We’re rounding the bend to Memorial Day and the kickoff of summer – it’s the season of long sunny days, spending time outdoors, and evening campfire gatherings with s’mores and storytelling. Karen McLeod recently attended a science writing workshop in Santa Fe and shared her experience learning the art of written story in this week’s post; she also included helpful tips for around the campfire and beyond. Here are a few of our favorite links this week: [Read more...]
Like bats emerging from nearby Carlsbad Caverns, questions flew about the halls of the School for Advanced Research. It started with a backstage tour of that day’s Science Times story of an underwater menagerie, followed by an anthropologist’s quest to unlock the secret of genius. We wrapped up the afternoon with a chilling ethnography of a factory farm from “semen to cellophane.” We’d have plenty of topical fodder for our own writing assignments.
The Santa Fe Science Writing Workshop would give me, a scientist, exactly what I came for – a stronger handle on the world of journalism and ways to improve my writing skills. But, I was unprepared for just how rich the experience would be. [Read more...]
This week we received a great honor. Nancy Baron and COMPASS were the recipients of a Peter Benchley Award, an award that celebrates outstanding achievements that lead to the protection of our coasts, oceans, and the communities that depend on them. We were awarded this distinction for Excellence in Media. [Read more...]
This post is the first in our new Bright Spot series, which celebrates scientists who are leading change.
Biologist Richard (Dick) Cannings is taking a leadership role in a rather unusual way for a scientist. Dick is running for provincial election in Penticton, British Columbia, Canada with the New Democratic Party (NDP) in today’s May 14th provincial election.
Dick, a conservation biologist, and a champion for the conservation of the Okanagan’s ecosystems, has placed environmental sustainability and the quality of life it brings, squarely in the center of his political platform. If he gets in, it will be a landmark win in Canadian politics… [Read more...]
Over the past few weeks, since we published “Navigating the Rules of Scientific Engagement” in PLOS, the voices of scientist communicators have rung out in blog posts – some personal perspectives and others calls to action. Even more chimed in on Twitter under the hashtag #reachingoutsci. These scientist bloggers are as diverse as their topics. I consider every one of them a leader.
Over the past 12 years as a communication trainer for the Leopold Leadership Program, and as a coach for many scientists, I have observed an intrinsic link between communication and leadership. [Read more...]
One of the more infuriating comments I hear all too often about academic scientists is that they’re irrelevant. Floating about in lofty clouds of superfluous knowledge, they develop layer upon layer of jargon and complexity about something with tangential applicability (at best) to the real world. Admittedly, that’s not exactly what I’ve heard, but that’s the gist. And, while this caricature may hold slivers of truth, it surely doesn’t describe most of the scientists I know. They are driven to make a difference in the world. They want their work not only to be cutting edge, but to also be relevant.
Many scientists hold a deep-seated fear that no matter how much they desire to make a difference, their science just might not matter. We struggle, asking, “What good is a biogeochemist, compared to heroism like that of the first responders during the Boston bombings?” (Do take the time to read that blog post, please. It moved me. I even left my first-ever comment.)
Recently, while giving a talk about the professional path I’ve carved outside of academia to women in science here at Oregon State, I was reminded of my own quest for relevance as a grad student. Writing a concluding paragraph in a manuscript to justify the real-world application of my PhD research just wasn’t cutting it for me. In my role with COMPASS, my contribution to what matters is to focus squarely on the big picture, synthesizing ideas, seeding connections among scientists, and ultimately forging stronger connections between science and policy. This is my path to relevance. But it’s just one of many. [Read more...]
Our week here at COMPASS began with the excitement of our commentary piece coming out in PLOS Biology, but is ending on an even higher note. Many scientists we’ve worked with are stepping up to share personal stories of engagement. There have been stories of how:
- Reaching out via both traditional (Don Boesch) and social (Isabelle Côté) media can open up new opportunities for connecting science to policy
- Future effective engagement of scientists outside academia relies on cultural change regarding time management (Jessica Hellman, Jim Cloern) and restructuring institutional incentives (Chris Buddle)
- Becoming better at engaging sometimes means leaving the ivory tower for training in another field (Ryan Kelly) or pursuing science at a for-profit company (Dawn Wright)
- Doing good science and reflecting on what works and what doesn’t is a critical part of the path to engagement (Simon Donner, Heather Leslie)
- Above all, it is not science alone, but also hope that inspires people to act (Alan Townsend, Steve Palumbi)
This is part of a growing trend of scientists being willing to be present as characters in the story. Efforts like Looks Like Science or The Secret Life of Scientists & Engineers, highlight how valuable it can be to share personal stories of who we are, why we do what we do, and why it matters. All of us at COMPASS continue to be inspired by these stories and the scientists who share them. And we can’t wait to see what’s next…
At the 2012 AAAS Annual Meeting in Vancouver B.C., I attended the “Good Science, Good Communication: Talking to the Media and the Public“ session. I was uncomfortably squished between two attendees, but we were lucky to be on the inside. People were five rows deep in the hallway, shushing passersby, in desperate attempts to hear the speakers. (Overflowing rooms in science communication talks at the major conferences we attend seems to be the rule rather than the exception these days.) The discussion period opened with what felt like half the hands in the room shooting into the air, waving with urgency and enthusiasm. One of the few lucky enough to be called on made a powerful statement: “I know it’s hard to do this, to find the time or even the courage to communicate outside academia – but if there is one thing we can all do, it’s to be supportive of our peers that do choose to communicate, and choose to get out there.”
We support you.
Effectively engaging outside of academia demands considerable time, commitment, and practice. For the past decade, COMPASS has worked to support scientists who are ready to make that investment. We know it’s scary. We also know that increasing numbers of you want to do it. And we know, for those of you already involved, that it is rewarding. It makes a difference.
Today, the COMPASS team published a paper in PLOS Biology called “Navigating the Rules of Scientific Engagement”. It traces our own arc of supporting scientists from ‘outreach’ (simply broadcasting a clear message) to meaningful, multi-directional engagement. Ultimately we believe that engaging outside academia is rewarding, but also that it should be rewarded. [Read more...]