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…]
Briefing Debrief: “California’s Changing Oceans” Scientists Jenn Caselle, Francis Chan, Tessa Hill, And Kristy Kroeker
As many of our readers know, COMPASS works with scientists to help them share their work with the wider world – especially journalists and policymakers. Last week, COMPASS worked with the American Meteorological Society to bring four researchers to Capitol Hill to talk about the role of natural infrastructure in coastal protection.
This week marks the anniversary of Hurricane Sandy, an event that catalyzed new federal investments and directives to understand how to build economic, community and ecological resilience for our nation’s coasts – efforts that have begun to bear fruit. This briefing brought together researchers to discuss the state of the science and our understanding of the benefits and trade-offs of using natural and nature-based approaches to enhance coastal resilience. See our previous blog post for more details.
As with all COMPASS policy events, our goal was to create an opportunity for the scientists to share what they know – and why it matters – with policymakers and to build relationships as trusted resources going forward.
Part of the fun is to hear from scientists what their experience was like. We asked them all a few questions about the day, and share some of their responses below.
This post is co-authored by COMPASS Science Engagement Specialist Heather Mannix.
Last week, COMPASS brought a team of scientists to Capitol Hill to participate in “Sea Sick: A science briefing on understanding the causes of marine disease and consequences for coastal communities.” As part of their pre-briefing preparation with the COMPASS team, these four scientists worked hard to understand their audience, coordinate their remarks, and make sure their science was clear, compelling, and relevant. With last year’s high profile sea star wasting disease epidemic on the West Coast likely to occur again this summer, and pending legislation on marine disease in the House of Representatives, this was an ideal time to bring the science related to these events to the forefront. As with all COMPASS policy events, our goal was to create an opportunity for the scientists to share what they know – and why it matters – with policymakers and to build relationships as trusted resources going forward.
We often blog here with brief updates or reflections on our work, while our website provides examples and descriptions of what we do. Over the coming weeks, we are excited to share a series of our stories, focused on longer timelines and richer details. We hope you enjoy!
As a Leopold Leadership Fellow in 2004, Dr. Scott Doney gamely participated in one of our trainings. He drafted his Message Box, sweated through his mock interview scenarios, and learned about journalism and policymaking. As a marine chemist, he thought that the policy work seemed interesting but unlikely. “I thought, this is all well and good for other folks, but I’ll never get asked. I would have never guessed, sitting in the training doing the testimony, that that would be me one day.” [Read more…]
When Chad and I prep scientists to participate in policy briefings, we often share our own experiences of entering the policy arena for the first time as Knauss Marine Policy Fellows. Chad talks about finishing his dissertation on a Friday in 2005 and showing up the following Monday in the Senate Commerce Committee, bright-eyed, bushy tailed, and expecting to bring the latest scientific discoveries to members of Congress. Only then he discovered that Congressional offices don’t have direct access to journal articles (or even read academic papers). I tell scientists about the time I spent on the Hill in 2003, helping to draft bill language for reauthorization of the Marine Mammal Protection Act in the House Committee on Resources – I was suddenly expected to be an expert on marine mammals and on how to write arcane legislative language… neither of which were part of my actual skill set at the time.
Chad and I have both incorporated insights from our Knauss fellowship experiences into our current work with COMPASS at the intersection of science and policy. When COMPASS does communications and policy trainings for scientists, we talk about the idea that understanding these cultural differences is the key to making effective connections between the two worlds. I’ve been especially curious to hear what others experienced when they stepped out of science and into the policy world, and since it’s been nearly 10 years since I started my fellowship in the Subcommittee of Fisheries, Oceans, and Wildlife in the House Committee on Resources, I decided to ask some of the other legislative fellows in my cohort. Through a brief series of questions, I asked a few of them about the lasting take homes they see from their fellowship experience, how it has shaped their worldview, and to reflect on what they saw as key differences between the culture of science and the culture of policy. [Read more…]
Two weeks after I started at COMPASS, I found myself in a conference room getting to know all of my new colleagues face-to-face for the first time. At one point Karen McLeod, COMPASS’ Director of Science, asked me when we could organize a Congressional briefing on the topic of ecological resilience.
Resilience is a deceptively simple concept on the surface. A resilient ecosystem can withstand shocks and rebuild itself. This applies to any ecosystem, but in the marine realm, coral reefs are one of the best studied. A resilient coral reef can be partially wiped out by bleaching and bounce back to a vibrant state in short order. A less resilient coral reef might not be able to weather bleaching and be overtaken by algae.
As the newest member of the team, I was nervous about my answer to Karen’s question: Never. [Read more…]
This post was co-written by Assistant Policy Director Erica Goldman.
It was less than an hour before the May 15 briefing was scheduled to begin when scientist Jim Cloern posed this question to a Senate Staffer: “So what is it that you are hoping to hear from us?”
COMPASS had invited Cloern, of the U.S. Geological Survey, along with his two long-time colleagues, Walter Boynton, from the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science, and Scott Nixon, from the University of Rhode Island, to Washington, D.C. to brief Congress on what they had learned over their long careers in estuarine science. Together they represented a combined 116 years of experience studying San Francisco, Chesapeake, and Narragansett Bays. Over that time, these scientists have amassed a very long view on ecological well being of their respective water bodies.
It was that “long view” that COMPASS recognized as a potential way for these scientists to help shift the dialogue on Capitol Hill on the value of ecological monitoring – something often viewed as “not my job”, and as a burdensome, never-ending drain on financial resources. When money is tight, which is true now more than ever in the U.S., the budget for things like continually tracking the status of a system or monitoring a project’s effectiveness is often the first thing to go.
The Senate staffer paused before responding to Cloern’s question. Her answer came in the form of another question – one that gets at the heart of the challenge scientists face when trying to share what they know with policymakers: “We want to know, ‘What should Congress do?’” [Read more…]