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…]

Prepare To Engage At AAAS 2016


Screen Shot 2015-04-02 at 10.54.55 AMWe are beginning to see the first few signs of spring here in Washington D.C. and are eagerly anticipating the famed cherry blossoms. It’s also the time of year to prepare for the annual American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) conference. In 2016, it will be held in Washington D.C. from February 11-15. As you might be aware, the submission deadline for sessions is Friday April 24, 2015. Over the next three weeks, we hope you consider proposing a session or planning to attend. [Read more…]

Going Public: What Do We Know About Our Investment In Science Communication?


At this year’s AAAS annual meeting, the volume of sessions and workshops about science communications clearly reflected the community’s growing appetite and interest.  We’re notably moving past conversations about why scientists need to engage, and into conversations around how we can best support scientists to do so. Research shows that scientists do want to engage, but that they don’t have the time or resources to do it.

[Read more…]

Sharing Our Stories Of Scientific Engagement


At the 2012 AAAS Annual Meeting in Vancouver B.C., I attended the “Good Science, Good Communication: Talking to the Media and the Public“ session. I was uncomfortably squished between two attendees, but we were lucky to be on the inside. People were five rows deep in the hallway, shushing passersby, in desperate attempts to hear the speakers. (Overflowing rooms in science communication talks at the major conferences we attend seems to be the rule rather than the exception these days.) The discussion period opened with what felt like half the hands in the room shooting into the air, waving with urgency and enthusiasm. One of the few lucky enough to be called on made a powerful statement: “I know it’s hard to do this, to find the time or even the courage to communicate outside academia – but if there is one thing we can all do, it’s to be supportive of our peers that do choose to communicate, and choose to get out there.”

We agree.

We support you.

2013-02-15 14.13.05

View from the stage in our 2013 AAAS session “A New Social (Media) Contract for Science”. These overcrowded rooms show the enormous appetite for conversations about science communication. Please jump in online this week with your questions, experiences, and insights. #reachingoutsci. Photo: Karyn Traphagen, 2013

Effectively engaging outside of academia demands considerable time, commitment, and practice. For the past decade, COMPASS has worked to support scientists who are ready to make that investment. We know it’s scary. We also know that increasing numbers of you want to do it. And we know, for those of you already involved, that it is rewarding. It makes a difference.

Today, the COMPASS team published a paper in PLOS Biology called “Navigating the Rules of Scientific Engagement”. It traces our own arc of supporting scientists from ‘outreach’ (simply broadcasting a clear message) to meaningful, multi-directional engagement. Ultimately we believe that engaging outside academia is rewarding, but also that it should be rewarded. [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…]

Why Everybody Needs A Prep Talk

After considerable preparation, Dr. Mark Carr, Dr. Anke Mueller-Solger, and Dan Yparraguirre present their talks on long-term monitoring and adaptive management before an eager audience.

Photo by Chad English.

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…]

2/15/13 Link Round-Up

Photo courtesy of 'Ravages' via Flickr.

It has now been a little bit less than two weeks since the end of the ScienceOnline conference, and the attendees have since moved on to cover other happenings and events.  I’m learning that a unique aspect of the energy and thinking sparked at Science Online is that the ideas and conversation often strengthen in the weeks and months following. No doubt that energy will flow into this week’s AAAS meeting, where many ScienceOnline attendees are now in Boston including several of our own COMPASS members… they are preparing to lead and moderate sessions, live tweeting, and joining colleagues new and old for dinner or drinks (if you’re on Twitter, follow #AAASmtg – trending as we type! – and our COMPASS attendees at @LizNeeley, @KOMcleod, @ChadEnglish, and @GoldmanE). Below we have rounded up some of the continued thinking from ScienceOnline, as well as some other advice on science communication, funding, and more.   [Read more…]

AAAS 2013 – The Beauty And Benefits Of A Network

The AAAS Meeting will be held in Boston this week. 

Photo of the Boston Skyline courtesy of: Werner Kunz via Flickr.

As Boston digs out from this weekend’s historic nor’easter, the city is experiencing a second, rather different type of accumulation event. As they do every year (though the location varies), thousands of scientists and hundreds of journalists from around the world convene for the annual American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) meeting. This year the theme, “The Beauty and Benefits of Science,” encourages participants to think about not only the aesthetic pleasure of pure understanding, but also the practical value of applied knowledge. If you know us, you know it’s a very appealing theme for COMPASS!

This year, I’ll be attending along with Chad English, Karen McLeod, and Erica Goldman. We’ll be sitting in, and sometimes live-tweeting, sessions on topics ranging from marine spatial planning, food security, and the future of conservation to creative communication tactics and graduate education reform.

This meeting has been a fixture on the COMPASS calendar since 2001 because it offers a great breadth of science topics, making it an excellent complement to the deep disciplinary conferences we attend. Most importantly, it is an unparalleled opportunity to reconnect with friends and colleagues from the media, science, policy and nonprofit worlds. Year after year, our most important task at AAAS is networking. One of our most visible activities, for example, has been our signature Marine Mixer, where countless collaborations, story ideas, and projects have been hatched over the past decade. [Read more…]

2/1/13 Link Roundup

Happy Friday, link roundup readers! This week we had two great posts go up on the COMPASSblog: One by Erica Goldman on the pains and rewards of transitioning away from a traditional science career, and another by Brooke, announcing an opportunity for someone who’s already taken the plunge (transitioning from science to business) to help us navigate new boundaries. If you know an MBA student who would be great for this position, let us know by emailing Brooke ASAP at [email protected] [Read more…]

Finding The Science Signal In The Budget Noise

Flying Money

Most of us have had our fill of the “fiscal cliff,” are glad that we’re (technically) past it, but dread the next round of this fiercely political debate. In the midst of this – in two weeks time – the President is supposed to present his proposed budget to Congress and the next federal budget cycle will start. That’s been delayed, but not likely by more than a few weeks. Most people who don’t live inside the Beltway are blissfully ignorant of this incredibly complex and sometimes convoluted process, although it can have real bearing on their lives. In addition to the obvious implications for science funding, scientific conferences are reportedly feeling the direct effects of federal budget limits. After eight years inside the Beltway, I still learn something new about the federal budget every year. [Read more…]