Making Your Science Relevant To Policymakers: Pondering Advice From Newt Gingrich

Reach out and schedule a coffee or lunch, or drop by an office when you're in town. Build relationships and policy relevance. Image by Meg Gilley

I recently heard Newt Gingrich, former Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives and an academic historian by training, address an audience of environmental and health scientists at the annual conference of the National Council on Science and the Environment.

Gingrich, a staunch right-wing conservative whose relationship with science has been described as “complicated,” addressed a silent and visibly tense audience at a lunchtime plenary. He began with, “You can hunker down and decide you want to be oppositionist and that you are going to hate everything and life will be terrible, or you can dig in and work with the administration.”

His remarks struck a chord. Ever since, I have been reflecting on what this means for those of you who want to engage with policymakers. [Read more…]

#TeachInForScience Day

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Learning can be a very individual experience; after all, gaining knowledge and skills is something that happens internally. But what you learn takes on new significance and understanding when you practice it, which is why our trainings emphasize hands-on group activities. And that learning takes on a life of its own when you share it with others. It’s inspiring to see the community of scientists that are taking their communication knowledge to their colleagues, students, labs, and institutions, and we’re thrilled that today, scientist across the country are putting a special emphasis on encouraging each other to communicate their work. Tessa Hill, one of the core organizers for today’s activities, shares the impetus for this event and some of the tools and events happening today. [Read more…]

Straight from the Scientist: Chelsea Rochman

Chelsea Rochman

This post is co-authored by COMPASS Program Associate Sarah Sunu.

Earlier this fall, I attended the Our Ocean conference held by the State Department in Washington, DC. I was fortunate enough to be selected to cover the event on social media and had a first row seat to hear amazing speakers like President Obama, Secretary John Kerry, and other world leaders, and witness global commitments to ocean health.

I was blown away by Chelsea Rochman’s presentation on plastic pollution in the ocean and caught up with her to talk about her science communication experiences. Chelsea is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology at the University of Toronto, and her lab focuses on the sources, fate and impacts of plastics and associated chemical contaminants in the environment. [Read more…]

Highlighting Our #SciComm Advice: An Interview With The Forestry Source

Andrea Watt's Message Box from the

Our executive director, Brooke Smith, was interviewed by Andrea Watts for the May 2016 issue of The Forestry Source, a publication by the Society of American Foresters. This wide-ranging Q&A shares some of our tips, insights on working with media, thoughts about science and advocacy, a bit of our history, and inspiration for starting to engage. This was particularly fun because Andrea had participated in a COMPASS training when she was a graduate student at the University of Washington – she still has her message box from that training, which we are excited to share here! Enjoy. [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…]

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…]

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…]

Briefing Debrief: “California’s Changing Oceans” Scientists Jenn Caselle, Francis Chan, Tessa Hill, And Kristy Kroeker

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On November 4, 2015, four eminent scientists came to Sacramento to deliver a briefing about our changing oceans. From ocean acidification to low oxygen zones, the scientists described the challenges that will confront California’s marine ecosystems in the years ahead. They also described how marine protected areas and long-term monitoring are informing our understanding of ocean change. Following the briefing, the scientists took a moment to reflect on the challenges and opportunities associated with bringing science to policymakers. [Read more…]

COMPASS Communication Tools And Resources

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Need a quick fix of communication advice? We have collected a few of our key tools and suggestions in one spot. Bookmark this page for your go-to place to reference the message box or to prepare to interact with policymakers and journalists.
[Read more…]

Lynn Scarlett: On Science, Policy, And Joining Our Board

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This week, we welcome Lynn Scarlett to the COMPASS Board of Directors. Lynn is currently the Managing Director for Public Policy at The Nature Conservancy, former Deputy Secretary of the Interior under George W. Bush, and has held many other positions, advisory and board service roles that you can read about here. She has been a champion for the use of science in decision-making, brings vast experience and networks in the environmental policy sphere, and continues to work toward a healthy democracy that allows people and environment to thrive. Lynn has not only engaged with scientists throughout her career, she advocates for scientists to engage and for constructive, two-way dialogues between scientists and policymakers.  As I welcomed Lynn to the board, I had the chance to learn more about her experiences and perspectives regarding scientists engaging in the policy sphere.

We are thrilled to have her contribute her ideas and expertise as we at COMPASS work to get more scientists to engage effectively in the public discourse about the environment. Welcome Lynn!

[Read more…]