When Opportunity Knocks, What Leads COMPASS To A Yes?

COMPASS takes on new projects strategically in order to continue punching above our weight. Photo courtesy of C. Mario Del Rio via Flickr.

“COMPASS is an organization that punches above its weight class,” our new board chair, Mike Sutton, recently noted. I tend to agree. His perspective reflects an expectation of impact based on past performance as well as the target we want to hit. He’s also not alone. People often guess we’re an organization with a staff of 25 or more, not 12. Our topical expansion continues to open a plethora of new doors for COMPASS beyond oceans. And, as much as we’d love to go through all of them, we are a small team. If we want to continue to punch above our weight, we have to keep saying no to get to yes.

Like any organization lucky enough to be burdened by options, COMPASS has multiple filters to carefully consider new opportunities. We strategically blend our passion with what’s practical. The question is, then, when do we say yes? [Read more…]

Know Thy Role (And Thy Bias)

Be clear about your role your bias when ytalk with a decision-maker

Last week, Erica shared a quotation by Stephen Schneider that lays out three simple guidelines for scientists who want to share their knowledge and perspectives with the wider world: Know thy audience. Know thyself. Know thy stuff. As Erica explained, we use this quote during our policy and communications workshops to start discussions about roles scientists can or should play in policy dialogues. We teach that knowing your audience – the first point – is fundamental to effective communication. I want to delve into the second point: Know thyself. One facet of this is knowing what role you play when you’re talking to decision-makers, and how that shapes your own bias.

Since I naively showed up in D.C. with my freshly-minted PhD, I often find myself dispensing this advice: Before you sit down at the table with decision-makers, be clear with yourself about your role in this world. You don’t have to start from scratch – check out some of the many insights and frameworks already out there to help you think through what your own role is. Otherwise, you could find yourself wasting a lot time in unproductive conversations, or worse, putting yourself in a very uncomfortable position. [Read more…]

Navigating Personal-Professional Boundaries

Sometimes it can feel like walking a fine line when it comes to personal/professional relationships. Photo courtesy of Nicoló Paternoster via Flickr.

A key aspect of being successful in making your science matter beyond the ivory tower is building relationships and knowing how to strategically navigate networks of people. Ultimately, these relationships are not about sharing data, but instead about shared connections among people. It is the trust and goodwill built up over time with colleagues, and even policymakers or journalists, which opens doors to new opportunities. But making these connections can be tricky and can often involve tough decisions about personal-professional boundaries.

I know this is something I really struggled with as a scientist and, judging by conversations with other scientists, I am far from being alone. In fact, I was overwhelmed by the diversity and depth of responses I received from scientist colleagues in response to a question on Facebook:

Where does your personal-professional comfort zone lie and what are your strategies for navigating tricky situations, either in person or via social media? [Read more…]