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…]

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…]

Getting Out There: Making The Most Of Your Networks And Travels

Image by Meg Gilley.

Most of us have found ourselves in a new city for work or a conference, but how often have you taken advantage of the location to meet new people and expand your network? Maybe you’re planning to attend the AAAS Annual Meeting in February and you’re traveling all the way to Washington, D.C. This is a great opportunity to network and start to build relationships in the policy world.

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Do You Want Your Research To Change The World?

Society for Marine Mammalogy  2015 Conference panel "How To Make Your Science Matter." Panelists from left to right: Ken Weiss, David Malakoff, Charles Littnan, Marcia McNutt, Nick Gales, Jane Lubchenco, with Nancy Baron moderating.

At the 21st Biennial Conference on the Biology of Marine Mammals held last week, I  stood in front of a vast conference hall before a sea of faces. It’s hard to know your audience with a group this size. Yet my task was to try reach every one of them as the moderator of a COMPASS panel featuring scientists and journalists, called “How To Make Your Science Matter.”

To take the temperature in the room, I asked everyone in the auditorium a personal question: “Do you want your research to change the world? If the answer is yes, stand up.” Some 2,500 researchers, students, and managers sprang to their feet. I could not see a single person sitting.

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Briefing Debrief: “California’s Changing Oceans” Scientists Jenn Caselle, Francis Chan, Tessa Hill, And Kristy Kroeker

CA_Oceans_Briefing_2015

On November 4, 2015, four eminent scientists came to Sacramento to deliver a briefing about our changing oceans. From ocean acidification to low oxygen zones, the scientists described the challenges that will confront California’s marine ecosystems in the years ahead. They also described how marine protected areas and long-term monitoring are informing our understanding of ocean change. Following the briefing, the scientists took a moment to reflect on the challenges and opportunities associated with bringing science to policymakers. [Read more…]

Briefing Debrief: ‘Shoring Up’ Scientists Share Their Perspectives On Visiting The Hill

ShoringUp_capitol

As many of our readers know, COMPASS works with scientists to help them share their work with the wider world – especially journalists and policymakers. Last week, COMPASS worked with the American Meteorological Society to bring four researchers to Capitol Hill to talk about the role of natural infrastructure in coastal protection.

This week marks the anniversary of Hurricane Sandy, an event that catalyzed new federal investments and directives to understand how to build economic, community and ecological resilience for our nation’s coasts – efforts that have begun to bear fruit. This briefing brought together researchers to discuss the state of the science and our understanding of the benefits and trade-offs of using natural and nature-based approaches to enhance coastal resilience. See our previous blog post for more details.

As with all COMPASS policy events, our goal was to create an opportunity for the scientists to share what they know – and why it matters – with policymakers and to build relationships as trusted resources going forward.

Part of the fun is to hear from scientists what their experience was like. We asked them all a few questions about the day, and share some of their responses below.
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A Briefing Debrief: Scientist Tales From A Day On The Hill

Dr. Drew Harvell presenting at "Sea Sick: A science briefing on understanding the causes of marine disease and consequences for coastal communities," July 9, 2015. Image courtesy of the Office of Rep. Denny Heck.

This post is co-authored by COMPASS Science Engagement Specialist Heather Mannix.

Last week, COMPASS brought a team of scientists to Capitol Hill to participate in “Sea Sick: A science briefing on understanding the causes of marine disease and consequences for coastal communities.” As part of their pre-briefing preparation with the COMPASS team, these four scientists worked hard to understand their audience, coordinate their remarks, and make sure their science was clear, compelling, and relevant. With last year’s high profile sea star wasting disease epidemic on the West Coast likely to occur again this summer, and pending legislation on marine disease in the House of Representatives, this was an ideal time to bring the science related to these events to the forefront. As with all COMPASS policy events, our goal was to create an opportunity for the scientists to share what they know – and why it matters – with policymakers and to build relationships as trusted resources going forward.
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Want To Affect Policy Change? Board Your Train Of Opportunity

Are you ready to climb aboard? Image by Joe Ross, CC BY-SA 2.0.

Like increasing numbers of your colleagues, you want your science to contribute to a better world. You want to make a difference. But you’re not quite sure how to get started, and navigating the black box of the policy world can be a daunting prospect. The public discourse about the environment is teeming with opportunities for scientists to weigh in. Trains of opportunity may be passing you by. Time to pack your bags and hop aboard!
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Erica Goldman, Our New Director Of Policy Engagement

Erica has helped scientists navigate the policy world for years.

COMPASS is excited to announce that Erica Goldman will be taking on a new role and new responsibilities as our Director of Policy Engagement. Since joining COMPASS over four years ago as Assistant Director of Science Policy Outreach, Erica has passionately and tirelessly worked towards COMPASS’ vision of helping more scientists engage, and engage effectively, in the public discourse about the environment. Erica is an uber-connector – she is always matchmaking, especially between policymakers and scientists – and a silo-buster, constantly looking for ways to bridge ideas, communities and concepts. Erica has helped scientists get to know their policy audiences, been a cultural bridge between the worlds of science and policy, and championed ways for academic scientists to include policy engagement in their careers. Erica has also helped ensure communication is part of scientific training, through her co-leadership of our #gradscicomm effort and as a mentor and voice for non-traditional PhD careers (like her own at COMPASS, which we are grateful for!).
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Farewell To Chad English: A Pioneer At The Science-Policy Interface

Chad at the April 2015 Wilburforce Fellows training in Seattle.

We like to think that our work speaks for itself, through the scientists we train, the communities we build, and the conversations we spark. As coaches, connectors and enablers, we are intentionally and happily behind the scenes. We prepare, support, and cheer for the researchers on the front lines to share their scientific insights with the world. This week I want to focus on one of our behind-the-scenes champions – Dr. Chad English, whose last day here at COMPASS was May 1st. He pioneered our work at the science-policy interface, and his influence will be felt for years to come.

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