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…]

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…]

Putting Our Principles Into Practice

Stephen presenting results in his dissertation defense.

I recently published a paper in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. It was the result of many months of research, but also an opportunity to learn what it’s like to be a scientist communicating about my research and engaging in public discourse about the environment. These lessons will serve me well as I create the conditions for other scientists to shine and to talk in clear and compelling ways about what their research means to policymakers. [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…]

Find Your Way Down The Slopes Of Engagement

Confidence and competence on the slopes of Mt. Hood, Oregon. Both are as vital to #scicomm as they are to skiing.

This winter, I’ve had the privilege to witness a bunch of kids learning to ski (admittedly, while finally truly learning to ski myself). While supporting my daughters – one a future Bode Miller downhill-bomber, and one who’s slightly more cautious but still a strong skier – I was struck by the many parallels (pun intended) between learning to ski and learning to engage beyond your peers. [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…]

Mining Science for Stories: The Value of Journalist Fellows at the Society for Marine Mammalogy Meeting 2015 (#MARMAM15)

The SMM 2015 COMPASS Journalist Fellows introduce themselves to the conference. Photo by COMPASS staff.

What happens when you offer an opportunity for 14 journalists to rub shoulders with 2,500 scientists at the world’s premier conference of marine mammal science? To aid and abet connections between them, we designed opportunities for the scientists and journalists to interact and engage so that journalists could find great stories to share with the wider world. But how do you measure the value of an effort like this? [Read more…]

Do You Want Your Research To Change The World?

Society for Marine Mammalogy  2015 Conference panel "How To Make Your Science Matter." Panelists from left to right: Ken Weiss, David Malakoff, Charles Littnan, Marcia McNutt, Nick Gales, Jane Lubchenco, with Nancy Baron moderating.

At the 21st Biennial Conference on the Biology of Marine Mammals held last week, I  stood in front of a vast conference hall before a sea of faces. It’s hard to know your audience with a group this size. Yet my task was to try reach every one of them as the moderator of a COMPASS panel featuring scientists and journalists, called “How To Make Your Science Matter.”

To take the temperature in the room, I asked everyone in the auditorium a personal question: “Do you want your research to change the world? If the answer is yes, stand up.” Some 2,500 researchers, students, and managers sprang to their feet. I could not see a single person sitting.

[Read more…]

COMPASS At SMM 2015

San Francisco, image by Michael Craven (CC BY 2.0).

Next week, over 2,200 scientists will come together in San Francisco, CA for the Society for Marine Mammalogy’s 21st Biennial Conference on the Biology of Marine Mammals—and this year, they will be joined by an impressive group of fourteen journalists. These journalists have been awarded COMPASS travel fellowships to attend the conference and be a part of an intense week of engaging with scientists, hearing the latest research about marine mammals as sentinels of ocean issues, and ultimately sharing these stories with the wider world. [Read more…]