users.” Many researchers are hesitant to take that step, either because they don’t believe it is their role, or they don’t know how to go about it.

But we are now in a situation where we need to do more than just communicate our results. We scientists are on the front lines of defending our nation’s commitment to science itself. More than 150 years after Abraham Lincoln started the National Academy of Sciences to “advise the nation,” it is hard to believe that American science is being attacked. One of the main functions of the March for Science was to educate the public about the critical role of science in improving lives. Common themes were climate and health. The economic impact of research was not emphasized so much but may be equally important.

I joined many thousands of scientists and science supporters for the March in San Diego. It was a typically beautiful day, and the atmosphere was festive. Before the March we had speakers including the originator of the Keeling Curve of carbon concentrations in the atmosphere, from the Scripps Institution of Oceanography at UCSD. We also heard from very young scientists who were excited about the important problems they are investigating. It was inspiring to meet physicists, teachers, biotech workers, parents, and children who came up with clever signs and spent their Saturday on the March. Here are just a few photos.




An inspiring event does not create change, but it is a great first step. Being energized by the March for Science could galvanize marchers to become communicators, activists, advocates, and donors to continue the work of supporting science. During talks at the end of the San Diego march, speakers referred to the great turnout for the First March for Science. I hope there is not a need for a second one. But if a second one is needed, I will be there.

Flickr Photos