Wilburforce Training: The Heart Of The Matter

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,

Something magical happened at the first training for the Wilburforce Fellowship in Conservation Science two weeks ago. Once again, storytelling revealed its power to inform, to inspire and bring together a group of people focused on a common cause.

The fellowship originated with Amanda Stanley, the Wilburforce Foundation’s Conservation Science Program Officer. When she approached COMPASS to partner with her and Wilburforce and help design the fellowship, we leapt at the chance. Our shared dream is to build a network of conservation scientists who can successfully bridge the science-to-society gap by being strong communicators, leaders, and agents of change. We not only want them to connect to their science in new ways, we want to them to connect to each other, so they can support each other in the inevitable ups and downs that come with tackling big challenges.

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Farewell To Chad English: A Pioneer At The Science-Policy Interface

Chad at the April 2015 Wilburforce Fellows training in Seattle.

We like to think that our work speaks for itself, through the scientists we train, the communities we build, and the conversations we spark. As coaches, connectors and enablers, we are intentionally and happily behind the scenes. We prepare, support, and cheer for the researchers on the front lines to share their scientific insights with the world. This week I want to focus on one of our behind-the-scenes champions – Dr. Chad English, whose last day here at COMPASS was May 1st. He pioneered our work at the science-policy interface, and his influence will be felt for years to come.

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Taking Meetings From Painful To Productive

COMPASS Fire Workshop 2014

From one-hour conference calls to multiple-day workshops, meetings are all too often considered a necessary evil. Although bringing people together can be critical for building consensus or tackling problems that involve multiple stakeholders, many of us see meetings as stealing time from more engaging and rewarding efforts, like conducting research, writing papers, or sharing your science with new audiences. However, with a little more investment upfront, most meetings could be much more efficient and – better yet – productive. [Read more…]

Sleuthing Science: Getting The Lay Of The Land In A New Discipline

sleuthing

One of the things I loved most about being a PhD candidate was the ability to dig deep into the details (I could tell you more about barnacle genetics than anyone really should know). But there are times when it might be necessary to quickly get a handle on a scientific field beyond your own. You might be interested in finding new collaborators for an interdisciplinary project, or need to figure out where your science might fit into a slightly different theme for which there seems to be an abundance of funding opportunities. In either case, trying to assess a new scientific landscape can feel overwhelming…especially when you think about all of the work it took to master understanding of your own field. But there are ways to meet this challenge and also occasionally eat and sleep. In fact, this task of sleuthing a scientific landscape is a big part of what many of us do here at COMPASS. Hopefully, some of our collective lessons learned could make your job a bit easier:

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Know Thy Policy Audience

Mark Nechodom (left), Director of the California Department of Conservation, starred in masterful role-playing scenarios for Switzer Environmental Fellows at the COMPASS policy and communication training on October 5th. He's depicted here at a 2012 conference, signing a Memorandum of Understanding, with Jim Kenna of the Bureau of Land Management, to coordinate operations in California for oil and gas industry oversight.

“Know thy audience. Know thyself. Know thy stuff.”

We offer this quote by the late Steve Schneider in COMPASS’ communication trainings as a guiding principle for scientists preparing to share their science with the wider world.  Schneider, one of the first climate scientists to work as an active adviser to policymakers in the White House and federal agencies, passionately believed that scientists have a social responsibility to communicate what they know and that “staying out of the fray is not taking the high road, it is just passing the buck.” His messages to scientists both challenge and inspire.

But there’s a lot of nuance in learning how to communicate effectively with policymakers. Chad delved into this issue in his recent post, “A Policymaker Walks into the Forest.” But I found myself thinking more deeply about Schneider’s first instruction, “Know thy audience,” as I prepared, earlier this month, to lead a COMPASS communication and policy training for Switzer Environmental Fellows at the Golden Gate National Recreation Area. [Read more…]

Scientists Weigh In: Impostor Syndrome In A Silo-Busting World

Embracing difference (in this case, naiveté in a specialty) may help you see the forest for the trees.  Photo courtesy of torremountain via Flickr.

When Brooke first shared the news that we were going to spend the next 9 to 12 months exploring what an expanded scope for COMPASS might look like, I reacted with a mix of “wow – just think of the possibilities!” and “holy s#$%!”

The terrified part of me was wrestling with impostor syndrome. There’s a palpable buzz about this phenomenon on Twitter and in the blogosphere, among scientists and beyond. In a nutshell, it’s that nagging fear that we don’t know enough (everyone else knows more!), we’re a phony, a fraud … and sooner or later we’ll be found out. You can learn more in Josh Drew’s recent lecture for graduate students at Columbia University. [Read more…]

I Hear What You’re Saying, But….

At a recent training for Switzer Fellows, participants learned the value of active listening in being a good communicator.

This weekend, Erica Goldman and I traveled to a town outside of Boston to deliver a communications workshop for the 2012 New England Switzer Fellows. The fellows are in the midst of their graduate educations, and have diverse backgrounds – they are law students, representatives of NGOs, interdisciplinary and field scientists – all within the realm of environmental sustainability.

Like many of our workshops, our central message to the participants focused on the importance of understanding your audience when communicating your work. That includes formatting your work into clear and succinct messages, but it’s also about understanding the culture in which your audience exists, so as to make your work relevant to them and what they most care about… their “so what?” [Read more…]