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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But What Do We DO With The Science Of Science Communication?


Last week, as I listened to Andy Rosenberg, from the Union of Concerned Scientists, give a seminar about the new Center for Science and Democracy, I tweeted, “What Rosenberg is saying is familiar: science doesn’t tell us what to do, it helps us understand what questions to ask.”

When I hit ‘tweet’ it felt good. It felt right in my bones. And then it hit me.  I had just refuted the premise of this blog post.


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ScienceOnline Climate


Ah, logistics. WiFi, websites, sponsors, speakers, travel, venues, sound, and food – planning a meeting means dozens of details need constant attention. And yet, if we’ve done our work well, these all fade into the background as an event comes to life. There’s something magical about creating a space for conversations to unfold and genuine connections to take root, and I am delighted to have been a part of what we created at ScienceOnline Climate.

ScioClimate, as we call it, was a conference that took place in Washington, D.C. August 15-17. Thanks to professional development support from COMPASS, I was able to join Jamie Vernon and Karyn Traphagen as a co-organizer. But ScioClimate is not over because it’s much more than just a meeting – it’s a community of people coalescing around issues of how we improve climate science conversations online. Our intent is to go far beyond tactical discussions about how to share research results, and instead to explore the art, science, rhetoric, politics, philosophy, emotion, and practicalities of tackling unprecedented global change.

Nothing sums up my experience at the event better than this tweet by Mark Westneat:

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8/23/13 Link Round-Up

Happy Friday, everyone! We have quite the variety for you below, featuring events from ScienceOnline Climate, amazing animal videos (pufferfish nests and frozen frogs, anyone?), and an article on why some scientists may communicate with the media more than others. [Read more…]

What The Science Tells Us About “Trust In Science”

This post continues our series focused on science communication research. Instead of reporting on or recapping a single paper, we’re asking what the literature has to say about urgent or recurring questions in our field. This is inspired, in part, by John Timmer’s call for an applied science of science communication, as well as the upcoming special issue of PNAS with papers from the 2012 Sackler Colloquium on the Science of Science Communication.

When climate scientist Tamsin Edwards published her editorial “Climate scientists must not advocate for particular policies” in The Guardian, it triggered a cascade of responses on engagement and advocacy. This is something COMPASS spends quite a lot of time thinking about and discussing in our trainings and writings, but the line that particularly caught my eye was: “I believe advocacy by climate scientists has damaged trust in the science. We risk our credibility, our reputation for objectivity, if we are not absolutely neutral.”

I admire the conviction in that statement and it’s nothing if not clear. But is it true? Is the behavior of individual scientists a primary driver of public opinion? It reminds me of a conversation regarding our assumptions about audiences, in which my friend Ben Lillie quipped: “Communicating science to the public? Neither noun exists and I’m not sure about the verb.” Given the current conversations, I am not so sure of our use of the phrase ‘trust in (the) science’ either, so I decided to do a little digging. [Read more…]

5/10/13 Link Round-Up

Photo courtesy of 'Ravages' via Flickr.

COMPASS is still enjoying new stories from scientists sparked by our PLOS paper out last week (check them out on Twitter at #reachingoutsci) – and keep ’em coming! We are also excited about the upcoming ScienceOnlineOceans (#ScioOceans) un-conference in October. Have you registered?

This week, we’ve seen a lot of interesting and quirky pieces as well as some unbelievable science stories, rounded up for you below: [Read more…]

Staying Afloat In A Sea Of Information

When you're overwhelmed by data, there are several tools you can turn to, to help you sort through the deluge.

Photo courtesy of Intersection Consulting via Flickr Creative Commons.

As a research scientist, my attention to detail and obsession with being thorough were clear assets. Every project was meticulously planned and every data point double-checked. But now that my job involves being able to track the latest science across a huge range of topics, in addition to shifting policy and social contexts, these assets can sometimes weigh me down. I’ve had to come up from the depths and get better at skimming the surface (in marine biology terms, more snorkeling and less SCUBA). But with an unwieldy amount of information coming at me from a variety of outlets, even navigating the surface waters can be tricky. So this year, I’ve decided on a plan of attack to get my personal information management (PIM) in order. [Read more…]

4/5/13 Link Round-Up

Photo courtesy of 'Ravages' via Flickr.

There’s something about a gripping story that really pulls you in. Whether it’s because of detail, plot, or even the personality of the storyteller, I’m willing to bet that you’ll remember a well-told story much longer than a bland one. We’ve talked previously about the role of storytelling and narrative on this blog (for example, in this post and this post), and this week we have a collection of links that follow that theme: [Read more…]

Blogging, Science Online, And ScienceOnline

MailChimp Graphic

“Find your voice, find your niche, find your community. And don’t forget why you got started.”

This powerful advice was the closing note of last week’s ScienceOnlineSeattle event on science blogging.

ScienceOnlineSeattle is a monthly discussion series devoted to exploring all the ways in which the internet and social media are changing the nature of how we do and share science. February’s session was devoted to the art of blogging, and I was thrilled to moderate an outstanding panel of science and environment bloggers featuring Alan Boyle of Cosmic Log, Brendan DeMelle of DeSmogBlog, Sandra Porter of DigitalBio, and Adrienne Roehrich of Double X Science. Together we explored the hows and whys of the work involved in maintaining a successful blog. The conversation began with introductions and getting to know the people behind the personas, moved into the craft and mechanics of blogging, and ended on big picture questions. We shared resources, named favorites in the blogosphere, and discussed the challenges and what ultimately keeps us going through the tough spots. But it wasn’t just about the information the featured panelists had to share… [Read more…]

2/15/13 Link Round-Up

Photo courtesy of 'Ravages' via Flickr.

It has now been a little bit less than two weeks since the end of the ScienceOnline conference, and the attendees have since moved on to cover other happenings and events.  I’m learning that a unique aspect of the energy and thinking sparked at Science Online is that the ideas and conversation often strengthen in the weeks and months following. No doubt that energy will flow into this week’s AAAS meeting, where many ScienceOnline attendees are now in Boston including several of our own COMPASS members… they are preparing to lead and moderate sessions, live tweeting, and joining colleagues new and old for dinner or drinks (if you’re on Twitter, follow #AAASmtg – trending as we type! – and our COMPASS attendees at @LizNeeley, @KOMcleod, @ChadEnglish, and @GoldmanE). Below we have rounded up some of the continued thinking from ScienceOnline, as well as some other advice on science communication, funding, and more.   [Read more…]