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.

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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…]

Risking Engagement To Be Relevant

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We’re bombarded by headlines touting the public’s doubt in science. National Geographic’s March cover story begins: “We live in an age when all manner of scientific knowledge – from climate change to vaccinations – faces furious opposition.” As Dan Kahan says in his new paper What is the ‘Science of Science Communication’, “Never have human societies known so much about mitigating the dangers they face but agreed so little about what they collectively know.” For some of you, this only bolsters your resolve to engage. For others, it’s cause for wariness … or the impetus not to engage at all.

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The Agony Of The Ask

The ask is an inevitable part of any policy meeting, and an opportunity to establish your role in the conversation.
Photo courtesy of otama via flickr.

The elections yesterday mark the end of the campaign ads and the beginning of this term’s policymaking cycle. Newly (re)elected policymakers (and their staff) are setting their agendas for the next year and beyond. Whether you are building new relationships, or strengthening old ones, now is an ideal time to present yourself as a resource who can help them navigate the science on the issues that matter to them.

How do you prepare for such a meeting to ensure that it’s productive? Guides for setting up a meeting with legislators abound, and we’ve shared advice for finding your way to the right policymaker. But there’s less discussion of how to navigate a crucial piece of any meeting with a policymaker: the ask. [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 Do You Do What You Do?

“My motivation – to base management on the most relevant science – that seems like apple pie to me. Who wouldn’t eat it up?” - Tania Schoennagel
Image by Carol Atlantica via flickr
Solving mysteries? Stellar colleagues? Saving the world?

Last week, I wrote about why the why can be hard for scientists. This week, I offer perspectives from scientist colleagues on their whys. All share a passion and commitment to engage beyond the walls of the ivory tower. But their underlying ‘whys’ vary a lot.

Perhaps not too surprisingly, this series of posts are motivated, in part, by reflecting on my own whys. One of the reasons I do what I do is the opportunity to connect with some amazing people, including the inspiration and energy I draw from the contributors here.

Scientists have many reasons for doing what they do, and just as many reasons for sharing (or not sharing) their whys. I hope the whys of these scientists – and their willingness to share them, not only here, but also more broadly – inspire you as much as they have inspired me. [Read more…]

Why Is The Why Difficult for Scientists?

Are you willing to channel your inner Aristotle and embrace the Philosophy in your PhD for more effective #scicomm?
Image courtesy of Mary Harrsh via flickr.

Being a scientist is more than a job – it’s a way of thinking, a way of living, a way of interacting with the world. For some of you, it is the best job in the world!  Our passion is clearly important, and yet … we so rarely share it. Why?

This is the first in a series about scientists communicating the ‘why’ of their work. In the coming weeks, I’ll share other scientists’ reflections, insights, and stories on the topic. Perhaps yours? Post a comment or send me a note, and I’ll incorporate your perspective into future posts. [Read more…]

Your Science Is A Multi-tool

Science can be a multi-tool within the policy process; understanding what function your science is serving can make engagements more effective.

Science plays many roles in the policymaking process. Describing those roles is often harder than I expect.  While attending the North American Congress of Conservation Biology (NACCB) in July, I was introduced to a new – and helpful – description of those roles, during a talk by Stephen Posner. Stephen is a PhD candidate at the Gund Institute at the University of Vermont. Like COMPASS, the Gund Institute works at the boundary between new knowledge and emerging solutions to pressing environmental challenges. Much of their work takes place through the lens of “ecosystem services”, a way of thinking about how people’s needs, desires, and actions relate to the natural world upon which we all depend. Stephen investigates how knowledge and understanding of ecosystem services is actually used in policymaking. [Read more…]

Navigating The Boundary

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I’m excited to be writing my first blog post as a new member of the COMPASS team. I joined COMPASS two months ago, and one of the facets of work here that I’m particularly excited by is COMPASS’ role as a boundary organization. Boundary organizations are so named because they sit at the “boundary” between science and non-science. COMPASS has traditionally helped scientists navigate across the boundaries separating science from policy and media, although we are increasingly exploring ways we can support scientists to cross boundaries to connect with business, legal and other communities as well.  A relatively new term, the definition and theory of “boundary organizations” began to coalesce in the early 2000s, but the role that boundary organizations play – the seat between science and non-science – has been evolving over a much longer timescale.

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Making Peace With Self Promotion

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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…]