Thanking Liz Neeley: Champion For Scientists And #SciComm

Liz Neeley, doing what she does so well -- bringing communications trainings to new levels with style and insight. Image by David Kline.

I still remember the first day I met Liz Neeley, a little over seven years ago. We met in a hip coffee shop in Seattle. She had recently relocated there from Washington DC, where she was working for SeaWeb (first as an intern, then as project manager) to continue discussions about potential employment with COMPASS. She stood up from behind her Mac and shook my hand. The first words out of her mouth were how excited she was about this opportunity with COMPASS, followed by “I have so many ideas.” She was buzzing with enthusiasm and innovations. She turned her computer around, and her screen was filled with mock-ups and visuals of ways we could evolve how we help scientists – and ourselves – communicate. Because that’s what Liz does: she imagines, and she produces. Over the last seven years, Liz has tirelessly channeled this energy into COMPASS’ mission to support scientists to engage in the public discourse about the environment, while also working to move the larger field of science communication forward.

Today we are celebrating Liz, as we say farewell to her time with COMPASS. Listing all she has done would be impossible; the legacy and impact she leaves at COMPASS is strong. Liz has contributed to so many dimensions of COMPASS’ work to realize the change we want to see in the world, while also pushing us in new directions, particularly in the areas of social media and the science of science communication.

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Cracking The Capitol Hill Nut

Tourists aren't the only ones who need guidance on Capitol Hill. These tips will help you make your meetings with staff efficient and productive. Image courtesy of fensterbme on flickr.

Washington D.C. often gets a reputation for being opaque, with lots of rules and unspoken customs for how things are done.  It’s true that D.C. has its own culture, and Capitol Hill especially can feel like its own world. My experience is that there are many dedicated staff on Capitol Hill who want to understand the best science available and how it can help them develop the best policies – but they have limited time and a number of diverse issues on their plate.  Reaching out and making your science available in an accessible way is essential to making your voice and your science heard.  [Read more…]

On Vulnerability In Art And Science Communication

Fingerpainting at its finest – I loved the swirling textures I was able to produce in this set of waves enough to snap a quick photo of it.

My closet is organized in a color spectrum, as are my books, and more strangely, my cleaning products. My spreadsheets march in rainbow precision, as do my (many) calendars. I once actually uttered the phrase, “My contingency planning is a thing of beauty.” I desperately want to package a tidy story. Put everything neatly into place. Make it pretty. Make it precise. That’s what I do. But I’ve been home from my trip to Arizona for 28 hours now, and I don’t know yet exactly how I feel or what, precisely, I have learned. Instead, this is a story about letting go. [Read more…]

How To Make Yourself Presentable

Taking a new approach to your scientific talk could win you hearty applause from your peers. Photo credit: open hardware summit

Over my three years working here at COMPASS, I’ve come to witness a curious, repeated phenomenon. A significant part of my job involves engaging with scientists through trainings or helping them prepare for conference symposia, policy briefings, or media outreach. For the most part, scientists take on with gusto the task of more effective communication to non-science audiences – diving in headfirst to think outside the box and become better at sharing their research with the wider world. But then…it happens. I see that same scientist who was able to hook in a journalist or get a policymaker to sit up straight in his or her chair, get up in front of his or her scientific peers and again bombard them with fifty shades of n-dimensional graphs. [Read more…]

10/4/13 Link Round-Up

Swim with Galapagos sea lions in Google Earth!

Happy October! This month is off to quite a historic start with the government shutdown, but that hasn’t stopped us from pulling together some great reads for you this week. If you’re not working, you may enjoy virtually exploring the Galápagos Islands, finding out how hot the world is projected to get during your lifetime, or doing some armchair travel with a young ocean acidification scientist. Actually, you’ll probably enjoy all of that, and more, even if you are working… [Read more…]

9/13/13 Link Round-Up

The Link Round-Up is back from vacation and we have lots of interesting and exciting things to share with you! There’s a video about the Sackler Colloquium, a new paper and infographic about how Twitter is changing research, the world’s largest volcano, a multimedia piece on sea level rise, and more below! [Read more…]

ScienceOnline Climate

ScioClimateSquareWeb

Ah, logistics. WiFi, websites, sponsors, speakers, travel, venues, sound, and food – planning a meeting means dozens of details need constant attention. And yet, if we’ve done our work well, these all fade into the background as an event comes to life. There’s something magical about creating a space for conversations to unfold and genuine connections to take root, and I am delighted to have been a part of what we created at ScienceOnline Climate.

ScioClimate, as we call it, was a conference that took place in Washington, D.C. August 15-17. Thanks to professional development support from COMPASS, I was able to join Jamie Vernon and Karyn Traphagen as a co-organizer. But ScioClimate is not over because it’s much more than just a meeting – it’s a community of people coalescing around issues of how we improve climate science conversations online. Our intent is to go far beyond tactical discussions about how to share research results, and instead to explore the art, science, rhetoric, politics, philosophy, emotion, and practicalities of tackling unprecedented global change.

Nothing sums up my experience at the event better than this tweet by Mark Westneat:

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8/16/2013 Link Round-Up

It’s that day of the week where we round up some of our favorite internet reads for our Link Round-Up readers! This week we have a lot on making science easy to understand through great writing or data visualization. I love data visualization in particular because a lot of creativity can come into play and make an otherwise obscure piece or body of information really easy to understand and accessible. Enjoy what we have for you below: [Read more…]

Scientists And The Changing Media Landscape, Part 2

Science journalism – like much of traditional journalism – is undergoing a culture shift. Understanding these changes can help scientists wanting to engage to do so most effectively. Photo from Thomas Hawk via Flickr.

In order to bridge dissimilar cultures and have effective dialogue, you have to know who you’re talking to. At COMPASS, we often talk about the similarities between scientists and journalists – for example, they share a love for discovery, healthy skepticism, analytical minds, and competitive natures – in order for them to meet on common ground before explaining where their cultures diverge.

Over the last two decades, the culture of traditional journalism has changed dramatically. While many of the needs traditional media historically served are now being taken up by a growing and massive online community, there is still a role (albeit a changing one) for traditional media in setting the public agenda. How can scientists best connect with traditional media amidst these changes?

Not surprisingly, the changes in journalism are not an isolated phenomenon. As Ivan Oransky, co-founder of Retraction Watch, said in a closing plenary at the World Conference of Science Journalists just two weeks ago, the culture of science is also experiencing changes.  These cultures both:

  • Feel increasing pressure to produce outcomes that serve the public good.
  • Experience constraints of stagnating budgets.
  • Face increasing internal competition.
  • Experience increasing pressure to publish, publish, publish.

But here is where they diverge. The changes in journalism have been driven by the needs of the public it serves, and how the public consumes and uses information has shifted dramatically. [Read more…]

Link Round-Up 5/17/13

It’s been a great but busy week for COMPASS! Nancy and the COMPASS team were honored to receive a Peter Benchley Ocean Award for Excellence in the Media; Erica and Brooke gave a talk about NSF about our ongoing #gradscicomm project; and Liz delivered a training for SOGES Fellows at Colorado State and published a guest blog with Nature as a part of our blog carnival (which was also featured in their roundup of top posts this week).  Phew! All that and we still have plenty of great links rounded-up for you! Check out some examples of great media, scientists in the media, great science writing, and more: [Read more…]