About Brooke Smith

Brooke Smith is the Executive Director of COMPASS. She spends a lot of time thinking about the friction - yet incredible need - for science to be closer to society. She is in awe, and appreciative, of the scientists that are paving the way by getting out there and sharing their science, knowledge and insights with the wider world. It motivates her to ensure COMPASS continues to thrive, to support scientists to find their voice, and to join the most relevant conversations.

Going Public: What Do We Know About Our Investment In Science Communication?

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At this year’s AAAS annual meeting, the volume of sessions and workshops about science communications clearly reflected the community’s growing appetite and interest.  We’re notably moving past conversations about why scientists need to engage, and into conversations around how we can best support scientists to do so. Research shows that scientists do want to engage, but that they don’t have the time or resources to do it.

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No Silver Bullets: SciComm Insights from NAS Workshop

Recently, the National Academy of Sciences’ Public Interfaces of Life Science Roundtable hosted a 2-day workshop called “When Science and Citizens Connect: Public Engagement on Genetically Modified Organisms.” The goal for this workshop was to explore and examine what we know about the interfaces between scientists and society, to better help scientists navigate those spaces and engage.  While GMOs provided a lens for the conversation, the presentations and discussions are really relevant for any scientist thinking about engagement.
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Op-Ed Writing: It’s OK To Argue For Something

Enjoying today's op-ed section in the New York Times. Image by Sarah Sunu.

This post is co-authored by COMPASS Program Associate Sarah Sunu.

Expressing perspectives, opinions or even recommendations about the implications of your science can be a bit uncomfortable, even scary. But if you want your science to be relevant and useful, you need to make sure it gets out of pages of peer-reviewed journals and into real-world discussions.  Connecting with policymakers and having an ask is one way to do this. Writing an op-ed is another great way to start to get your science, and ideas, into the public discourse.
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‘Tis the Season…to build in time for reflection.

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December, especially this week, is crunch time.  Instead of indulging in sparkling wine by the twinkling lights of my Christmas tree, I’m drinking coffee with my computer in my lap combing through elaborate spreadsheets. Because the calendar year is our fiscal year, we at COMPASS are knee deep in budgets, planning, forecasting, and administration.  Sound familiar? Perhaps your crunch time involves grading finals, submitting grades, scheduling the next term’s lectures, balancing your year-end budgets? Lots of us are drowning in what feels like a never-ending sea of things to do before we can finally put work aside for the holidays. [Read more...]

Dawn Wright: on science communication, social media, and joining our board.

Dawn Wright is a professor of Geography and Oceanography at Oregon State University, Esri's chief scientist, and COMPASS' newest board member.

This week, we welcome Dr. Dawn Wright to the COMPASS Board of Directors! Dawn’s day job (and she would probably tell you, her night and weekend job too) is the Chief Scientist at Esri. I love her story of why, after 17 years in academia, Dawn made the “escape”, as she says, to Esri. At its core, her story is really one of communication, leadership, exploration of the relevance of her science, and examination of her place in the scientific enterprise (all things we like helping scientists think about). Dawn is an amazing scientist, a generous human being, a committed communicator, a prolific tweeter and a hard-core cyclist. We couldn’t be more thrilled to welcome her to our board, so she can contribute to helping all of us at COMPASS support scientists in finding their own “so what”. [Read more...]

Top Ten Tip-lists for Sharing Your Science

The COMPASS blog offers tips for puzzling through the challenges of science communication. 
(CC BY-NC-SA by Gabriela Pinto on flickr)

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. [Read more...]

‘The Why’ before ‘The What’

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At COMPASS we spend a lot of our time helping scientists engage outside of their comfort zone. We know that speaking well about your work in an unfamiliar context is intimidating, and occasionally we get a simultaneously discomfiting and reassuring first-hand reminder of that experience. 

Last week I had the privilege of participating in my first Startup Weekend: an event that brings together diverse talents and new collaborators to work towards launching a startup in 54 hours.  In a room full of brilliant coders, software developers, and designers, I overheard conversations about the oculus, and assumed they meant the recent horror movie. I thought to myself, “I am out of my league.” What do I know about developing technology? [Read more...]

Building a Metro for Science Communication

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“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...]

Building Infrastructures to Support Scientist Engagement

Courtesy of Chad English via Twitter.

Last week, the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) Roundtable on the “Public Interfaces of the Life Sciences” (which I have the huge honor of serving on), convened a workshop to explore “The Sustainable Infrastructures for Life Science Communication.”  While our title is a mouth full, this topic is near and dear to my heart and COMPASS’ soul.

Our general premise: scientist engagement does not just happen. It takes work, support, policies, help, mechanisms, resources, and cultural acceptance, among other things. Additionally, there are barriers that make it challenging for scientists to engage – from lack of funding, to an antiquated promotion and tenure structure (at most institutions). With this in mind, our Roundtable members, invited speakers, and guests came together to explore all the things that help, support, allow, incentivize… and equally disallow or dis-incentivize scientists from engaging with various audiences or publics.

Day 1 of our gathering focused on sharing data and stories about these sustainable infrastructures for life scientists’ ability to engage. We had a full and intense day. I invite you to scroll through my Storify of  Day 1 of the Roundtable (also below) – to learn what was presented and discussed. [Read more...]

Persuasion and Influence: Dirty Words in Science Communication?

Last week we shared insights from the National Academy of Sciences’ Sackler Colloquium on the Science of Science Communication. The premise of this gathering was: if we rely on evidence for our research, why do we rely on hunches to communicate it? With this in mind, the organizers assembled a stellar group of scientists who shared data about how people process information, which is all immediately useful in effective communication and engagement. While I shared my summary of take homes last week, I wanted to also share something else the organizers did brilliantly. By bringing in speakers from business, network thinking, and consumer choice theory, they pushed our thinking about science communication. People were equally as interested as they were uncomfortable. [Read more...]