Pulling Back The Curtain At Oregon State University

Journalists Chris Joyce, Ed Jahn, Nicola Jones, and Ashley Ahearn at OSU. Image by Karen McLeod.

This post is co-authored by Sarah Sunu, and based on a panel moderated by Nancy Baron at Oregon State University on March 9, 2016. 

Culture is an important, but sometimes overlooked, aspect of communication. Understanding the behaviors, beliefs, and norms of your audience can (and should!) change how you talk about your own work. One key reason COMPASS brings journalists and policymakers to our communication trainings is to give scientists a window into their worlds. [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…]

Straight From The Scientist: Stephanie Hampton

Dr. Stephanie Hampton, Director of WSU’s Center for Environmental Research, Education and Outreach (CEREO).

I recently returned from my first two-day, intensive COMPASS communications training at Washington State University (WSU). I had the chance to catch up with the driving force behind the training: Dr. Stephanie Hampton, Director of WSU’s Center for Environmental Research, Education and Outreach (CEREO). We chatted about the training, the important contributions scientists can make in informing the public and decision-makers about pressing environmental issues, and the need for institutions to support scientists to engage. [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!

[Read more…]

Our Stories: Scott Doney

We often blog here with brief updates or reflections on our work, while our website provides examples and descriptions of what we do. Over the coming weeks, we are excited to share a series of our stories, focused on longer timelines and richer details. We hope you enjoy!

Dr. Scott Doney, of Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute

Our first story highlights one of the most rewarding, and enjoyable, aspects of our work: building relationships with scientists and supporting them as they surpass our (and their own!) best hopes.

As a Leopold Leadership Fellow in 2004, Dr. Scott Doney gamely participated in one of our trainings. He drafted his Message Box, sweated through his mock interview scenarios, and learned about journalism and policymaking. As a marine chemist, he thought that the policy work seemed interesting but unlikely. “I thought, this is all well and good for other folks, but I’ll never get asked. I would have never guessed, sitting in the training doing the testimony, that that would be me one day.” [Read more…]

Extra! Extra! Read All About It!

Whether for a scientific paper or a news article, titles and headlines have a pretty tough job. They need to grab your attention and make you want to know more, while also avoiding false pretenses that leave you feeling betrayed by time you are halfway through reading. Many scientists often view these things as an add-on, but studies have shown that headlines can significantly influence readers. And we have found that thinking about headlines can actually be a useful way to take your Message Box to the next level. Of course, scientists don’t get to choose headlines for news stories about their work – in fact, that task usually goes to the editor of the piece – but thinking about what you would like the headline to say can be a useful exercise in distilling your science down even further.

[Read more…]

Scientists And The Media: Flight Behavior?

Monarch

At my childhood home in northern Michigan over the Christmas holidays, I curled up by our fireplace, watched the snow fall on the forest beyond our yard, and picked up a new book: “Flight Behavior,” by Barbara Kingsolver.  I had heard a little bit about the plot and the author in an interview on NPR.  It turns out Kingsolver, while being a critically acclaimed writer of award-winning fiction like the “Poisonwood Bible,” is also an environmentalist who lives off the land, and she trained as a scientist. She completed a Master’s in ecology at the University of Arizona and went most of the way through a PhD program before deciding she wanted to reach a broader audience than her thesis could. Perhaps as a result, “Flight Behavior,” though a work of fiction, has garnered praise  for its scientific accuracy and also sheds some light on the complicated interface between science and the media. [Read more…]

What Makes A Great Radio Interview?

Photo courtesy of dplanet via Flickr

In my last post, I described the importance of being a good listener in order to be an effective communicator.  As the former production assistant for the environmental radio show Living on Earth, (and as the show’s current part-time transcriber), I’ve had many opportunities to listen critically to and to be a part of great science-minded radio.  While there are many excellent guides out there for interview tips (like this one from AAAS), here are some of the interviewee qualities that I found make for an ultimately interesting and effective piece, as well as some of my own tips for how to best tell your story in this medium: [Read more…]

Taming Beastly Press Releases

As a verb, pique means “to stimulate (interest or curiosity).” As a noun, however, it has a rather different sense: “a feeling of irritation or resentment.” It strikes me that there may be no more perfect word to describe a certain fixture of the science journalism world… the press release. [Read more…]