How To Make Yourself Presentable

Taking a new approach to your scientific talk could win you hearty applause from your peers. Photo credit: open hardware summit

Over my three years working here at COMPASS, I’ve come to witness a curious, repeated phenomenon. A significant part of my job involves engaging with scientists through trainings or helping them prepare for conference symposia, policy briefings, or media outreach. For the most part, scientists take on with gusto the task of more effective communication to non-science audiences – diving in headfirst to think outside the box and become better at sharing their research with the wider world. But then…it happens. I see that same scientist who was able to hook in a journalist or get a policymaker to sit up straight in his or her chair, get up in front of his or her scientific peers and again bombard them with fifty shades of n-dimensional graphs. [Read more…]

Building A Metro For Science Communication


“Doors Closing. Please stand clear of the doors.” For anyone who lives, or has spent time in Washington, D.C., you recognize this as the announcement just before the Metro pulls away from the station. The Metro is one of the things I miss most about living in Washington, D.C. Even in a commuter-friendly place like Portland (which I now call home), the bike lanes and MAX simply can’t move as many people to as many destinations with the efficiency of the Metro. The Metro provides something critical to a buzzing, busy city – people-moving infrastructure. [Read more…]

Saving And Savoring The World

Crocodile - Photo courtesy Ken Weiss © 2013

It was past midnight on a moonless night in South Africa’s Kruger National Park. The Toyota truck jounced along a boulder strewn path in the darkness, astonishing me with what it could take. I was wondering what the two Nile crocodiles in the longbed back were experiencing. We had been up most of the last two nights capturing crocodiles that had wandered out of the Olifants River and belly crawled across the park boundary to take up residence in a tailings pond of a massive open pit phosphorous mine.  The mine bosses wanted the crocs gone. These industrial neighbors to South Africa’s most famous park decided it would be better PR to call in park biologists to relocate the giant reptiles rather than shoot them on site.

The question was whether the crocs would settle into their superior home in the park, or try to migrate back to the silted waters of the mine. Or die trying.  Biologists have long chronicled how animals show a remarkable drive to return to their origins. And so relocating animals is not always a viable option, especially when it comes to apex predators who happen to have a territorial streak, powerful jaws, and more than five dozen teeth. So we were testing this idea, satellite tagging these crocs that had to be moved anyways, and transferring them back within the park to where the Olifants River borders Mozambique. [Read more…]

Reporting Back And Looking Forward From #GradSciComm


This post is co-authored by Liz Neeley and Erica Goldman. It is a continuation of our series on our NSF-funded GradSciComm project.

It was approaching midnight on December 5, 2013, and the COMPASS team was running out of gas. We were in the middle of our two-day #GradSciComm meeting at the National Academy of Sciences. “The only way out is through,” we told ourselves, bleary eyed and punchy with fatigue.

Day 1 had gone quite well. Our stellar group of participants – science communication researchers, practitioners, administrators, and graduate student leaders from a range of STEM disciplines – had engaged with an enthusiasm that was more than we could have hoped for. They were brimming with ideas of what might be done. Yet we were struggling with how to coalesce all of the insights from Day 1 to move ahead in working groups on Day 2. One particular roadblock felt like it was obstructing every path forward: the lack of funding.

Around and around we went, until suddenly – a breakthrough! What would happen if we stop thinking of funding as a roadblock… and instead think of it as a solution to obstacles we face in teaching and conducting effective science communication? What are the first and most transformative investments that we could make? Once we demolished that roadblock, all the pieces began to fall into place. We powered through a synthesis of the discussions from Day 1, locked down the specifics for breakout group assignments, and were ready to charge into Day 2. [Read more…]