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…]

Coaching, Community-Building, and Communication Confidence: How Our Trainings Help Scientists

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,

Over the past two weeks, we’ve been sharing stories from the 2015 Wilburforce Fellows about the role the fellowship has played for them over the past year. If you’re considering applying to be a 2017 Wilburforce Fellow, we hope these stories have motivated you to get started (remember, applications are due by this Friday, September 30!). If you’re considering hosting a training or fellowship, we hope these stories inspire you to explore how to make that happen. Individually, they are powerful arguments for the value of training scientists to communicate; collectively, they’re a call for more scientists to have the kind of opportunity the Wilburforce Fellowship provides. More people telling their stories, and more opportunities for scientists to participate in trainings and support networks, can contribute to the culture change many of us are seeking – one in which scientists are supported and empowered to get out into the world and engage. [Read more…]

Meet a Wilburforce Fellow: Robert Long

Robert Long, 2015 Wilburforce Fellow

The Wilburforce Fellowship in Conservation Science provides researchers with a unique opportunity to gain skills in science communication and leadership to further their conservation goals. Fellows from the 2015 cohort are sharing their experiences this week and next; to learn more and apply to be in the 2017 cohort, click here.

Robert Long is a Senior Conservation Fellow in the Field Conservation Division at Woodland Park Zoo in Seattle. Robert has twenty-plus years of experience studying a broad diversity of wildlife on the East and West Coasts of the U.S., including black bears, fishers, martens, wolverines, bobcats, foxes, spotted owls, marbled murrelets, coyotes, and deer. [Read more…]

Andy Hoffman: Science Communicators Or Science Mediators?

Pew Research Center, January 29, 2015, "Public and Scientists' Views on Science and Society"

We are excited to re-post this blog by Andy Hoffman. Andy raises questions about the role of scientists as mediators, not just communicators.  Andy’s post helped us dive deeper into the importance of listening, not just being right, and we hope it sparks new thinking and fresh perspectives for you. 

Andy Hoffman is a professor at the University of Michigan, researching institutional theory, corporate environmental strategies, organizational theory, and cultural and institutional change. He is a 2011 Leopold Leadership Fellow, an alum of COMPASS trainings, and a leader in thinking about how scientists can fulfill their “social contract” (see the proceedings from his forum on academic engagement). This blog was originally published on the Leopold Leadership 3.0 blog on June 22, 2016.  It is reposted here with the permission of the author.

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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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Scientists And Journalists: Two Sides Of The Communication Coin

Amy (with Nancy Baron) at our 2015 Staff Retreat.

A few years ago, in one of my science writing classes at Johns Hopkins University, a guest speaker shared one of her most regrettable moments as a science journalist. She was a writer at the respected magazine Science News, and several years previously had covered a high-profile paper published in a top journal. Dutifully, she included in her story some of the figures from the paper that captured the essence of the findings. Only later did she (and others in the scientific and journalism communities) learn that those figures contained an error – one that obviously had slipped past the peer reviewers. She was mortified. “I should have checked the math myself,” she told the class. Printing something that was untrue was one of the worst sins she could have committed in her view; even though she had accurately reflected the findings published in the peer-reviewed paper.

As a new student in science journalism – after a long career in environmental science and policy – the incident was a revelation for me: I realized how much scientists and journalists are alike. Accuracy is critical to both them, and it forms the cornerstone of their professional life, namely, credibility. [Read more…]

Conference Season

COMPASS Journalist Fellows onstage at the 2015 Biennial Society for Marine Mammalogy Conference.

As schools let out and the days grow longer and hotter in the Northern Hemisphere, the busy buzz of the summer field season is often punctuated by a flurry of scientific conferences.

Conferences are great places to work on your communication, share your science, and connect with new people. They can be exhilarating and exhausting, stimulating and stupefying, optimistic and overwhelming – but don’t forget to incorporate ways to improve your communication skills and work toward your communication goals. This week, we’re sharing our top tips to help you communicate at conferences. [Read more…]

Putting Our Principles Into Practice

Stephen presenting results in his dissertation defense.

I recently published a paper in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. It was the result of many months of research, but also an opportunity to learn what it’s like to be a scientist communicating about my research and engaging in public discourse about the environment. These lessons will serve me well as I create the conditions for other scientists to shine and to talk in clear and compelling ways about what their research means to policymakers. [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…]