Twitter and Why Scientists Should Bother

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Recently COMPASS helped with outreach efforts for a paper on the benefits of comprehensive ocean planning published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS).  Part of this outreach included tweets about the article from both the COMPASS twitter account (@COMPASSOnline) and from the personal account of our resident social media guru and Assistant Director of Communications @LizNeeley.

Together those tweets had 16,419 impressions, or opportunities to be seen, by twitter users.  Juliette Kayyem, who covered the piece in her article for the Boston Globe, had 11,915 impressions from her tweets.  By Twitter standards, those numbers aren’t huge, but it’s not simply the quantity of eyeballs reached that’s so remarkable- it’s also the type of people the information reached. One of the people who retweeted the article was Ed Markey, ranking member of the House Resources Committee, who plays a key role in shaping the dialogue around the National Ocean Policy on Capitol Hill.

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A Role for Science in a Policy Storyline

The Big Bad Wolf

Stories are the universal currency of human communication. We are hardwired to experience and comprehend life as a series of interwoven narratives — each with their own conflicts, characters, beginnings, middles and ends. This idea has a formal name — the “narrative paradigm” — but to me, it feels as organic as watching my three-year-old’s eyes light up at the idea of me reading the Three Little Pigs… again… for the 7th time that evening.

So if humans are storytellers by nature, why is it sometimes so difficult for scientists? [Read more...]

Beyond Crunching Data: The Power of Ideas

Am I a scientist? I have a Ph.D. in ecology, but I don’t do primary research. In the eyes of some of my scientist-colleagues, I’m not the real deal. As the Director of Science for COMPASS, my job is to harness the power of the collective voice of science. Ideas that have the power not only to inform, but to transform conversations, especially in the policy arena. Doing synthesis is doing science. So, of course I am a scientist

Mosaics – so much greater than the sum of their parts

What does synthesis mean to me? To some, synthesis means data crunching and meta-analysis, and these are both powerful and much-lauded aspects of science synthesis. But there’s also another dimension: conceptual synthesis. By weaving individual threads of scientific ideas together, we can step back to look at the whole tapestry. And by stepping back, we sometimes see something we had not seen before – a whole new picture. Can we describe that new picture in a compelling way that resonates with audiences we’re trying to reach? Does it get us any closer to answering “so what?”

A recent symposium at NCEAS (National Center for Ecological Analysis and Synthesis) brought together la crème de la crème of the ecological science community to reflect on NCEAS’ contributions over the past 15 years and to construct a vision for the future – NCEAS 2.0. In an inspiring keynote, Jane Lubchenco emphasized the importance of science in service to society. “Relevance is not a 4-letter word,” she said.  Science can be both relevant to real-world issues and cutting-edge. [Read more...]

When You Follow Your Bliss…

When I interview prospective job candidates I am often asked, “How did you end up at COMPASS?” I love this question.  If one of my colleagues is conducting the interview with me, they’ll smirk knowing I’m sitting up in my chair ready to unload anecdotes and inspirations in response. Every one on our team has very different stories, but they share the same beginning and the same end. They start with “well, I thought I wanted to be a scientist….” And end with,  “…and then I found COMPASS.”

For me, well, I thought I wanted to be a scientist.  During my studies, I gravitated toward ecology; I’m a sucker for connections and systems. But the more I learned about ecological science, the more I found myself asking “so what?” (this has become one of our favorite questions here at COMPASS).   What does this information mean in the wider world? Who uses it? It seems like it should inform some choices we’re making as a society – but does it?

Like many others, I went on to work in environmental policy assuming that this must be where the science connections happened. But, when I was immersed in policy, I felt pulled back to science and vice versa. So I found myself bouncing back and forth: from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to consulting firm Booz Allen and Hamilton in Washington DC to Oregon State University, to the Marine Conservation Biology Institute back in Washington DC, and then to PISCO (the Partnership for Interdisciplinary Studies of Costal Oceans – yup, back at Oregon State University)… then I found COMPASS.

While the specific stops on my professional journey are unique to me, we’ve all had a journey of some sort. Our small team’s collective professional journey include stops at the House Science Committee, the Senate Commerce Committee, journalism in print, radio and television, National Parks, Science magazine, the Vancouver Aquarium, academic research labs, consulting firms, NGOs, National Geographic, and in positions leading natural history ecotours around the world and working as an observer on commercial fishing boats… eventually, we all found COMPASS.

We are a boundary organization, made up of boundary individuals – we sit in the middle of the science, policy and media worlds. We work to connect people and ideas across these boundaries, and even within these boundaries. We are effective because we have actually been citizens of the communities we’re connecting. We understand the content and appreciate the cultures of these circles and are connected to their leaders. We can scan the entire landscape for individuals and ideas, creating tangible places and events for connections to form. We aspire to be generous and put connectors and connections before ourselves, thinking big, but ultimately planning and executing with precision and detail.

As I answer in the interviews, there is no one path to COMPASS. The diversity of paths in and out of the science, policy, and media cultures – coupled with an intuitive ability to bridge the boundaries – is what COMPASS is all about. We all started with a passion for science, journeyed through other experiences (including becoming scientists), and ended up at COMPASS where we can follow our passion for the role science can play when connected well and communicated honestly.

We’re launching this blog to share a window into our world – a look under the hood of our science communications vehicle. Come back here to read and watch what we have to say about how we’ve shaped – and how we are evolving  – this boundary space.  And, to hear from people we’re ferrying across these boundaries. We look forward to sharing what we’ve learned, hearing what you think, and making new connections with you.