5/31/13 Link Round-Up

We’re big proponents of social media on the COMPASS blog. In addition to touting the benefits and how-to’s of Twitter, one of the unique aspects of social media are the conversations and discussion that can be sparked and carried out on a large scale entirely online. This week there were several such examples, rounded up below, along with some other interesting finds: [Read more…]

Complications And Resolutions: Why Scientists Should Learn Story Craft

Main Ave Fish Wharf, where Erica sought out a story in fishmonger Clarence Goodman's personal tale.

We can all recognize a good story when we read one. Most of us can narrate stories about our own life fairly seamlessly, and do so all the time to our families, friends, through social media, or on the phone. We can step back and recognize that our days are filled with meaningful actions – twists and turns of plot that lead us to new points of insights and resolutions – some big, some small. But as Karen pointed out in her blog post last week about her Santa Fe experience, many scientists struggle with how to bring science and story together… and whether it is even appropriate to do so.

Why the uneasy relationship between science and story? [Read more…]

5/24/13 Link Round-up

Photo courtesy of 'Ravages' via Flickr.

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…]

Thinking Story Like A Journalist: My Santa Fe Experience

Fresh air gets the creative juices flowing. My fellow classmates climb the 140 ladder rungs to the Alcove House at Bandolier National Monument.
Photo courtesy of Brian Clark.

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…]

Link Round-Up 5/17/13

It’s been a great but busy week for COMPASS! Nancy and the COMPASS team were honored to receive a Peter Benchley Ocean Award for Excellence in the Media; Erica and Brooke gave a talk about NSF about our ongoing #gradscicomm project; and Liz delivered a training for SOGES Fellows at Colorado State and published a guest blog with Nature as a part of our blog carnival (which was also featured in their roundup of top posts this week).  Phew! All that and we still have plenty of great links rounded-up for you! Check out some examples of great media, scientists in the media, great science writing, and more: [Read more…]

Benchley Pride

Nancy Baron accepts her Peter Benchley Award for Excellence in Media. Photo by Brooke Smith.

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…]

The Top Ten Qualities Of Scientist (Communicator) Leaders

"Just as ripples spread out when a single pebble is dropped into water, the actions of individuals can have far-reaching effects." Dalai Lama.
Photo courtesy of Mark J P via Flickr

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…]

5/10/13 Link Round-Up

Photo courtesy of 'Ravages' via Flickr.

COMPASS is still enjoying new stories from scientists sparked by our PLOS paper out last week (check them out on Twitter at #reachingoutsci) – and keep ’em coming! We are also excited about the upcoming ScienceOnlineOceans (#ScioOceans) un-conference in October. Have you registered?

This week, we’ve seen a lot of interesting and quirky pieces as well as some unbelievable science stories, rounded up for you below: [Read more…]

Don’t Forget The Big Stuff: The Many Paths To Relevance


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…]

5/3/13 Link Round-Up

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)

You can watch the conversations unfolding on twitter at #reachingoutsci, or see the running list we’re keeping on our kick-off post.

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…