5 Steps For Integrating #SciComm Into STEM Graduate Education

Last month, an article in The Atlantic stated, “Beginning this year, the Medical College Admission Test [MCAT] will contain questions involving human behavior and psychology, a recognition that being a good doctor “requires an understanding of people,” not just science.”  The same is true of being a good scientist. Understanding people is essential for succeeding in everything from teaching, collaboration, and grant writing to media interviews, public engagement, and Congressional testimony.

Yet traditional training in medicine, science, engineering, and other technical disciplines is not helping students to develop the suite of communication skills they need to succeed. How should graduate training shift to better equip STEM professionals for their future careers? [Read more…]

‘Tis The Season…To Build In Time For Reflection.

BrookeBlogImate

December, especially this week, is crunch time.  Instead of indulging in sparkling wine by the twinkling lights of my Christmas tree, I’m drinking coffee with my computer in my lap combing through elaborate spreadsheets. Because the calendar year is our fiscal year, we at COMPASS are knee deep in budgets, planning, forecasting, and administration.  Sound familiar? Perhaps your crunch time involves grading finals, submitting grades, scheduling the next term’s lectures, balancing your year-end budgets? Lots of us are drowning in what feels like a never-ending sea of things to do before we can finally put work aside for the holidays. [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…]

Why Did The Scientist Cross The Road?

Although crossing the road can be a daunting task, is it made easier by the company of colleagues, some infrastructure to guide the way, and the promise new opportunities on the other side.
CC BY-SA-NC-SA by Khaz on flickr

During the past few weeks I had the opportunity to attend two conferences that had related themes and took place literally across the street from each other, but in other ways were worlds apart. First was the Ecological Society of America’s Annual Meeting (#ESA2014), which was dominated by ecological scientists sharing their research. The following week, government officials, land managers, city planners, and NGO representatives met at the first ever California Adaptation Forum (#CAF14). While both conferences explored the possibility of finding solutions by forging new connections, there was still clearly a gap between those talking about the latest research on one side of the street and those trying to figure out how to implement it on the other. [Read more…]

Diving In: Building Your Communication Skills In Grad School

Diving into communications! Throughout my time in the field (pictured here in Pigeon Creek, San Salvador, Bahamas), I was collecting stories to share on my blog.

As a graduate student in the sciences, with a strong desire to make my work relevant to society, I often asked myself  “How can I get the communications skills I need?”  Long days in the field and late nights in the lab sometimes made it hard to add communications to my list of things to do, but it was really worth it – the time I invested paid off in so many ways, from expanding my skill set to informing my research (and inspiring me to build real-life applications into my masters project). One of the first things I found after joining COMPASS with my hot-off-the-press degree is that I wasn’t the only grad student asking that question. The COMPASS team hears it all the time, and is working actively to address it. [Read more…]

Reporting Back And Looking Forward From #GradSciComm

MissionReframedAnimation

This post is co-authored by Liz Neeley and Erica Goldman. It is a continuation of our series on our NSF-funded GradSciComm project.

It was approaching midnight on December 5, 2013, and the COMPASS team was running out of gas. We were in the middle of our two-day #GradSciComm meeting at the National Academy of Sciences. “The only way out is through,” we told ourselves, bleary eyed and punchy with fatigue.

Day 1 had gone quite well. Our stellar group of participants – science communication researchers, practitioners, administrators, and graduate student leaders from a range of STEM disciplines – had engaged with an enthusiasm that was more than we could have hoped for. They were brimming with ideas of what might be done. Yet we were struggling with how to coalesce all of the insights from Day 1 to move ahead in working groups on Day 2. One particular roadblock felt like it was obstructing every path forward: the lack of funding.

Around and around we went, until suddenly – a breakthrough! What would happen if we stop thinking of funding as a roadblock… and instead think of it as a solution to obstacles we face in teaching and conducting effective science communication? What are the first and most transformative investments that we could make? Once we demolished that roadblock, all the pieces began to fall into place. We powered through a synthesis of the discussions from Day 1, locked down the specifics for breakout group assignments, and were ready to charge into Day 2. [Read more…]

#GradSciComm: Rolling Up Our Sleeves

Screen Shot 2013-12-02 at 7.27.38 AM

This post is co-authored by Erica Goldman and Liz Neeley.

As we’ve written here and here, over the past year, COMPASS has worked to assess the current landscape of communication trainings available to graduate students in the STEM disciplines. We’ve dubbed this project #GradSciComm, and it has included building a community-sourced database that provides some insight into the current content and capacity of workshops and courses – but this is only the beginning of the conversation.

Later this week, at the National Academy of Sciences building in Washington, D.C., four COMPASS staff – Nancy Baron, Brooke Smith, Erica Goldman, and Liz Neeley – will facilitate discussion among a select group of scholars, trainers, funders, institutional leaders, and graduate students as they consider the results of our work to date and wrestle with where we go from here. [Read more…]

10/4/13 Link Round-Up

Swim with Galapagos sea lions in Google Earth!

Happy October! This month is off to quite a historic start with the government shutdown, but that hasn’t stopped us from pulling together some great reads for you this week. If you’re not working, you may enjoy virtually exploring the Galápagos Islands, finding out how hot the world is projected to get during your lifetime, or doing some armchair travel with a young ocean acidification scientist. Actually, you’ll probably enjoy all of that, and more, even if you are working… [Read more…]

#GradSciComm Update: Sharpening Our Focus

Clear

This post is co-authored by Erica Goldman and Liz Neeley.

From 20,000 feet up, the approach to Washington, DC’s Reagan National Airport is a fuzzy blotch of green and blue – fingers of the Chesapeake Bay creeping landward in dendritic patterns. As you get closer, green patches become dense stands of trees and blue-green waters give way to marshy shorelines. In the final miles, just before the runway comes into view, docks and small marinas resolve so close that you can make out people working dockside.

When Liz Neeley and I were working to prepare for a recent talk for the National Science Foundation on the COMPASS #GradSciComm work (see document below), Liz landed on this visual metaphor for our process. Typically, being able to rapidly cover a lot of ground quickly trades off with being able to see features at fine resolution… at least at first. For our inventory of the players involved in science communication trainings for graduate students, this meant we first assembled a rough picture heavily influenced by generalizations and standout features. But, as we’ve gathered more and better data, the details and topography of the whole landscape is beginning to emerge. [Read more…]

#GradSciComm: How COMPASS Is Answering The National Demand For Science Communication Training

Journalist Jon Hamilton helps to facilitate a COMPASS workshop for School of Global Environmental Sustainability Fellows at Colorado State.

This post is co-authored by Liz Neeley and Erica Goldman.

With all of the speculation about the sequester’s possible impacts on science, one sobering conclusion feels clear: young scientists will be hit hard by cuts to federal science budgets. While new faculty may have some buffer, those dependent on the grants of others – like graduate students and postdocs – are already suffering a loss of projects and career opportunities. Paired with a job market where less than 20% of new science PhD’s can expect to find a tenure-track job, and it is a grim picture indeed. While much of this is far outside the control of an individual researcher, there is still an important role for personal action. Investing the time and energy to fine-tune communication skills not only makes scientists more competitive, but can also equip them to engage in critically important discussions about our most urgent social priorities. Now, more than ever, next-generation scientists on all career trajectories need to be effective communicators and advocates for why their work matters. (You can read some of our related blogs and articles on this topic here, here, and here.) [Read more…]