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…]

Announcing the 2017 Wilburforce Fellows: Bright Spots in Conservation

The 2017 Wilburforce Fellows

Wilburforce Foundation, in partnership with COMPASS, is proud to announce the second cohort of the Wilburforce Fellowship in Conservation Science. The Wilburforce Fellowship was designed for scientists who want to be agents of change for conservation in the West. The Fellowship builds a community of practice where scientists are advancing decision-relevant research, effectively communicating scientific findings, and contributing to conservation solutions by engaging with local communities, policymakers, land managers and those with diverse perspectives. [Read more…]

Keep Advocating For Science, But Don’t Forget To Engage

Humanizing the conversation about science helps to bridge the chasms between science and society. 


zurheide-online via Flickr
(CC BY-ND 2.0)

Like many of you right now, we at COMPASS are reflecting on our relationship with advocacy. Just as we advise scientists, figuring out where you fall on the advocacy spectrum is a personal choice—it’s not a matter of right or wrong. We have long described ourselves as an organization that is “non-partisan and non-advocacy.” While we don’t advocate for specific environmental policies or legislation, we do (and always have) advocate for science and scientists to be at tables where decisions are made. One of our core beliefs is that policies and discussions that include science will be more informed and more robust. We remain as firmly committed to this belief today as we were last month, last year, and under the previous three administrations.

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“Communicating Science Effectively: A Research Agenda” NAS Event & Webcast, Tues. Jan. 10: Preview Q&A With Dietram Scheufele

Dr. Dietram Scheufele. Image by WiD / Christof Rieken; CC BY-ND 3.0.
The National Academies Report: “Communicating Science Effectively: A Research Agenda” is an important new contribution to the science of science communication.
“Everything we know about communicating science is changing, from the types of value-laden questions that new science raises to rapidly changing ways of disseminating and sharing information online. And a key challenge is to understand that.” —Dietram Scheufele

The NAS Committee on the Science of Science Communication, chaired by Alan Leshner, CEO Emeritus of AAAS, and vice-chaired by Dietram Scheufele of the University of Wisconsin, is hosting a public discussion on Tuesday Jan. 10 in Washington D.C. at 11 a.m. EST/8 a.m. PST to share the new report and its implications, and to offer an opportunity for questions and conversation. The event will also be webcast. You can view the webcast here, and follow along on social media with #NASEMscicomm.

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“So You Want To Change The World?”

"So you want to change the world?" Nature Comment by Nancy Baron

As the year comes to an end, many of us are thinking about what lies ahead in 2017. It’s a time for taking stock of where we are and where we want to be. This Nature Comment (published today) called “So you want to change the world?” reflects on the shifts that I have witnessed over the last 15 years as a science communication coach for COMPASS and looks ahead to the new year. The bottom-line message: in these tumultuous times, scientists need to support each other in standing up for science—and speak from the heart to connect with their audiences. [Read more…]

Recognizing Brooke Smith: Realizing The Vision And Finding COMPASS’s Niche

Brooke Smith and Vikki Spruill at the 2016 COMPASS Staff Retreat.

Vikki Spruill, author of this post, sits on the COMPASS Board of Directors and is president and CEO of the Council on Foundations.

Fifteen years ago, Jane Lubchenco (Oregon State University), Chuck Savitt (Island Press), the Packard Foundation, and I all sat together discussing the need for science to be better connected to the rest of the world. We had all come to this table from different paths: a scientist committed to ensuring that her knowledge and that of her peers did more than just sit on shelves and in journals; a publisher working to ensure complex ideas were accessible and relevant to the world; a conservation and science change-maker working to support efforts so that environment and society can thrive together; and me, a communication professional who knew just how important—yet how hard—it was to get scientists’ voices elevated in the media and policy worlds. We collectively wanted the same thing: for scientists to be effective communicators and to be supported to navigate their way to relevant and meaningful people and conversations. This vision would become COMPASS. [Read more…]

#TeachInForScience Day

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Learning can be a very individual experience; after all, gaining knowledge and skills is something that happens internally. But what you learn takes on new significance and understanding when you practice it, which is why our trainings emphasize hands-on group activities. And that learning takes on a life of its own when you share it with others. It’s inspiring to see the community of scientists that are taking their communication knowledge to their colleagues, students, labs, and institutions, and we’re thrilled that today, scientist across the country are putting a special emphasis on encouraging each other to communicate their work. Tessa Hill, one of the core organizers for today’s activities, shares the impetus for this event and some of the tools and events happening today. [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: Erin Sexton

Erin Sexton, 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; applications to be in the 2017 cohort are due Friday, September 30. To learn more and apply, click here.

Erin Sexton is a Research Scientist and Regulatory Affairs Manager with the Institute on Ecosystems, at the University of Montana. Erin’s research focus encompasses the international landscape known as the Crown of the Continent Ecosystem, with an emphasis on aquatic ecology and conservation biology in the transboundary watersheds between British Columbia, Alberta, and Montana. [Read more…]