Leading By Example: Communication Lessons Learned From Gulf of Mexico Scientists

Dr. Natalia Sidorovskaia.

In January, right after the holidays, Nancy Baron and I traveled to New Orleans to work with the leaders from the Gulf of Mexico Research Initiative (GoMRI) – a 10-year research program to investigate and understand the effect of oil spills on the environment and public health. The Gulf is the focus of a lot of investment in research these days, and these scientists are at the forefront, studying the effect of oil spills on the natural and human environment. This training brought together the Principal Investigators for the GoMRI Consortia, as well as several of the Research Board Members. These scientists are studying how oil and dispersants move in the ocean, the role of microbes in the reduction of oil, and the health of the marine and human communities around the Gulf, among other topics. [Read more…]

Briefing Debrief: ‘Shoring Up’ Scientists Share Their Perspectives On Visiting The Hill

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As many of our readers know, COMPASS works with scientists to help them share their work with the wider world – especially journalists and policymakers. Last week, COMPASS worked with the American Meteorological Society to bring four researchers to Capitol Hill to talk about the role of natural infrastructure in coastal protection.

This week marks the anniversary of Hurricane Sandy, an event that catalyzed new federal investments and directives to understand how to build economic, community and ecological resilience for our nation’s coasts – efforts that have begun to bear fruit. This briefing brought together researchers to discuss the state of the science and our understanding of the benefits and trade-offs of using natural and nature-based approaches to enhance coastal resilience. See our previous blog post for more details.

As with all COMPASS policy events, our goal was to create an opportunity for the scientists to share what they know – and why it matters – with policymakers and to build relationships as trusted resources going forward.

Part of the fun is to hear from scientists what their experience was like. We asked them all a few questions about the day, and share some of their responses below.
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Stories, Science, And The Sea: Sharing At IMCC

A little over a year ago, eight scientists stepped out of their comfort zones and took to the stage to share a piece of their worlds. Without leaving a dark auditorium in Glasgow, we were transported to a fish spawning site in Australia, a night dive full of glowing plankton in the Philippines, a reef rescue mission in the Seychelles and a lionfish hunt in the Caribbean. We heard of the experiences that inspired a scientist to start a non-profit organization that raises awareness of the importance and vulnerability of fish aggregations, and how another scientist gained the trust of local fishers to get a more complete picture of the community and ecosystem in which she was working.
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Sea Sick: A Capitol Hill Briefing On Marine Disease

Photo courtesy of Ken-ichi Ueda via Flickr

Next week, COMPASS is supporting scientists studying the causes and consequences of marine disease to share and discuss the science with federal policymakers. This event is part of our connecting work – where our goal is to foster dialogue between scientists and policymakers on salient topics. We hope you can join us next week! [Read more…]

Prepare To Engage At AAAS 2016

WhitePixel

Screen Shot 2015-04-02 at 10.54.55 AMWe are beginning to see the first few signs of spring here in Washington D.C. and are eagerly anticipating the famed cherry blossoms. It’s also the time of year to prepare for the annual American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) conference. In 2016, it will be held in Washington D.C. from February 11-15. As you might be aware, the submission deadline for sessions is Friday April 24, 2015. Over the next three weeks, we hope you consider proposing a session or planning to attend. [Read more…]

Learning By Doing: Insights From Meetings With Decision-Makers

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The conference room this past Sunday was full of nervous excitement, tinged with the tiredness that comes from a long day. Chad English and I had just spent an afternoon with the Switzer Environmental Fellows, practicing and preparing for their meetings with decision-makers in the morning. It was the wrap up of a two-month process, and the first time that many of them had shared their research in the context of policy.  As the fellows filtered out of the room, we answered lots of questions, from complicated ones about the role of advocacy in science advising, to more straightforward ones about what to wear and how long it would take to get to the meeting.
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Want to Get Policymakers Engaged With Your Field of Research? Integrate Them Into Your Scientific Conference

Panelists from left to right: 
Michael Curley, Environmental Law Institute
David Batker, Earth Economics
Jody Springer, Federal Emergency Management Agency   
Mary Ruckelshaus, Natural Capital Project, Stanford University
Mary Erickson, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration
Laura Petes, White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, Moderator

This post is co-authored by COMPASS Director of Science Policy Outreach Chad English.

Scientific conferences are hotspots for researchers to come together to share their latest discoveries, form new collaborations, and glean new insights from one another. But traditional conferences can also be very insular affairs, where researchers geek out with one another and non-experts find it practically impossible to glean much value from the proceedings. For scientific communities that want to see their science used by society, we think the benefits of engaging policymakers are clear.  When done well, the very audiences you most want to share your science with become engaged participants and help shape both the formal talks and informal side-conversations throughout the conference.  So, what does it take to recast conferences as opportunities to integrate external audiences into these discussions? What does it take to engage policymakers effectively? [Read more…]

Cracking The Capitol Hill Nut

Tourists aren't the only ones who need guidance on Capitol Hill. These tips will help you make your meetings with staff efficient and productive. Image courtesy of fensterbme on flickr.

Washington D.C. often gets a reputation for being opaque, with lots of rules and unspoken customs for how things are done.  It’s true that D.C. has its own culture, and Capitol Hill especially can feel like its own world. My experience is that there are many dedicated staff on Capitol Hill who want to understand the best science available and how it can help them develop the best policies – but they have limited time and a number of diverse issues on their plate.  Reaching out and making your science available in an accessible way is essential to making your voice and your science heard.  [Read more…]

Connecting At NACCB

Our "Tapas" plenary is one of the ways COMPASS is looking to connect emerging science to  public discourse. Photo credit: Megan Dearden

This post is co-authored by COMPASS Director of Science Policy Outreach Chad English.

The COMPASS team is in Missoula, Montana this week for the 2014 North American Congress for Conservation Biology (NACCB). Our plenary “Tapas” and the reception that followed kicked off myriad conversations between scientists and journalists. There were conversations about pikas and the Endangered Species Act, about endangered primates, as well as innovative efforts to engage stakeholders in discussions about what a changing climate will mean.

For us, conferences are about making connections: with people, with ideas, and between communities. One of our core activities is sleuthing new science, to identify ideas and insights that are not yet well connected to the public discourse, and brokering connections that can transform the conversation. Sometimes those connections are amongst peers. Sometimes those connections are with journalists. And sometimes they’re in the world of policy. [Read more…]

Navigating The Boundary

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I’m excited to be writing my first blog post as a new member of the COMPASS team. I joined COMPASS two months ago, and one of the facets of work here that I’m particularly excited by is COMPASS’ role as a boundary organization. Boundary organizations are so named because they sit at the “boundary” between science and non-science. COMPASS has traditionally helped scientists navigate across the boundaries separating science from policy and media, although we are increasingly exploring ways we can support scientists to cross boundaries to connect with business, legal and other communities as well.  A relatively new term, the definition and theory of “boundary organizations” began to coalesce in the early 2000s, but the role that boundary organizations play – the seat between science and non-science – has been evolving over a much longer timescale.

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