#GradSciComm: Rolling Up Our Sleeves

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This post is co-authored by Erica Goldman and Liz Neeley.

As we’ve written here and here, over the past year, COMPASS has worked to assess the current landscape of communication trainings available to graduate students in the STEM disciplines. We’ve dubbed this project #GradSciComm, and it has included building a community-sourced database that provides some insight into the current content and capacity of workshops and courses – but this is only the beginning of the conversation.

Later this week, at the National Academy of Sciences building in Washington, D.C., four COMPASS staff – Nancy Baron, Brooke Smith, Erica Goldman, and Liz Neeley – will facilitate discussion among a select group of scholars, trainers, funders, institutional leaders, and graduate students as they consider the results of our work to date and wrestle with where we go from here. [Read more…]

Gratitude And Reflections From 30,000 Feet

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Through the whirr of the propeller, I have a gorgeous view of the California coastline. I can make out details of the land and seascapes below – Manzanita-covered mountainsides and purple-hued kelp beds as well as snow-covered peaks hundreds of miles in the distance. I’m on my way home from our annual COMPASS staff retreat in Santa Barbara. Our retreat is a chance to dig into the finer details of the landscape of our work, like sharing the innovations we’ve tried in our communications trainings this past year or the nitty gritty of how we allocate our time among different facets of our work. The retreat is also a time to look further afield at the broader landscape, capitalizing on the presence of our board. From this 30,000-foot view, the mountains that stand before us in the coming year are around long-term sustainability and growth – how to more effectively share our impact and diversify our funding portfolio. [Read more…]

Looking Beyond The Business Card

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COMPASS needed to investigate how they might contribute at the boundary of science and business, so naturally they needed someone who knew about synergy – an MBA intern! As a master’s candidate in environmental sciences and business management, I felt well positioned to help COMPASS investigate what they’ve been hearing for awhile now – an unmet need at the intersection of science and business. [Read more…]

A Policymaker Walks Into The Forest…

Helping policymakers to navigate a topical landscape – the forest and the trees – can make scientists trusted resources for decision-making.

Photo courtesy of Bart Busschots via Flickr.

A recurring challenge for scientists talking to policymakers is finding the match between the details that the scientist focuses on and understands, and the details that the policymaker needs to make their decisions. I often see scientists struggling to calibrate their message to the right level of specificity. Missing the mark on this can kill an otherwise promising conversation, but more importantly, increases the probability that you will squander real opportunities to become a trusted resource. [Read more…]

#GradSciComm Update: Sharpening Our Focus

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This post is co-authored by Erica Goldman and Liz Neeley.

From 20,000 feet up, the approach to Washington, DC’s Reagan National Airport is a fuzzy blotch of green and blue – fingers of the Chesapeake Bay creeping landward in dendritic patterns. As you get closer, green patches become dense stands of trees and blue-green waters give way to marshy shorelines. In the final miles, just before the runway comes into view, docks and small marinas resolve so close that you can make out people working dockside.

When Liz Neeley and I were working to prepare for a recent talk for the National Science Foundation on the COMPASS #GradSciComm work (see document below), Liz landed on this visual metaphor for our process. Typically, being able to rapidly cover a lot of ground quickly trades off with being able to see features at fine resolution… at least at first. For our inventory of the players involved in science communication trainings for graduate students, this meant we first assembled a rough picture heavily influenced by generalizations and standout features. But, as we’ve gathered more and better data, the details and topography of the whole landscape is beginning to emerge. [Read more…]

Plastic Pollution: Scientists Engaging To Make A Difference

Plastic pollution litters a beach in Welgelegen, St. Maarten.

Photo courtesy of Fabi Fliervoet via Flickr Creative Commons.

Persistent plastics pose problems for the planet. (Say that five times fast!) While many groups and organizations have been working to document and combat the problem, it wasn’t until recently that several scientists took a bold step. By identifying a gap between existing science and outdated policy, the scientists were able to suggest a policy change that might really help the persistent plastics problem. By labeling some plastics as hazardous, they said, society will be forced to look at, manage, and treat plastics differently.

Behind this argument lies a story of two scientists – Ph.D. candidate Chelsea Rochman of UC Davis and Postdoc Mark Anthony Browne of NCEAS– and their journey of engagement and outreach that may ultimately help change the way that international and federal agencies approach the challenges of debris in the environment. [Read more…]

Our News And Information Diets: The Problem With Picky Eaters

Prior to each of our communication trainings, COMPASS asks the participating scientists, “Where do you get your news?” It’s an open-ended question*, but the answers are almost always the same – they listen to NPR, read the New York Times, and watch the Daily Show. (*to clarify: asked in a confidential written survey)

Fair enough! NPR was the exclusive soundtrack to my years at the lab bench, what about you?
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Embracing Change To Stay Relevant

Juliet Eilperin interacts with scientists at a COMPASS training. She recently announced she'll be leaving the environment desk to cover the White House for the Washington Post.

I once heard healthy organizations are constantly changing. This means effective leaders are not only agents of change but are also change managers. As the Executive Director of a science communication organization, this philosophy has become a mantra for me as I strive to keep our organization healthy. Because we operate at the nexus of the quickly moving worlds of science, media and policy, recognizing that embracing and adapting to change is the norm means that it’s OK that this is part of our daily work too. Embracing change has liberated me. [Read more…]

“So Tweet This, Maybe?” – Promoting Your Work In Social Media

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Some people are easier to ignore than others. At an animated 6’6”, freelance writer Erik Vance is hard to miss in a crowd, and impossible to ignore when he’s poking your shoulder at the AAAS meeting, asking why you haven’t tweeted his latest story. My friend, you see, was finally ready to “get into this whole twitter thing.”

The truth was, even though the Last Word on Nothing is a blog I love, and he’s a writer I tend to follow, I hadn’t read it. In fact, I didn’t know the post existed. [Read more…]

Representing COMPASS To Policymakers

The author prepares his comments with Assistant Director of Policy Outreach Erica Goldman, and converses with scientist Will Graf prior to a recent briefing.

Photo by: Meghan Miner.

As Brooke shared last week, we no longer think of the beach as a limit for our work, instead we view it as another boundary across which we can connect scientists, journalists, and policymakers. This is an exciting time for all of us at COMPASS. We’ll be getting to know communities that are new to us and we’ll be introducing a lot of scientists to different facets of our work for the first time. I want to share a window on our approach to one of these facets: connecting scientists to policymakers. [Read more…]