From one-hour conference calls to multiple-day workshops, meetings are all too often considered a necessary evil. Although bringing people together can be critical for building consensus or tackling problems that involve multiple stakeholders, many of us see meetings as stealing time from more engaging and rewarding efforts, like conducting research, writing papers, or sharing your science with new audiences. However, with a little more investment upfront, most meetings could be much more efficient and – better yet – productive. [Read more...]
About Heather Galindo
Heather Galindo put down the pipettor to become the Assistant Director of Science at COMPASS in 2010. Since then she has greatly enjoyed learning about a dizzying array of research from numerous amazing scientists.
During the past few weeks I had the opportunity to attend two conferences that had related themes and took place literally across the street from each other, but in other ways were worlds apart. First was the Ecological Society of America’s Annual Meeting (#ESA2014), which was dominated by ecological scientists sharing their research. The following week, government officials, land managers, city planners, and NGO representatives met at the first ever California Adaptation Forum (#CAF14). While both conferences explored the possibility of finding solutions by forging new connections, there was still clearly a gap between those talking about the latest research on one side of the street and those trying to figure out how to implement it on the other. [Read more...]
One of the things I loved most about being a PhD candidate was the ability to dig deep into the details (I could tell you more about barnacle genetics than anyone really should know). But there are times when it might be necessary to quickly get a handle on a scientific field beyond your own. You might be interested in finding new collaborators for an interdisciplinary project, or need to figure out where your science might fit into a slightly different theme for which there seems to be an abundance of funding opportunities. In either case, trying to assess a new scientific landscape can feel overwhelming…especially when you think about all of the work it took to master understanding of your own field. But there are ways to meet this challenge and also occasionally eat and sleep. In fact, this task of sleuthing a scientific landscape is a big part of what many of us do here at COMPASS. Hopefully, some of our collective lessons learned could make your job a bit easier:
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...]
Since March 2011, I have spent a considerable amount of time with research scientists in the ocean acidification community – attending meetings, organizing conference symposia, prepping them for policy briefings, and leading them through communication workshops. In this time, I’ve seen the breadth of research and number of scientists working on ocean acidification increase dramatically. This expansion has led to an “era of nuance,” as we noted after last year’s international gathering of 400+ ocean acidification scientists. The stark cases of how ocean chemistry impacts US West Coast oyster hatcheries now stand side-by-side with discoveries of more complex effects on marine species and what this means for things people care about (e.g. fisheries, coastal protection, cultural traditions). But what stands out is that even with this growing complexity, the community has confronted the hard scientific questions head on AND tackled the tricky communication challenges with equal enthusiasm and commitment. [Read more...]
A key aspect of being successful in making your science matter beyond the ivory tower is building relationships and knowing how to strategically navigate networks of people. Ultimately, these relationships are not about sharing data, but instead about shared connections among people. It is the trust and goodwill built up over time with colleagues, and even policymakers or journalists, which opens doors to new opportunities. But making these connections can be tricky and can often involve tough decisions about personal-professional boundaries.
I know this is something I really struggled with as a scientist and, judging by conversations with other scientists, I am far from being alone. In fact, I was overwhelmed by the diversity and depth of responses I received from scientist colleagues in response to a question on Facebook:
Where does your personal-professional comfort zone lie and what are your strategies for navigating tricky situations, either in person or via social media? [Read more...]
Recently, I rediscovered a description of my PhD research produced at a COMPASS training I attended in 2006. I deciphered my messy handwriting to find that I had used the analogy of how people move between cities to explain why I used DNA to track movements of marine plankton between populations. In both cases, understanding how many and how often individuals change locations can inform what might happen if these connections are disrupted. (Think about a freeway shutting down between San Francisco and Los Angeles.) As movement between places is reduced, so is the flow of goods and services, thereby isolating populations.
It turns out that my early attempts at finding the “so what” of my science used the very same tool that we still use at COMPASS today: The Message Box. At all COMPASS trainings (which typically range from half-day to three-day events), the Message Box is how we help scientists distill their science into the most essential and intriguing pieces. These are the key ideas with which you can build a firm foundation of understanding about your research in conversation with almost any audience. It’s not about dumbing anything down. Instead, the Message Box illuminates the heart of your science and inspires your audience to want to learn more. [Read more...]
Our week here at COMPASS began with the excitement of our commentary piece coming out in PLOS Biology, but is ending on an even higher note. Many scientists we’ve worked with are stepping up to share personal stories of engagement. There have been stories of how:
- Reaching out via both traditional (Don Boesch) and social (Isabelle Côté) media can open up new opportunities for connecting science to policy
- Future effective engagement of scientists outside academia relies on cultural change regarding time management (Jessica Hellman, Jim Cloern) and restructuring institutional incentives (Chris Buddle)
- Becoming better at engaging sometimes means leaving the ivory tower for training in another field (Ryan Kelly) or pursuing science at a for-profit company (Dawn Wright)
- Doing good science and reflecting on what works and what doesn’t is a critical part of the path to engagement (Simon Donner, Heather Leslie)
- Above all, it is not science alone, but also hope that inspires people to act (Alan Townsend, Steve Palumbi)
This is part of a growing trend of scientists being willing to be present as characters in the story. Efforts like Looks Like Science or The Secret Life of Scientists & Engineers, highlight how valuable it can be to share personal stories of who we are, why we do what we do, and why it matters. All of us at COMPASS continue to be inspired by these stories and the scientists who share them. And we can’t wait to see what’s next…
As a research scientist, my attention to detail and obsession with being thorough were clear assets. Every project was meticulously planned and every data point double-checked. But now that my job involves being able to track the latest science across a huge range of topics, in addition to shifting policy and social contexts, these assets can sometimes weigh me down. I’ve had to come up from the depths and get better at skimming the surface (in marine biology terms, more snorkeling and less SCUBA). But with an unwieldy amount of information coming at me from a variety of outlets, even navigating the surface waters can be tricky. So this year, I’ve decided on a plan of attack to get my personal information management (PIM) in order. [Read more...]
When people are asked about their greatest fears, many often include public speaking. Something about looking out into a sea of faces hanging on your every word is universally terrifying. However, for me, it is the idea of a practice talk that causes borderline panic – although I’m only looking out into a small pond of faces, they are all intently focused on what I am doing wrong and how to fix it. But here’s the thing: Public talks don’t scare me. Why? Because I am ready. And why am I ready? Because I have worked really hard to prepare.
Whether it’s a legislative briefing or a AAAS symposium, COMPASS requires the scientists we work with to commit to putting in the preparation time. Although we often work with already accomplished speakers, it still takes planning to make sure there is cohesion among multiple talks. After all, even talented musicians must rehearse before playing their first gig together. In the words of UC Santa Cruz marine ecologist Mark Carr, “The COMPASS prep calls prior to our panel presentation really helped to focus the messages of my presentation and linked my presentation with others to make a more cohesive suite of presentations and stronger messages.”
Our prep process generally involves lots of back-and-forth over email, as well as 2-3 conference calls with everyone participating in the event. As we evolve from setting the goals and framing everyone’s talks to dress rehearsals, scientists tend to go through the following three stages: [Read more...]