No Silver Bullets: SciComm Insights from NAS Workshop

Recently, the National Academy of Sciences’ Public Interfaces of Life Science Roundtable hosted a 2-day workshop called “When Science and Citizens Connect: Public Engagement on Genetically Modified Organisms.” The goal for this workshop was to explore and examine what we know about the interfaces between scientists and society, to better help scientists navigate those spaces and engage.  While GMOs provided a lens for the conversation, the presentations and discussions are really relevant for any scientist thinking about engagement.
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The Hidden Curriculum In Graduate Education

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As we prepare to roll out the final #GradSciComm Report this week, I’ve been revisiting the moments of inspiration and flashes of insight that shaped our work. Like clay on a potter’s wheel, the best projects often begin with a vision but take on surprising and idiosyncratic texture as they spin into being.
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Climbing Dawn Walls For Conservation Science

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The New Year is a time for thinking about “What do you want to do with your one wild and precious life?” (Mary Oliver). The first week of January, I spent a few days in Yosemite with my husband, environmental writer Ken Weiss, reflecting on our dreams and how to best spend our time in 2015.
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Want to Get Policymakers Engaged With Your Field of Research? Integrate Them Into Your Scientific Conference

Panelists from left to right: 
Michael Curley, Environmental Law Institute
David Batker, Earth Economics
Jody Springer, Federal Emergency Management Agency   
Mary Ruckelshaus, Natural Capital Project, Stanford University
Mary Erickson, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration
Laura Petes, White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, Moderator

This post is co-authored by COMPASS Director of Science Policy Outreach Chad English.

Scientific conferences are hotspots for researchers to come together to share their latest discoveries, form new collaborations, and glean new insights from one another. But traditional conferences can also be very insular affairs, where researchers geek out with one another and non-experts find it practically impossible to glean much value from the proceedings. For scientific communities that want to see their science used by society, we think the benefits of engaging policymakers are clear.  When done well, the very audiences you most want to share your science with become engaged participants and help shape both the formal talks and informal side-conversations throughout the conference.  So, what does it take to recast conferences as opportunities to integrate external audiences into these discussions? What does it take to engage policymakers effectively? [Read more…]

Lessons From The Policy Trenches

Like this camouflaged plethodontidae, the entry into a policy dialogue is easy to spot when you know what you're looking for.
Image from Minette Layne on Flickr.

Sometimes, students are the best teachers. I think this is particularly true when you’re pushing yourself beyond the boundaries of hard facts or scholarship into the realm of practice. Those who are just entering the world of policy are often more articulate about the experience than those of us who make our home there. I’m excited to highlight a great example of this, Karen Lips, a Leopold Leadership fellow who studies salamanders like lungless sallys, frogs and other (arguably) adorable amphibians. Karen wanted to help protect the animals she studies from invasive pathogens that reach wild populations via animal imports. Earlier this year we highlighted a “get-your-feet-wet” training that COMPASS did for Leopold fellows who felt they had something to offer to policy but were unsure how to get started. Karen participated in that training with fantastic results; not only has she positioned herself as a resource for policymakers working in this area, she’s enlisted her graduate students in a project that helps directly answer questions decision-makers face. [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…]

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…]

Tales From The Sea: Scientists Take A Storytelling Journey

Telling stories of science and conservation at IMCC3.

As we sat in an unadorned classroom at the University of Glasgow, Kyle Gillespie helped us hear the sea at night, the sounds of clacking crabs and whistling worms, amplified by the sudden darkness after a broken dive light left him sightless in 20 feet of water and revealed to him a powerful way to understand the relative health of marine systems. Delphine Rocklin transported us through a fish’s life cycle beginning in a port in North Africa and moving through the Mediterranean Sea, showing us why it is so important to consider connectivity when we manage fisheries. And Skye Augustine  introduced us to her community, the children and elders of Stz’uminus Nation in the Salish Sea, as she helped them embark on a path of discovery to connect their ancient methods of resource management to an uncertain but hopeful future.

These are just a few scenes from stories that scientists worked to craft at a two-day storytelling workshop before the start of the third International Marine Conservation Congress (IMCC3). This workshop was a collaborative effort between Stephanie Green, a Smith Fellow at Oregon State University (OSU), Kirsten Grorud-Colvert, also at OSU and with PISCO (the Partnership for Interdisciplinary Studies of Coastal Oceans), and COMPASS. Our scientist storytellers hailed from all over the world, France, Spain, Germany, Australia, Colombia, Canada, and the United States. They also spanned a range of career stages, from Ph.D. candidate to senior scientist. But this diverse group was united in their effort to embrace a challenge and learn new ways to communicate their science. [Read more…]

Announcing The Wilburforce Fellowship In Conservation Science

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COMPASS and Wilburforce Foundation are excited to launch the Wilburforce Fellowship in Conservation Science. The fellowship aims to build a community of scientists who do decision-relevant research, communicate scientific findings effectively, and contribute to conservation solutions by engaging with local communities, policymakers, land managers, advocates, and others. It’s open to scientists of diverse affiliations and career stages working in conservation biology, ecology, environmental economics, or traditional ecological knowledge within Wilburforce’s priority geographic regions. Fellows will participate in a week of training in science communication, leadership and engagement at the Wilburforce Greenfire Campus in Seattle and receive coaching and support throughout the following year to assist them in achieving their goals.

We spoke with our Executive Director, Brooke Smith, and Wilburforce Program Officer for Conservation Science, Amanda Stanley, to learn more about the fellowship, the collaboration, and who should apply. [Read more…]

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…]