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…]

“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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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…]

Love It Or Hate It – Scientists And Journalists Need Each Other

Marina Joubert. Photo by Loretta Steyn

Marina Joubert, guest author of this post, researches science communication at the Centre for Research on Evaluation, Science, and Technology at Stellenbosch University, and launched the first-ever online course in science communication in Africa. She also serves on the scientific committee of the global Public Communication of Science and Technology network and is on the editorial boards of Science Communication and the Journal of Science Communication. We’re excited to share her insights in this post, as this is a topic that our team thinks about a lot (for more, see this post or this post). [Read more…]

Meet a Wilburforce Fellow: Aerin Jacob

Aerin Jacob, 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 2015, the first cohort, are sharing their experiences; to learn more and apply to be in the 2017 cohort, click here.

Aerin Jacob is a Liber Ero Post-Doctoral Fellow at the University of Victoria. Trained as an ecologist, she works with managers and Indigenous communities on marine and coastal planning in British Columbia, Canada. [Read more…]

Andy Hoffman: Science Communicators Or Science Mediators?

Pew Research Center, January 29, 2015, "Public and Scientists' Views on Science and Society"

We are excited to re-post this blog by Andy Hoffman. Andy raises questions about the role of scientists as mediators, not just communicators.  Andy’s post helped us dive deeper into the importance of listening, not just being right, and we hope it sparks new thinking and fresh perspectives for you. 

Andy Hoffman is a professor at the University of Michigan, researching institutional theory, corporate environmental strategies, organizational theory, and cultural and institutional change. He is a 2011 Leopold Leadership Fellow, an alum of COMPASS trainings, and a leader in thinking about how scientists can fulfill their “social contract” (see the proceedings from his forum on academic engagement). This blog was originally published on the Leopold Leadership 3.0 blog on June 22, 2016.  It is reposted here with the permission of the author.

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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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Scientists And Journalists: Two Sides Of The Communication Coin

Amy (with Nancy Baron) at our 2015 Staff Retreat.

A few years ago, in one of my science writing classes at Johns Hopkins University, a guest speaker shared one of her most regrettable moments as a science journalist. She was a writer at the respected magazine Science News, and several years previously had covered a high-profile paper published in a top journal. Dutifully, she included in her story some of the figures from the paper that captured the essence of the findings. Only later did she (and others in the scientific and journalism communities) learn that those figures contained an error – one that obviously had slipped past the peer reviewers. She was mortified. “I should have checked the math myself,” she told the class. Printing something that was untrue was one of the worst sins she could have committed in her view; even though she had accurately reflected the findings published in the peer-reviewed paper.

As a new student in science journalism – after a long career in environmental science and policy – the incident was a revelation for me: I realized how much scientists and journalists are alike. Accuracy is critical to both them, and it forms the cornerstone of their professional life, namely, credibility. [Read more…]

Find Your Way Down The Slopes Of Engagement

Confidence and competence on the slopes of Mt. Hood, Oregon. Both are as vital to #scicomm as they are to skiing.

This winter, I’ve had the privilege to witness a bunch of kids learning to ski (admittedly, while finally truly learning to ski myself). While supporting my daughters – one a future Bode Miller downhill-bomber, and one who’s slightly more cautious but still a strong skier – I was struck by the many parallels (pun intended) between learning to ski and learning to engage beyond your peers. [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…]