Conference Season

COMPASS Journalist Fellows onstage at the 2015 Biennial Society for Marine Mammalogy Conference.

As schools let out and the days grow longer and hotter in the Northern Hemisphere, the busy buzz of the summer field season is often punctuated by a flurry of scientific conferences.

Conferences are great places to work on your communication, share your science, and connect with new people. They can be exhilarating and exhausting, stimulating and stupefying, optimistic and overwhelming – but don’t forget to incorporate ways to improve your communication skills and work toward your communication goals. This week, we’re sharing our top tips to help you communicate at conferences. [Read more…]

Straight From The Scientist: Marissa McMahan

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This post was co-authored by Heather Mannix, COMPASS Assistant Director of Policy Engagement, and Meg Gilley, COMPASS Policy Engagement Specialist.

Earlier this spring, COMPASS led a policy communications training for the Switzer Fellows in Washington, D.C. that included practicing communication skills and learning about the world of policymakers, and was capped by meetings with policymakers on Capitol Hill. The Switzer Fellowship, a program of the Robert and Patricia Switzer Foundation, provides academic support, leadership training, and professional development opportunities for graduate students studying environmental fields in New England and California. We caught up with Marissa McMahan, a graduate student at Northeastern University who is studying the northern range expansion of black sea bass and how that affects both human and ecological systems in the Gulf of Maine, to hear more about her experience in D.C. [Read more…]

Highlighting Our #SciComm Advice: An Interview With The Forestry Source

Andrea Watt's Message Box from the

Our executive director, Brooke Smith, was interviewed by Andrea Watts for the May 2016 issue of The Forestry Source, a publication by the Society of American Foresters. This wide-ranging Q&A shares some of our tips, insights on working with media, thoughts about science and advocacy, a bit of our history, and inspiration for starting to engage. This was particularly fun because Andrea had participated in a COMPASS training when she was a graduate student at the University of Washington – she still has her message box from that training, which we are excited to share here! Enjoy. [Read more…]

Making Communication Accessible

Barbara in the field.

We’re excited to share stories from scientists in their own words. This guest post is by Barbara Spiecker, a graduate student at Oregon State University (OSU). Barbara recently participated in a ‘Making Your Science Matter’ graduate seminar I teach each winter at OSU. Our staff, past and present, provide services such as graduate courses, seminars, and 1:1 coaching to their home institutions (e.g., National Center for Ecological Analysis and Synthesis [NCEAS], OSU, and University of Washington) in exchange for office space. This year, I added a new element to the course – a capstone project. Students could choose to put their learning into practice in any form they liked – through websites, blogs, dance, radio, video, K-12 outreach. They blew me away with their passion, creativity, and willingness to share their why’s. Barbara created an inspiring video for More Than Scientists. Here’s her story.

Karen McLeod, COMPASS’ Managing Director [Read more…]

Thinking About Your Communication Goals And Objectives: An Interview With John Besley And Anthony Dudo

Chart from PLOS One paper showing how different communication objectives for scientists rank against each other. The point, Dudo and Besley say, is not how objectives rank but rather, that establishing clear objectives in service of your ultimate goals - whatever they may be - is most important.

I recently had the opportunity to talk with John Besley (Michigan State) and Anthony Dudo (University of Texas at Austin), two social scientists interested in the intersection of science, public engagement and communications. Their recent PLOS One paper described how scientists prioritize their communications objectives for public engagement. John and Anthony, both housed in in their institutions’ advertising and public relations departments, are working to help us understand the interfaces between scientists and the public. I had the privilege of talking with them about their work, motivations, and why scientists who are working to engage should care about their research. [Read more…]

Pulling Back The Curtain At Oregon State University

Journalists Chris Joyce, Ed Jahn, Nicola Jones, and Ashley Ahearn at OSU. Image by Karen McLeod.

This post is co-authored by Sarah Sunu, and based on a panel moderated by Nancy Baron at Oregon State University on March 9, 2016. 

Culture is an important, but sometimes overlooked, aspect of communication. Understanding the behaviors, beliefs, and norms of your audience can (and should!) change how you talk about your own work. One key reason COMPASS brings journalists and policymakers to our communication trainings is to give scientists a window into their worlds. [Read more…]

Tessa Hill: We need to talk (about science)

Inscription on the wall of the National Academies Keck building, Washington, D.C.
This post was originally published on Medium on March 9, 2016. It is re-posted here with the permission of the author.

Tessa Hill is an Associate Professor at University of California, Davis studying ocean biogeochemistry. She is a AAAS Public Engagement Fellow and teaches courses on oceanography, climate science and science communication.

I recently offered a course at UC Davis on Science Communication (specifically targeting Ocean, Climate, and Environmental Science) with a genuinely exceptional group of graduate students. During the course, we hosted eight outside experts working in communications, policy, and media to chat with our class. We also read an excellent book, used available online resources (this, and this for example), pored over several examples of great #SciComm, practiced mock interviews and policy briefings, and even recorded our own in-class podcast. When I look back at recurrent themes and advice, what just kept popping to the surface? Read on. [Read more…]

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…]

Getting Out There: Connecting With Journalists At Conferences

Nancy Baron

This post reflects media expertise on our team from Nancy Baron, Brooke Smith, and Amy Mathews Amos.

Have you ever found yourself at a conference, and noticed that the person sitting next to you in a session or waiting in line behind you at the coffee station had “PRESS” on their name tag? Next time you do, introduce yourself! It’s a pleasant change for journalists to have scientists actually approach them. Even if it doesn’t necessarily lead to coverage of your work, it will almost certainly be an interesting conversation and a valuable connection.

Large scientific conferences (like the upcoming AAAS Annual Meeting) tend to attract press –it’s a great way to meet a bunch of experts in the field in one place. If you’re headed to Washington, D.C. next week to attend AAAS, or will be attending another conference where press may be present, we have some pointers to help you navigate your way to journalists (see also our tips on finding your way to policymakers while you’re in D.C. or another policy hub). [Read more…]

Getting Out There: Making The Most Of Your Networks And Travels

Image by Meg Gilley.

Most of us have found ourselves in a new city for work or a conference, but how often have you taken advantage of the location to meet new people and expand your network? Maybe you’re planning to attend the AAAS Annual Meeting in February and you’re traveling all the way to Washington, D.C. This is a great opportunity to network and start to build relationships in the policy world.

[Read more…]