Dawn Wright: on science communication, social media, and joining our board.

Dawn Wright is a professor of Geography and Oceanography at Oregon State University, Esri's chief scientist, and COMPASS' newest board member.

This week, we welcome Dr. Dawn Wright to the COMPASS Board of Directors! Dawn’s day job (and she would probably tell you, her night and weekend job too) is the Chief Scientist at Esri. I love her story of why, after 17 years in academia, Dawn made the “escape”, as she says, to Esri. At its core, her story is really one of communication, leadership, exploration of the relevance of her science, and examination of her place in the scientific enterprise (all things we like helping scientists think about). Dawn is an amazing scientist, a generous human being, a committed communicator, a prolific tweeter and a hard-core cyclist. We couldn’t be more thrilled to welcome her to our board, so she can contribute to helping all of us at COMPASS support scientists in finding their own “so what”. [Read more...]

Making Peace with Self Promotion


I prepare for writing projects as if they are adventures, so when I sat down to write a book chapter this spring, I was excited. The topic was self-promotion in social media, for the forthcoming The Complete Guide to Science Blogging, made possible by an NASW Ideas Grant. My coffee was hot, my playlist was inspired, and my background research had me buzzing… but before I started writing, I first saved the tweet I would post when I submitted: [Read more...]

ScienceOnline Climate


Ah, logistics. WiFi, websites, sponsors, speakers, travel, venues, sound, and food – planning a meeting means dozens of details need constant attention. And yet, if we’ve done our work well, these all fade into the background as an event comes to life. There’s something magical about creating a space for conversations to unfold and genuine connections to take root, and I am delighted to have been a part of what we created at ScienceOnline Climate.

ScioClimate, as we call it, was a conference that took place in Washington, D.C. August 15-17. Thanks to professional development support from COMPASS, I was able to join Jamie Vernon and Karyn Traphagen as a co-organizer. But ScioClimate is not over because it’s much more than just a meeting – it’s a community of people coalescing around issues of how we improve climate science conversations online. Our intent is to go far beyond tactical discussions about how to share research results, and instead to explore the art, science, rhetoric, politics, philosophy, emotion, and practicalities of tackling unprecedented global change.

Nothing sums up my experience at the event better than this tweet by Mark Westneat:

[Read more...]

Our News and Information Diets: The Problem with Picky Eaters

Prior to each of our communication trainings, COMPASS asks the participating scientists, “Where do you get your news?” It’s an open-ended question*, but the answers are almost always the same – they listen to NPR, read the New York Times, and watch the Daily Show. (*to clarify: asked in a confidential written survey)

Fair enough! NPR was the exclusive soundtrack to my years at the lab bench, what about you?
Wordle [Read more...]

Blogging, science online, and ScienceOnline

MailChimp Graphic

“Find your voice, find your niche, find your community. And don’t forget why you got started.”

This powerful advice was the closing note of last week’s ScienceOnlineSeattle event on science blogging.

ScienceOnlineSeattle is a monthly discussion series devoted to exploring all the ways in which the internet and social media are changing the nature of how we do and share science. February’s session was devoted to the art of blogging, and I was thrilled to moderate an outstanding panel of science and environment bloggers featuring Alan Boyle of Cosmic Log, Brendan DeMelle of DeSmogBlog, Sandra Porter of DigitalBio, and Adrienne Roehrich of Double X Science. Together we explored the hows and whys of the work involved in maintaining a successful blog. The conversation began with introductions and getting to know the people behind the personas, moved into the craft and mechanics of blogging, and ended on big picture questions. We shared resources, named favorites in the blogosphere, and discussed the challenges and what ultimately keeps us going through the tough spots. But it wasn’t just about the information the featured panelists had to share… [Read more...]

Tackling “Tweet This Maybe?”: How-To & Resources


This post is a follow-up to Monday’s story of how a single tweet can make a difference in the total audience of a blog post.

When I open Google and begin to type “How to promote yourself,” the very first hit is: “How to promote yourself (without being sleazy).” My first page of results also includes “How to promote yourself without being a jerk,” and, “How to promote yourself without talking about yourself.” Suffice to say that if the prospect of having to work at getting your work seen and shared feels uncomfortable, you are in good company.

Most of us wish our work would be discovered and discussed by its own merits. Unfortunately, thanks to the pace and sheer volume of conversations online, that’s not how it actually goes. So, you can keep wishing the world worked differently, or you can accept that, for most of us, the discomfort of self-promotion is the price of visibility. As I wrote on Monday: “It’s better to think of this promotion as standing up for your ideas. Are they worth it? Then go to work for them.”

So how do you do that, exactly? [Read more...]

“So Tweet This, Maybe?” – Promoting Your Work in Social Media


Some people are easier to ignore than others. At an animated 6’6”, freelance writer Erik Vance is hard to miss in a crowd, and impossible to ignore when he’s poking your shoulder at the AAAS meeting, asking why you haven’t tweeted his latest story. My friend, you see, was finally ready to “get into this whole twitter thing.”

The truth was, even though the Last Word on Nothing is a blog I love, and he’s a writer I tend to follow, I hadn’t read it. In fact, I didn’t know the post existed. [Read more...]

Wading into a Conference Tweet-Stream


The author tends to pair her mid-air tweeting with Ginger Ale.

The flight attendant just rather ominously announced that the third and final beverage service is underway, snapping me back to the reality of seat 27F. With an empty middle seat and strong wifi, I’d lost track of time, catching up on emails and keeping tabs on the conference I’d just left – the American Geophysical Union (AGU)’s annual fall meeting – still in full swing.

This year, AGU had more than 22,000 attendees – a new record for them, and a tremendous opportunity for networking and catching up on some of the latest and greatest earth, ocean, and climate science out there. For me, each day was an inspiring but intense sprint between sessions, meetings, social events, and more, chaos only held at bay by rigorous scheduling underpinned by great technology. My secret weapon? Twitter. [Read more...]

Social Media and Quiz!

In advance of a recent COMPASS communication training for university faculty, I gathered responses to the question: Do you use social media such as Twitter and Facebook?  Here’s a representative sample of their answers:
•    No
•    No blogs or social media
•    No, I do not use any of the social media mentioned above
•    No
•    I have a twitter account but do not use it
•    I do not read blogs and do not use social media
•    Not really [Read more...]

Dancing with Data at ScienceOnlineSeattle

Do we wilt under the dim glow of mobile devices? Photo by Phil Todelano for the Atlantic

On the grand list of things to worry about, the internet is rarely far from our minds. We brood about privacy, security, and access, and we agonize over whether social media is guilty of making us lonely, reinforcing fast, lazy thinking, and damaging our relationships with each other and the real world.

It’s no surprise that many scientists are skeptical about the utility of social media, and disinclined to invest the energy in exploring how they might use it, right? Why would anyone add yet one more thing – with questionable return on investment – to our grinding workloads?

At COMPASS, we spend a lot of time thinking about mobilizing science and supporting culture change, and I think it helps to start by asking: what do I get out of this? How does it support or improve the hard work I already am doing? In my experience, social media is not just changing the way we can share finished research results, but it’s changing the way we do the work of science. [Read more...]