Thanking Liz Neeley: Champion For Scientists And #SciComm

Liz Neeley, doing what she does so well -- bringing communications trainings to new levels with style and insight. Image by David Kline.

I still remember the first day I met Liz Neeley, a little over seven years ago. We met in a hip coffee shop in Seattle. She had recently relocated there from Washington DC, where she was working for SeaWeb (first as an intern, then as project manager) to continue discussions about potential employment with COMPASS. She stood up from behind her Mac and shook my hand. The first words out of her mouth were how excited she was about this opportunity with COMPASS, followed by “I have so many ideas.” She was buzzing with enthusiasm and innovations. She turned her computer around, and her screen was filled with mock-ups and visuals of ways we could evolve how we help scientists – and ourselves – communicate. Because that’s what Liz does: she imagines, and she produces. Over the last seven years, Liz has tirelessly channeled this energy into COMPASS’ mission to support scientists to engage in the public discourse about the environment, while also working to move the larger field of science communication forward.

Today we are celebrating Liz, as we say farewell to her time with COMPASS. Listing all she has done would be impossible; the legacy and impact she leaves at COMPASS is strong. Liz has contributed to so many dimensions of COMPASS’ work to realize the change we want to see in the world, while also pushing us in new directions, particularly in the areas of social media and the science of science communication.

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Maximizing Moritz Et Al: On Publication & Promotion


Max Moritz is the lead author on the invited review Learning to Coexist with Wildfire, published last Thursday in Nature. With its synthesis of wildfire science and management from three continents, Max and his co-authors strongly believe the paper holds real-world implications for people’s health, safety, and financial well-being. If you feel like that about a paper, you want it to be read and used widely; and if you want a paper to achieve broader visibility, you don’t just cross your fingers and hope for the best! So Max reached out to COMPASS and spent the last two weeks of October working with me to think through what he wanted to say and working with his co-authors and university to prepare. [Read more…]

Top Ten Tip-lists For Sharing Your Science

The COMPASS blog offers tips for puzzling through the challenges of science communication. 
(CC BY-NC-SA by Gabriela Pinto on flickr)

Almost fifteen years ago I joined two of COMPASS’ cofounders – Jane Lubchenco and Vikki Spruill – at the Packard Foundation to share about the need for a science communication organization and what our fledging enterprise was doing to help scientists engage more effectively beyond their peers.  Last week, I visited the Packard Foundation to revisit what COMPASS is doing now and what we hope to do in the future. I couldn’t help but reflect on what has transpired since that initial meeting. We’ve learned, experienced and witnessed so much! Two things struck me as I reflected on the last 15 years. [Read more…]

9/14 Weekly Link Round-up

Here are a few of the postings, articles, and things that caught our collective COMPASS eye this week: [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…]

Pitch Perfect – A Primer For Scientists Reaching Out To Journalists

 (This is a modified version of a guest post for the the #Scifund Challenge. Find the original here.)

The discussion was bright and busy. Everyone at the table was talking rapidly, asking questions and sharing thoughts about science journalism and outreach. Everyone, that was, except the scientist sitting across from me. She had been tentative and largely silent, but suddenly she was grinning.

“I get it,” she said, “I am a runner, right? People are always saying, ‘It’s hard! It takes time! I don’t know how you do it.’  And I just tell them, ‘You just have to get up, lace up your shoes, and get out there. It’s not pretty at first, but it becomes a habit, and then you start enjoying it more and more.’ This is the same thing – you just have to decide to do it.”

Running as a metaphor for science outreach: “I always loved running… You could go in any direction, fast or slow as you wanted, fighting the wind if you felt like it… on the strength of your feet and the courage of your lungs.” ~Jesse Owens

She is so very right. For most of us, the hardest part is lacing up and heading out for that first run. It’s particularly true when the stakes are high, like when you have a new paper coming out and are hoping it gains traction outside your academic circles. In most cases, this requires a lot more than just hope; you’ve got work to do. Your task is to pique the curiosity of the right people, to make them want to learn more and share it with their audiences. You need to pitch your story.

Over the years, COMPASS has coached dozens of scientists through this process. On projects great and small, from one-on-one conversations to press releases, we’ve helped scientists connect with journalists. And while there’s no such thing as a secret recipe for guaranteed success, here is some tried and true guidance: [Read more…]