Representing COMPASS to Policymakers

As Brooke shared last week, we no longer think of the beach as a limit for our work, instead we view it as another boundary across which we can connect scientists, journalists, and policymakers. This is an exciting time for all of us at COMPASS. We’ll be getting to know communities that are new to us and we’ll be introducing a lot of scientists to different facets of our work for the first time. I want to share a window on our approach to one of these facets: connecting scientists to policymakers.

Whenever we organize an event that brings scientists together with policymakers, we are very particular about how we structure conversations, how we prepare the scientists, and how we explain COMPASS to policymakers. Policymakers hear from lobbyists and advocacy groups all the time, but the idea of meeting with scientists, who have no agenda except to connect their knowledge, is new to many of them. Therefore, we take care to be very explicit about who we are and who we are not.

We’ve explored some dimensions of our approach in past musings here at the COMPASS blog. We spend a lot of time thinking about where science fits into policymaking and what role scientists can (or should) have. We speak transparently about our goal to connect scientists to policymakers in a manner that does not cross into advocacy and lobbying. Our approach is meant to support scientists in sharing their science in a way that is comfortable for them, compelling to their audience, and true to the science.

The author prepares his comments with Assistant Director of Policy Outreach Erica Goldman, and converses with University of South Carolina scientist Will Graf prior to a recent briefing.
Photo by: Meghan Miner.

To illustrate this, I’ve included (below) my opening remarks for a recent series of briefings and meetings we arranged for scientists to speak to policymakers. This lays out the how and why, and also gives a little insight into the niche we can fill in new scientific communities going forward:

“COMPASS is an organization based on the premise that the scientific community can contribute to social and policy dialogues in powerful ways. A key way we realize this potential is to work with scientists to help them bring their knowledge and insight directly to policymakers in ways that are clear and useful, and at times that matter. That’s why we’re here today.

Many organizations bring science to the policy table, and each does so in a particular way. COMPASS occupies a unique niche. We draw from a constantly growing network of scientists, unconstrained by membership or affiliation. We’re able to respond nimbly to the evolving landscape of policy – this panel was organized in response to conversations we had with many of you in over the last two months.

Our interest is not in a particular policy outcome, but instead to ensure that scientists have a seat at the table. We work to support scientists in sharing their science, and their insights, without a stake in where the conversation goes, and without a desire to drive a particular conclusion. We specifically work with the scientists we bring into these conversations to stay away from lobbying, both in a technical sense and in spirit. Our interest is in seeding new thinking in your work, drawn from the science that you’ll hear today, and in building connections between these scientists and all of you.

While the work we do has parallels with science societies, the National Research Council, think tanks, and some NGOs, our nimbleness allows us to draw on science and knowledge from across multiple synthesis and advisory efforts to respond quite rapidly to the specific needs of policymakers in a way that is timely and relevant.”

We work hard within the constraints of this approach to help scientists make themselves and their science truly compelling. But to us, that effort is well spent because it gets science into the conversation at the right place, at the right time, and in the right way to inform, enrich, and even transform the critical dialogues that shape our future. We are excited to bring our approach to new communities of scientists, to new issues, and to new connections across the science-to-policy boundary.

About Chad

Chad is the Director of Science Policy Outreach at COMPASS where he helps scientists find the policy relevance in their work, and helps the policy crowd the find the science they need. Sailing is his therapy, and he rates apple pie as one of the best breakfast foods ever invented.


  1. [...] social and political decisions, can we afford to wear blinders? If we desire civil discourse – and a role for science in decision making – isn’t the first step to just be fully present? We should be consumers and customers of a [...]

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