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…]

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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Highlighting Our #SciComm Advice: An Interview With The Forestry Source

Andrea Watt's Message Box from the

Our executive director, Brooke Smith, was interviewed by Andrea Watts for the May 2016 issue of The Forestry Source, a publication by the Society of American Foresters. This wide-ranging Q&A shares some of our tips, insights on working with media, thoughts about science and advocacy, a bit of our history, and inspiration for starting to engage. This was particularly fun because Andrea had participated in a COMPASS training when she was a graduate student at the University of Washington – she still has her message box from that training, which we are excited to share here! Enjoy. [Read more…]

Calling Canadian Journalists! NACCB 2016 Journalist Fellowship Update

Please click here for a downloadable version of the flyer.

We are pleased to announce that Canadian journalists will have an additional opportunity to apply to attend the North American Congress for Conservation Biology 2016 (NACCB 2016) in Madison, WI. The deadline for Canadian journalists to apply has been extended to May 1, 2016. [Read more…]

Thinking About Your Communication Goals And Objectives: An Interview With John Besley And Anthony Dudo

Chart from PLOS One paper showing how different communication objectives for scientists rank against each other. The point, Dudo and Besley say, is not how objectives rank but rather, that establishing clear objectives in service of your ultimate goals - whatever they may be - is most important.

I recently had the opportunity to talk with John Besley (Michigan State) and Anthony Dudo (University of Texas at Austin), two social scientists interested in the intersection of science, public engagement and communications. Their recent PLOS One paper described how scientists prioritize their communications objectives for public engagement. John and Anthony, both housed in in their institutions’ advertising and public relations departments, are working to help us understand the interfaces between scientists and the public. I had the privilege of talking with them about their work, motivations, and why scientists who are working to engage should care about their research. [Read more…]

NACCB 2016 Journalist Fellowship

Panelists from the 2014 NACCB Opening Plenary 'Conservation Tapas: Small Bites of Big Issues'

We are very pleased to announce that COMPASS will be supporting travel fellowships for journalists to attend the third biennial North American Congress for Conservation Biology (NACCB) in Madison, Wisconsin this July. The theme for this conference is Communicating Science for Conservation Action, and will emphasize the need for effective communication across communities and fields of practice in conservation science. The 2014 NACCB conference drew over 1,000 participants to Missoula, Montana for field trips, symposia, trainings, workshops and short courses. [Read more…]

Our Stories: Jenna Jambeck – Communicating clearly in the spotlight

Dr. Jenna Jambeck, of the University of Georgia. Photo Credit: UGA/Andrew Davis Tucker.

We blog here with brief updates or reflections on our work, while our website provides examples and descriptions of what we do. We are excited to continue sharing our series of stories, focused on longer timelines and richer details. Today we posted a story about Jenna Jambeck and her experience sharing new research with the media, and how we helped her. Read more of our other stories here. [Read more…]

Lynn Scarlett: On Science, Policy, And Joining Our Board

LynnSDOI SB courthouse

This week, we welcome Lynn Scarlett to the COMPASS Board of Directors. Lynn is currently the Managing Director for Public Policy at The Nature Conservancy, former Deputy Secretary of the Interior under George W. Bush, and has held many other positions, advisory and board service roles that you can read about here. She has been a champion for the use of science in decision-making, brings vast experience and networks in the environmental policy sphere, and continues to work toward a healthy democracy that allows people and environment to thrive. Lynn has not only engaged with scientists throughout her career, she advocates for scientists to engage and for constructive, two-way dialogues between scientists and policymakers.  As I welcomed Lynn to the board, I had the chance to learn more about her experiences and perspectives regarding scientists engaging in the policy sphere.

We are thrilled to have her contribute her ideas and expertise as we at COMPASS work to get more scientists to engage effectively in the public discourse about the environment. Welcome Lynn!

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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.
[Read more…]