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...]
At the 2012 AAAS Annual Meeting in Vancouver B.C., I attended the “Good Science, Good Communication: Talking to the Media and the Public“ session. I was uncomfortably squished between two attendees, but we were lucky to be on the inside. People were five rows deep in the hallway, shushing passersby, in desperate attempts to hear the speakers. (Overflowing rooms in science communication talks at the major conferences we attend seems to be the rule rather than the exception these days.) The discussion period opened with what felt like half the hands in the room shooting into the air, waving with urgency and enthusiasm. One of the few lucky enough to be called on made a powerful statement: “I know it’s hard to do this, to find the time or even the courage to communicate outside academia – but if there is one thing we can all do, it’s to be supportive of our peers that do choose to communicate, and choose to get out there.”
We support you.
Effectively engaging outside of academia demands considerable time, commitment, and practice. For the past decade, COMPASS has worked to support scientists who are ready to make that investment. We know it’s scary. We also know that increasing numbers of you want to do it. And we know, for those of you already involved, that it is rewarding. It makes a difference.
Today, the COMPASS team published a paper in PLOS Biology called “Navigating the Rules of Scientific Engagement”. It traces our own arc of supporting scientists from ‘outreach’ (simply broadcasting a clear message) to meaningful, multi-directional engagement. Ultimately we believe that engaging outside academia is rewarding, but also that it should be rewarded. [Read more...]
I once heard healthy organizations are constantly changing. This means effective leaders are not only agents of change but are also change managers. As the Executive Director of a science communication organization, this philosophy has become a mantra for me as I strive to keep our organization healthy. Because we operate at the nexus of the quickly moving worlds of science, media and policy, recognizing that embracing and adapting to change is the norm means that it’s OK that this is part of our daily work too. Embracing change has liberated me. [Read more...]
As we’ve shared here, we are excited, energetic, (and a little bit nervous) to be expanding our traditional scope beyond ocean science, to science and scientists more broadly connected to the relationship between people and planet. We spent the better part of 2012 interviewing, researching, and digging into what we have done already and how the COMPASS approach could apply more broadly.
In our exploratory conversations with leaders from science, government, NGOs, and the media world, we received – often unsolicited – feedback on potential connections between scientists and the business community. “That is where the really transformative stuff happens,” we heard.
This message resonated with us. A changing climate, water supply, or weather system can affect business processes and decisions, and of course, bottom lines. Forbes recently reported on how businesses can be more resilient to climate change – and how taking these steps also represent good business decisions. We recognize that it’s time for us to look into whether we have a role at the boundary between science and business. [Read more...]
Every year my husband and I spend New Year’s dinner talking about our previous year: What were our goals, our highlights, how did we do? In addition to patting myself on the back for successfully getting to Pilates classes more regularly, I also found myself proudly recounting COMPASS’ evolution this year. COMPASS’ goal for 2012 was to explore the possibilities of expanding our communications savoir-faire beyond ocean science, to develop a plan and roadmap for what this might look like. We all felt excited and energized at this potential but we also felt some angst and trepidation. But now, a year out, we can look back and say we’ve come a long, long way and have successfully defined and aligned behind a vision of what our future looks like. And, with all of 2013 in front of us, our next goal is equally one-part thrilling and one-part daunting: retool our organization and expand our capacity to achieve this new vision. [Read more...]
Pop quiz – pick one and only one answer:
Hurricane Sandy is related to: a) weather, b) climate, c) oceans, d) public safety
Ocean acidification is an issue related to: a) oceans, b) carbon, c) agriculture, d) food security
Marine debris is an issue related to: a) oceans, b) consumption, c) population, d) health
Marine aquaculture is an issue related to: a) oceans, b) food security, c) agriculture, d) social equity [Read more...]
* denotes a link that directs to a PDF
In 1997, the National Science Foundation (NSF) established the Broader Impacts section* for all funding proposals, which requires scientists to explain how their proposed work advances societal needs and the field of science generally. This section has been applauded, dismissed, criticized, and even satirized. I think the section’s creation was a good first step. While it addresses many things from education to diversity (perhaps too many, according to the critics), it also prompts an important question: “So What?” Why does this science matter to society, what’s the scientific merit that justifies using tax dollars to pay for this research, and how will its merit be shared outside academia? [Read more...]
I get the following phone call frequently:
“Hi, I am from [insert conservation advocacy or campaign here]. Congress is considering landmark legislation right now; this could be the most important hearing in history. Our grandchildren will live better lives if this legislation passes. It will allow polar bears to flourish, panda bears to proliferate, and bring water back to the Colorado. It will provide jobs. This bill will pass IF you can get me a scientist to come to the hearing in three days, and say [insert explicit support for policy the organization wants passed]?”
Our answer to this question is always “no.”
Last week I gave a webinar to the Consultative Group on Biodiversity – a collaborative of foundations making grants on environmental issues – on the topic of “the role of science in campaigns.” I leapt at this opportunity, a chance to clarify our stance; something that I know frustrates many.
Whether it’s COMPASS, those involved in advancing policy agendas, or the scientists they seek, it’s all about credibility. Credibility, which has objective and subjective components, is really about how believable any of us are as a source. We each define our own unique ‘credibility currency’- the characteristics that allow us to uphold our trustworthiness and expertise. [Read more...]
When I interview prospective job candidates I am often asked, “How did you end up at COMPASS?” I love this question. If one of my colleagues is conducting the interview with me, they’ll smirk knowing I’m sitting up in my chair ready to unload anecdotes and inspirations in response. Every one on our team has very different stories, but they share the same beginning and the same end. They start with “well, I thought I wanted to be a scientist….” And end with, “…and then I found COMPASS.”
For me, well, I thought I wanted to be a scientist. During my studies, I gravitated toward ecology; I’m a sucker for connections and systems. But the more I learned about ecological science, the more I found myself asking “so what?” (this has become one of our favorite questions here at COMPASS). What does this information mean in the wider world? Who uses it? It seems like it should inform some choices we’re making as a society – but does it?
Like many others, I went on to work in environmental policy assuming that this must be where the science connections happened. But, when I was immersed in policy, I felt pulled back to science and vice versa. So I found myself bouncing back and forth: from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to consulting firm Booz Allen and Hamilton in Washington DC to Oregon State University, to the Marine Conservation Biology Institute back in Washington DC, and then to PISCO (the Partnership for Interdisciplinary Studies of Costal Oceans – yup, back at Oregon State University)… then I found COMPASS.
While the specific stops on my professional journey are unique to me, we’ve all had a journey of some sort. Our small team’s collective professional journey include stops at the House Science Committee, the Senate Commerce Committee, journalism in print, radio and television, National Parks, Science magazine, the Vancouver Aquarium, academic research labs, consulting firms, NGOs, National Geographic, and in positions leading natural history ecotours around the world and working as an observer on commercial fishing boats… eventually, we all found COMPASS.
We are a boundary organization, made up of boundary individuals – we sit in the middle of the science, policy and media worlds. We work to connect people and ideas across these boundaries, and even within these boundaries. We are effective because we have actually been citizens of the communities we’re connecting. We understand the content and appreciate the cultures of these circles and are connected to their leaders. We can scan the entire landscape for individuals and ideas, creating tangible places and events for connections to form. We aspire to be generous and put connectors and connections before ourselves, thinking big, but ultimately planning and executing with precision and detail.
As I answer in the interviews, there is no one path to COMPASS. The diversity of paths in and out of the science, policy, and media cultures – coupled with an intuitive ability to bridge the boundaries – is what COMPASS is all about. We all started with a passion for science, journeyed through other experiences (including becoming scientists), and ended up at COMPASS where we can follow our passion for the role science can play when connected well and communicated honestly.
We’re launching this blog to share a window into our world – a look under the hood of our science communications vehicle. Come back here to read and watch what we have to say about how we’ve shaped – and how we are evolving – this boundary space. And, to hear from people we’re ferrying across these boundaries. We look forward to sharing what we’ve learned, hearing what you think, and making new connections with you.