Almost fifteen years ago I joined two of COMPASS’ cofounders – Jane Lubchenco and Vikki Spruill – at the Packard Foundation to share about the need for a science communication organization and what our fledging enterprise was doing to help scientists engage more effectively beyond their peers. Last week, I visited the Packard Foundation to revisit what COMPASS is doing now and what we hope to do in the future. I couldn’t help but reflect on what has transpired since that initial meeting. We’ve learned, experienced and witnessed so much! Two things struck me as I reflected on the last 15 years.
- Today, the appetite for scientists to engage is palpable! Lubchenco’s Social Contract for Science was published in Science in 1998, at the time of COMPASS’ inception. Then, many fewer scientists were focused on engagement. Today, the scientific community absolutely buzzes with interest in this topic. The conversation is no longer “should we engage” but is “how can we engage?”
- Our understanding of the science of science communication is evolving rapidly. A simple Web of Science search shows us that number of citations including the term “science communication” increased ten-fold between 2000 and 2014. Scientists that study science communication and communication practitioners are developing a better understanding of the interface between scientists and other audiences, and they are beginning to form stronger connections with each other through events like the National Academy of Science Sackler Colloquia on Science Communication.
Your increased appetite to escape the ivory tower, coupled with our increasing understanding of the interfaces between science and the public, pushes us towards a tipping point in science communication. While I enjoyed and appreciated Kristof’s New York Times piece earlier this year, “Professors, we need you,” it’s time to turn the page to a new a chapter of science communication: Scientists, Let’s support and help you.
The COMPASS team, our offerings, publications, and this blog offer useful how-tos for those of you who want to engage. Here are our top ten practical resources, tools, tips and tricks to be an effective scientist communicator today:
2. Here’s why and how to find your voice.
We know that there are broader science and communication infrastructural needs that we have to tackle together, so that even more scientists can escape the ivory tower, and to facilitate smoother engagement for those of you already moving your science into the wider world. These how-to’s can help with your communications and outreach today, but YOU can help the broader science communications and academic culture change by sharing your stories and your experiences. Sharing how you made time for communicating, overcame institutional barriers, and what was gained from your efforts can encourage your peers. Sharing how you stepped out of the ivory tower, and what happened when you did, can inform our growing body of experiential evidence, ensuring our studies and our experiences help us all communicate and engage more effectively. This is how we’ll learn and move towards a scientific culture that enables and supports the scientist communicator. Let us know what you’re doing and where you’re sharing your experiences. Happy communicating!