Six Practical Guidelines For Public Engagement

Image by Don Boesch, via Twitter.  Left to right: Mark Barteau, Baruch Fischhoff, Dan Sarewitz, Detram Scheufele, Roger Pielke and Nancy Baron.

The Michigan Meeting for Academic Engagement in Public and Political Discourse brought scholars, practitioners, and communicators to the University of Michigan from May 13 – 15 to discuss why and how scientific scholarship should contribute to issues of public importance. Instigated by Andrew Hoffman, a 2008 Leopold Leadership Fellow, the meeting inspired and stimulated both the people at the conference (including many faces familiar to COMPASS, such as Leopold Fellow and COMPASS board member Dawn Wright, and Leopold Fellows David Hart, Jennifer Cherrier, and Joe Arvai) and many who were following the active twitter stream #AcadEng  (click here for a Storify of tweets under #AcadEng; selected events were also filmed and are available here).

COMPASS’ own Nancy Baron attended the meeting, and along with Baruch Fischhoff, Roger Pielke Jr., Dan Sarewitz, Dietram Scheufele, and moderator Mark Barteau, discussed “What are Some Guidelines for Public Engagement?” this past Thursday. We’ve reprinted her remarks from that panel here, edited for readability.

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Wilburforce Training: The Heart Of The Matter

The 2015 Wilburforce Fellows, with trainers and journalists, at the training in Seattle. From Left to right: back row- David Malakoff, David Mildrexler, Ben Alexander, Chris Parish, Matt Williamson?, Michael Quinn, Brian Harvey; middle row- Michelle Nijhuis, Sergio Avila, Nancy Baron, Melissa Lucash, Jonaki Bhattacharyya, Matt Williamson?, Jeff Burnside, Aerin Jacobs,

Something magical happened at the first training for the Wilburforce Fellowship in Conservation Science two weeks ago. Once again, storytelling revealed its power to inform, to inspire and bring together a group of people focused on a common cause.

The fellowship originated with Amanda Stanley, the Wilburforce Foundation’s Conservation Science Program Officer. When she approached COMPASS to partner with her and Wilburforce and help design the fellowship, we leapt at the chance. Our shared dream is to build a network of conservation scientists who can successfully bridge the science-to-society gap by being strong communicators, leaders, and agents of change. We not only want them to connect to their science in new ways, we want to them to connect to each other, so they can support each other in the inevitable ups and downs that come with tackling big challenges.

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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…]

Why Do You Do What You Do?

“My motivation – to base management on the most relevant science – that seems like apple pie to me. Who wouldn’t eat it up?” - Tania Schoennagel
Image by Carol Atlantica via flickr
Solving mysteries? Stellar colleagues? Saving the world?

Last week, I wrote about why the why can be hard for scientists. This week, I offer perspectives from scientist colleagues on their whys. All share a passion and commitment to engage beyond the walls of the ivory tower. But their underlying ‘whys’ vary a lot.

Perhaps not too surprisingly, this series of posts are motivated, in part, by reflecting on my own whys. One of the reasons I do what I do is the opportunity to connect with some amazing people, including the inspiration and energy I draw from the contributors here.

Scientists have many reasons for doing what they do, and just as many reasons for sharing (or not sharing) their whys. I hope the whys of these scientists – and their willingness to share them, not only here, but also more broadly – inspire you as much as they have inspired me. [Read more…]

Why Is The Why Difficult for Scientists?

Are you willing to channel your inner Aristotle and embrace the Philosophy in your PhD for more effective #scicomm?
Image courtesy of Mary Harrsh via flickr.

Being a scientist is more than a job – it’s a way of thinking, a way of living, a way of interacting with the world. For some of you, it is the best job in the world!  Our passion is clearly important, and yet … we so rarely share it. Why?

This is the first in a series about scientists communicating the ‘why’ of their work. In the coming weeks, I’ll share other scientists’ reflections, insights, and stories on the topic. Perhaps yours? Post a comment or send me a note, and I’ll incorporate your perspective into future posts. [Read more…]

‘The Why’ Before ‘The What’

SONY DSC

At COMPASS we spend a lot of our time helping scientists engage outside of their comfort zone. We know that speaking well about your work in an unfamiliar context is intimidating, and occasionally we get a simultaneously discomfiting and reassuring first-hand reminder of that experience. 

Last week I had the privilege of participating in my first Startup Weekend: an event that brings together diverse talents and new collaborators to work towards launching a startup in 54 hours.  In a room full of brilliant coders, software developers, and designers, I overheard conversations about the oculus, and assumed they meant the recent horror movie. I thought to myself, “I am out of my league.” What do I know about developing technology? [Read more…]

Finding Your Voice

wolf

While not everyone may be interested in your science at first, many people are interested in scientists, as your work seems…mysterious. What do you actually do? Why are you so devoted to it? They want to know what makes you tick. Even if your research can seem obscure, they are often eager to discover a new perspective on the world through your eyes. [Read more…]

Finding My Fire On The Ice

The incredible setting for my pond hockey epiphanies -- the sun's afternoon glow on the Absorka Range.
(Photo courtesy of David Thomson)

Nestled in Montana’s Tom Miner Basin just outside of the Yellowstone Park boundary, the pond adjacent to my A-frame cabin beckoned. For weeks, I had been anticipating my ice hockey debut. The Sochi games had just ended. The wounds were still raw from the US women’s hockey team’s devastating loss to Canada for the gold. We had the numbers for a US – Canada rematch (even if it was co-ed). I was certain that somehow my days of playing field hockey and rugby had prepared me sufficiently to take back our country’s honor. Have I mentioned, though, that I can’t skate? [Read more…]

More Than A Hunch: Insights From Sackler Colloquium On Science Of Science Communication

If scientists rely on evidence for their research, why do they rely on hunches when they communicate their research?

This was the challenge that framed the kick off of the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) Sackler Colloquium on the Science of Science Communication. Known to many of us as #sackler, for three days last week, over 400 people gathered in person at NAS’ historic Constitution Ave building, while thousands watched and participated online, to engage in a discussion about science communication.

The Sackler Colloquium (captured on this short video) was a unique convening: 1 part scientists that study communication, cognition, attitudes and opinions, + 1 part practitioners of science communications (like us!), + 1 part scientists eager to communicate, + 1 part social media and network gurus, with a pinch of powerhouses from business marketing and public relations mixed in. Over the first two days, we heard from a hand picked group of scientists that study, measure and observe how we individually and collectively digest information, along with a hit-it-out-of-the-park group of experts in how information is transmitted and shared. [Read more…]

5/3/13 Link Round-Up

Our week here at COMPASS began with the excitement of our commentary piece coming out in PLOS Biology, but is ending on an even higher note. Many scientists we’ve worked with are stepping up to share personal stories of engagement. There have been stories of how:

  • Reaching out via both traditional (Don Boesch) and social (Isabelle Côté) media can open up new opportunities for connecting science to policy
  • Future effective engagement of scientists outside academia relies on cultural change regarding time management (Jessica Hellman, Jim Cloern) and restructuring institutional incentives (Chris Buddle)
  • Becoming better at engaging sometimes means leaving the ivory tower for training in another field (Ryan Kelly) or pursuing science at a for-profit company (Dawn Wright)
  • Doing good science and reflecting on what works and what doesn’t is a critical part of the path to engagement (Simon Donner, Heather Leslie)
  • Above all, it is not science alone, but also hope that inspires people to act (Alan Townsend, Steve Palumbi)

You can watch the conversations unfolding on twitter at #reachingoutsci, or see the running list we’re keeping on our kick-off post.

This is part of a growing trend of scientists being willing to be present as characters in the story. Efforts like Looks Like Science or The Secret Life of Scientists & Engineers, highlight how valuable it can be to share personal stories of who we are, why we do what we do, and why it matters. All of us at COMPASS continue to be inspired by these stories and the scientists who share them. And we can’t wait to see what’s next…