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…]

Want To Affect Policy Change? Board Your Train Of Opportunity

Are you ready to climb aboard? Image by Joe Ross, CC BY-SA 2.0.

Like increasing numbers of your colleagues, you want your science to contribute to a better world. You want to make a difference. But you’re not quite sure how to get started, and navigating the black box of the policy world can be a daunting prospect. The public discourse about the environment is teeming with opportunities for scientists to weigh in. Trains of opportunity may be passing you by. Time to pack your bags and hop aboard!
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Before You Hit ‘Send’: How To Write Effective Meeting Requests

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We’ve said it before: scientists have a lot to contribute to policy discussions.  Policymakers welcome candid, cutting-edge information, and you really are the best one to share your research because you have the passion, the knowledge, and the expertise.  Our blog has lots of tips for what to do once you’re in the room with a policymaker – from understanding your own bias and role to describing your work and field within a policy context – but how do you go about getting that meeting in the first place?

Policymakers are busy people, whether you’re seeing a congressional committee staffer in Washington, D.C. or your district representative for your state legislature, so it’s important to make your initial outreach clear, concise, and salient!
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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…]

The Agony Of The Ask

The ask is an inevitable part of any policy meeting, and an opportunity to establish your role in the conversation.
Photo courtesy of otama via flickr.

The elections yesterday mark the end of the campaign ads and the beginning of this term’s policymaking cycle. Newly (re)elected policymakers (and their staff) are setting their agendas for the next year and beyond. Whether you are building new relationships, or strengthening old ones, now is an ideal time to present yourself as a resource who can help them navigate the science on the issues that matter to them.

How do you prepare for such a meeting to ensure that it’s productive? Guides for setting up a meeting with legislators abound, and we’ve shared advice for finding your way to the right policymaker. But there’s less discussion of how to navigate a crucial piece of any meeting with a policymaker: the ask. [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…]

Lessons From The Policy Trenches

Like this camouflaged plethodontidae, the entry into a policy dialogue is easy to spot when you know what you're looking for.
Image from Minette Layne on Flickr.

Sometimes, students are the best teachers. I think this is particularly true when you’re pushing yourself beyond the boundaries of hard facts or scholarship into the realm of practice. Those who are just entering the world of policy are often more articulate about the experience than those of us who make our home there. I’m excited to highlight a great example of this, Karen Lips, a Leopold Leadership fellow who studies salamanders like lungless sallys, frogs and other (arguably) adorable amphibians. Karen wanted to help protect the animals she studies from invasive pathogens that reach wild populations via animal imports. Earlier this year we highlighted a “get-your-feet-wet” training that COMPASS did for Leopold fellows who felt they had something to offer to policy but were unsure how to get started. Karen participated in that training with fantastic results; not only has she positioned herself as a resource for policymakers working in this area, she’s enlisted her graduate students in a project that helps directly answer questions decision-makers face. [Read more…]

Your Science Is A Multi-tool

Science can be a multi-tool within the policy process; understanding what function your science is serving can make engagements more effective.

Science plays many roles in the policymaking process. Describing those roles is often harder than I expect.  While attending the North American Congress of Conservation Biology (NACCB) in July, I was introduced to a new – and helpful – description of those roles, during a talk by Stephen Posner. Stephen is a PhD candidate at the Gund Institute at the University of Vermont. Like COMPASS, the Gund Institute works at the boundary between new knowledge and emerging solutions to pressing environmental challenges. Much of their work takes place through the lens of “ecosystem services”, a way of thinking about how people’s needs, desires, and actions relate to the natural world upon which we all depend. Stephen investigates how knowledge and understanding of ecosystem services is actually used in policymaking. [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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