Love It Or Hate It – Scientists And Journalists Need Each Other

Marina Joubert. Photo by Loretta Steyn

Marina Joubert, guest author of this post, researches science communication at the Centre for Research on Evaluation, Science, and Technology at Stellenbosch University, and launched the first-ever online course in science communication in Africa. She also serves on the scientific committee of the global Public Communication of Science and Technology network and is on the editorial boards of Science Communication and the Journal of Science Communication. We’re excited to share her insights in this post, as this is a topic that our team thinks about a lot (for more, see this post or this post). [Read more…]

Leading By Example: Communication Lessons Learned From Gulf of Mexico Scientists

Dr. Natalia Sidorovskaia.

In January, right after the holidays, Nancy Baron and I traveled to New Orleans to work with the leaders from the Gulf of Mexico Research Initiative (GoMRI) – a 10-year research program to investigate and understand the effect of oil spills on the environment and public health. The Gulf is the focus of a lot of investment in research these days, and these scientists are at the forefront, studying the effect of oil spills on the natural and human environment. This training brought together the Principal Investigators for the GoMRI Consortia, as well as several of the Research Board Members. These scientists are studying how oil and dispersants move in the ocean, the role of microbes in the reduction of oil, and the health of the marine and human communities around the Gulf, among other topics. [Read more…]

Our Stories: Jenna Jambeck – Communicating clearly in the spotlight

Dr. Jenna Jambeck, of the University of Georgia. Photo Credit: UGA/Andrew Davis Tucker.

We blog here with brief updates or reflections on our work, while our website provides examples and descriptions of what we do. We are excited to continue sharing our series of stories, focused on longer timelines and richer details. Today we posted a story about Jenna Jambeck and her experience sharing new research with the media, and how we helped her. Read more of our other stories here. [Read more…]

Our Stories: Scott Doney

We often blog here with brief updates or reflections on our work, while our website provides examples and descriptions of what we do. Over the coming weeks, we are excited to share a series of our stories, focused on longer timelines and richer details. We hope you enjoy!

Dr. Scott Doney, of Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute

Our first story highlights one of the most rewarding, and enjoyable, aspects of our work: building relationships with scientists and supporting them as they surpass our (and their own!) best hopes.

As a Leopold Leadership Fellow in 2004, Dr. Scott Doney gamely participated in one of our trainings. He drafted his Message Box, sweated through his mock interview scenarios, and learned about journalism and policymaking. As a marine chemist, he thought that the policy work seemed interesting but unlikely. “I thought, this is all well and good for other folks, but I’ll never get asked. I would have never guessed, sitting in the training doing the testimony, that that would be me one day.” [Read more…]

The Hidden Curriculum In Graduate Education

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As we prepare to roll out the final #GradSciComm Report this week, I’ve been revisiting the moments of inspiration and flashes of insight that shaped our work. Like clay on a potter’s wheel, the best projects often begin with a vision but take on surprising and idiosyncratic texture as they spin into being.
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Op-Ed Writing: It’s OK To Argue For Something

Enjoying today's op-ed section in the New York Times. Image by Sarah Sunu.

This post is co-authored by COMPASS Program Associate Sarah Sunu.

Expressing perspectives, opinions or even recommendations about the implications of your science can be a bit uncomfortable, even scary. But if you want your science to be relevant and useful, you need to make sure it gets out of pages of peer-reviewed journals and into real-world discussions.  Connecting with policymakers and having an ask is one way to do this. Writing an op-ed is another great way to start to get your science, and ideas, into the public discourse.
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Giving Thanks

Thanksgiving

It’s the time of year when many of us pause to take stock of all that we’re grateful for. Behind every effective communicator, there are inspiring teachers, careful editors, constructive critics, generous mentors, and enthusiastic cheerleaders. This year, we asked the COMPASS team to share their thanks for those who helped them along their communications path. [Read more…]

On Vulnerability In Art And Science Communication

Fingerpainting at its finest – I loved the swirling textures I was able to produce in this set of waves enough to snap a quick photo of it.

My closet is organized in a color spectrum, as are my books, and more strangely, my cleaning products. My spreadsheets march in rainbow precision, as do my (many) calendars. I once actually uttered the phrase, “My contingency planning is a thing of beauty.” I desperately want to package a tidy story. Put everything neatly into place. Make it pretty. Make it precise. That’s what I do. But I’ve been home from my trip to Arizona for 28 hours now, and I don’t know yet exactly how I feel or what, precisely, I have learned. Instead, this is a story about letting go. [Read more…]

Balancing Act: Finding A Place For Policy Engagement

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Academics are hearing the message loud and clear that society needs what they have to offer. In Nicholas Kristof’s recent provocative column, “Professors, We Need You!,” he admonishes professors not to “cloister yourselves like medieval monks,” but at the same time, acknowledges the real challenges posed by “a culture that glorifies arcane unintelligibility while disdaining impact and audience.”

At COMPASS we often hear a sincere desire from scientists to make their work relevant in societal dialogues. But we also hear that the nature of many academic jobs often makes that engagement an add-on, rather than an integral part of their workload and process for review and promotion. As Chad wrote in his last post, scientists can learn how to make the most of the time they spend engaging, honing their skills to maximize the value they can bring to policy dialogues once they’ve begun. But the problem remains, how do you balance expectations of academic culture with the time it takes to make a valuable contribution in a policy space? [Read more…]

Building Infrastructures To Support Scientist Engagement

Courtesy of Chad English via Twitter.

Last week, the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) Roundtable on the “Public Interfaces of the Life Sciences” (which I have the huge honor of serving on), convened a workshop to explore “The Sustainable Infrastructures for Life Science Communication.”  While our title is a mouth full, this topic is near and dear to my heart and COMPASS’ soul.

Our general premise: scientist engagement does not just happen. It takes work, support, policies, help, mechanisms, resources, and cultural acceptance, among other things. Additionally, there are barriers that make it challenging for scientists to engage – from lack of funding, to an antiquated promotion and tenure structure (at most institutions). With this in mind, our Roundtable members, invited speakers, and guests came together to explore all the things that help, support, allow, incentivize… and equally disallow or dis-incentivize scientists from engaging with various audiences or publics.

Day 1 of our gathering focused on sharing data and stories about these sustainable infrastructures for life scientists’ ability to engage. We had a full and intense day. I invite you to scroll through my Storify of  Day 1 of the Roundtable (also below) – to learn what was presented and discussed. [Read more…]