More Than A Hunch: Insights From Sackler Colloquium On Science Of Science Communication

If scientists rely on evidence for their research, why do they rely on hunches when they communicate their research?

This was the challenge that framed the kick off of the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) Sackler Colloquium on the Science of Science Communication. Known to many of us as #sackler, for three days last week, over 400 people gathered in person at NAS’ historic Constitution Ave building, while thousands watched and participated online, to engage in a discussion about science communication.

The Sackler Colloquium (captured on this short video) was a unique convening: 1 part scientists that study communication, cognition, attitudes and opinions, + 1 part practitioners of science communications (like us!), + 1 part scientists eager to communicate, + 1 part social media and network gurus, with a pinch of powerhouses from business marketing and public relations mixed in. Over the first two days, we heard from a hand picked group of scientists that study, measure and observe how we individually and collectively digest information, along with a hit-it-out-of-the-park group of experts in how information is transmitted and shared. [Read more…]

9/27/2013 Link Round-Up

Happy Friday! If you attended the Sackler Colloquia on the Science of Science Communication like several of the  COMPASS staff, you’re probably overflowing with ideas also. We left feeling inspired and look forward to sharing some posts with you with our take-aways and insights in the coming weeks. In the meantime, please enjoy what we’ve rounded up for you this week, including fire science, Darwin’s finches, citizen science, and more. [Read more…]

Tapas: Bite-Sized Ways To Design A Better Convening


We’ve all been there. Stellar participants. A promising agenda. But within the first hour of the workshop, people to your right and left are already on their email or editing manuscripts. The first several speakers have gone over their time limits, so even the few minutes reserved for Q&A have evaporated. The moderator cancels all breaks to try to get back on schedule. People have been talking at you all morning. The speakers are unprepared, recycling content you’ve heard several times before, and each talk is completely disjointed from those around it. Your mind drifts to the many sacrifices, professional and personal, you made to be there. You are… once again… in workshop hell.

When it comes to planning convenings, we all make mistakes. COMPASS designs dozens of them a year – from interactions between a handful of scientists and Congressional staff, to trainings and workshops of 20 to 30, to mixers involving hundreds of scientists and journalists. And we’ve made (and will continue to make) our share of missteps. But, we’ve also celebrated many successes, reflecting a willingness to take risks and learn from our mistakes.
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9/20/13 Link Round-Up

Happy Friday, everyone! We have a very full and interesting link round-up for you this week, including several articles covering the changing chemistry of oceans and rivers, whale ear wax, Tamu Massif updates, moon illusions, and more. We hope you enjoy, learn something new, and have a fantastic weekend! [Read more…]

A Navigator To Get You Across The Policy Chasm

It's easier to read the policy landscape with the aid of trusted navigators.  Courtesy of Calsidyrose via Flickr.

Why is it that some scientists seem to have an easy time getting the ear of policymakers? When it comes to engaging decision-makers, we’ve told you to find the story in your science, to prepare yourself to answer the “So what?” and to keep it simple but not lose the details. But how do you get involved in that initial conversation in the first place? More specifically, how do you get involved in the RIGHT conversation? The one where you have a willing and interested audience who want to talk about what you actually know?

COMPASS staff have been working at the boundary of science and policy for over a decade, and have identified some key elements in navigating a network. Earlier this month, I presented some of COMPASS’ recent policy connectivity work as a case study – in what to do and what not to do – at an NSF-funded workshop put together by Angela Evans at the University of Texas-Austin’s Lyndon B. Johnson School of Public Affairs. One of the takeaways from our work (and the workshop) is particularly relevant to individual scientists: Successful engagement with policymakers often starts when scientists take advantage of their network to help them plug in effectively. [Read more…]

9/13/13 Link Round-Up

The Link Round-Up is back from vacation and we have lots of interesting and exciting things to share with you! There’s a video about the Sackler Colloquium, a new paper and infographic about how Twitter is changing research, the world’s largest volcano, a multimedia piece on sea level rise, and more below! [Read more…]

Navigating Personal-Professional Boundaries

Sometimes it can feel like walking a fine line when it comes to personal/professional relationships. Photo courtesy of Nicoló Paternoster via Flickr.

A key aspect of being successful in making your science matter beyond the ivory tower is building relationships and knowing how to strategically navigate networks of people. Ultimately, these relationships are not about sharing data, but instead about shared connections among people. It is the trust and goodwill built up over time with colleagues, and even policymakers or journalists, which opens doors to new opportunities. But making these connections can be tricky and can often involve tough decisions about personal-professional boundaries.

I know this is something I really struggled with as a scientist and, judging by conversations with other scientists, I am far from being alone. In fact, I was overwhelmed by the diversity and depth of responses I received from scientist colleagues in response to a question on Facebook:

Where does your personal-professional comfort zone lie and what are your strategies for navigating tricky situations, either in person or via social media? [Read more…]