Keep Advocating For Science, But Don’t Forget To Engage

Humanizing the conversation about science helps to bridge the chasms between science and society. 


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Like many of you right now, we at COMPASS are reflecting on our relationship with advocacy. Just as we advise scientists, figuring out where you fall on the advocacy spectrum is a personal choice—it’s not a matter of right or wrong. We have long described ourselves as an organization that is “non-partisan and non-advocacy.” While we don’t advocate for specific environmental policies or legislation, we do (and always have) advocate for science and scientists to be at tables where decisions are made. One of our core beliefs is that policies and discussions that include science will be more informed and more robust. We remain as firmly committed to this belief today as we were last month, last year, and under the previous three administrations.

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“Communicating Science Effectively: A Research Agenda” NAS Event & Webcast, Tues. Jan. 10: Preview Q&A With Dietram Scheufele

Dr. Dietram Scheufele. Image by WiD / Christof Rieken; CC BY-ND 3.0.
The National Academies Report: “Communicating Science Effectively: A Research Agenda” is an important new contribution to the science of science communication.
“Everything we know about communicating science is changing, from the types of value-laden questions that new science raises to rapidly changing ways of disseminating and sharing information online. And a key challenge is to understand that.” —Dietram Scheufele

The NAS Committee on the Science of Science Communication, chaired by Alan Leshner, CEO Emeritus of AAAS, and vice-chaired by Dietram Scheufele of the University of Wisconsin, is hosting a public discussion on Tuesday Jan. 10 in Washington D.C. at 11 a.m. EST/8 a.m. PST to share the new report and its implications, and to offer an opportunity for questions and conversation. The event will also be webcast. You can view the webcast here, and follow along on social media with #NASEMscicomm.

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“So You Want To Change The World?”

"So you want to change the world?" Nature Comment by Nancy Baron

As the year comes to an end, many of us are thinking about what lies ahead in 2017. It’s a time for taking stock of where we are and where we want to be. This Nature Comment (published today) called “So you want to change the world?” reflects on the shifts that I have witnessed over the last 15 years as a science communication coach for COMPASS and looks ahead to the new year. The bottom-line message: in these tumultuous times, scientists need to support each other in standing up for science—and speak from the heart to connect with their audiences. [Read more…]

Recognizing Brooke Smith: Realizing The Vision And Finding COMPASS’s Niche

Brooke Smith and Vikki Spruill at the 2016 COMPASS Staff Retreat.

Vikki Spruill, author of this post, sits on the COMPASS Board of Directors and is president and CEO of the Council on Foundations.

Fifteen years ago, Jane Lubchenco (Oregon State University), Chuck Savitt (Island Press), the Packard Foundation, and I all sat together discussing the need for science to be better connected to the rest of the world. We had all come to this table from different paths: a scientist committed to ensuring that her knowledge and that of her peers did more than just sit on shelves and in journals; a publisher working to ensure complex ideas were accessible and relevant to the world; a conservation and science change-maker working to support efforts so that environment and society can thrive together; and me, a communication professional who knew just how important—yet how hard—it was to get scientists’ voices elevated in the media and policy worlds. We collectively wanted the same thing: for scientists to be effective communicators and to be supported to navigate their way to relevant and meaningful people and conversations. This vision would become COMPASS. [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…]

Meet a Wilburforce Fellow: Erin Sexton

Erin Sexton, 2015 Wilburforce Fellow

The Wilburforce Fellowship in Conservation Science provides researchers with a unique opportunity to gain skills in science communication and leadership to further their conservation goals. Fellows from the 2015 cohort are sharing their experiences; applications to be in the 2017 cohort are due Friday, September 30. To learn more and apply, click here.

Erin Sexton is a Research Scientist and Regulatory Affairs Manager with the Institute on Ecosystems, at the University of Montana. Erin’s research focus encompasses the international landscape known as the Crown of the Continent Ecosystem, with an emphasis on aquatic ecology and conservation biology in the transboundary watersheds between British Columbia, Alberta, and Montana. [Read more…]

Meet A Wilburforce Fellow: Matthew Williamson

Matt Williamson, 2015 Wilburforce Fellow

The Wilburforce Fellowship in Conservation Science provides researchers with a unique opportunity to gain skills in science communication and leadership to further their conservation goals. Fellows from the 2015 cohort are sharing their experiences; to learn more and apply to be in the 2017 cohort, click here.

Matt Williamson is a Ph.D. Student at the University of California, Davis. His current research focuses on the socio-political factors that predict where conservation occurs and how changes in those factors affect wildlife connectivity. Prior to his return to graduate school, Matt was a Program Director for the Grand Canyon Trust where he facilitated the development of multiple collaborative research projects aimed at developing a management and conservation strategy for their 850,000 acre Kane and Two Mile Ranches on the Grand Canyon’s North Rim. [Read more…]

The Power Of Conversation To Communicate Science: A Q&A With #NACCB2016 Opening Keynote Speaker Dietram Scheufele

Dr. Dietram Scheufele.

A meaningful connection with your audience may be more effective than being right.
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Straight From The Scientist: Marissa McMahan

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This post was co-authored by Heather Mannix, COMPASS Assistant Director of Policy Engagement, and Meg Gilley, COMPASS Policy Engagement Specialist.

Earlier this spring, COMPASS led a policy communications training for the Switzer Fellows in Washington, D.C. that included practicing communication skills and learning about the world of policymakers, and was capped by meetings with policymakers on Capitol Hill. The Switzer Fellowship, a program of the Robert and Patricia Switzer Foundation, provides academic support, leadership training, and professional development opportunities for graduate students studying environmental fields in New England and California. We caught up with Marissa McMahan, a graduate student at Northeastern University who is studying the northern range expansion of black sea bass and how that affects both human and ecological systems in the Gulf of Maine, to hear more about her experience in D.C. [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…]