5 Steps For Integrating #SciComm Into STEM Graduate Education

Last month, an article in The Atlantic stated, “Beginning this year, the Medical College Admission Test [MCAT] will contain questions involving human behavior and psychology, a recognition that being a good doctor “requires an understanding of people,” not just science.”  The same is true of being a good scientist. Understanding people is essential for succeeding in everything from teaching, collaboration, and grant writing to media interviews, public engagement, and Congressional testimony.

Yet traditional training in medicine, science, engineering, and other technical disciplines is not helping students to develop the suite of communication skills they need to succeed. How should graduate training shift to better equip STEM professionals for their future careers? [Read more…]

Looking Beyond The Business Card


COMPASS needed to investigate how they might contribute at the boundary of science and business, so naturally they needed someone who knew about synergy – an MBA intern! As a master’s candidate in environmental sciences and business management, I felt well positioned to help COMPASS investigate what they’ve been hearing for awhile now – an unmet need at the intersection of science and business. [Read more…]

#GradSciComm: How COMPASS Is Answering The National Demand For Science Communication Training

Journalist Jon Hamilton helps to facilitate a COMPASS workshop for School of Global Environmental Sustainability Fellows at Colorado State.

This post is co-authored by Liz Neeley and Erica Goldman.

With all of the speculation about the sequester’s possible impacts on science, one sobering conclusion feels clear: young scientists will be hit hard by cuts to federal science budgets. While new faculty may have some buffer, those dependent on the grants of others – like graduate students and postdocs – are already suffering a loss of projects and career opportunities. Paired with a job market where less than 20% of new science PhD’s can expect to find a tenure-track job, and it is a grim picture indeed. While much of this is far outside the control of an individual researcher, there is still an important role for personal action. Investing the time and energy to fine-tune communication skills not only makes scientists more competitive, but can also equip them to engage in critically important discussions about our most urgent social priorities. Now, more than ever, next-generation scientists on all career trajectories need to be effective communicators and advocates for why their work matters. (You can read some of our related blogs and articles on this topic here, here, and here.) [Read more…]

Resolving To Say ‘No’ To Get ‘Yes’

Sometimes it takes saying 'no' to get to 'yes.' Photo via cpalmieri on Flickr.

Every year my husband and I spend New Year’s dinner talking about our previous year: What were our goals, our highlights, how did we do? In addition to patting myself on the back for successfully getting to Pilates classes more regularly, I also found myself proudly recounting COMPASS’ evolution this year. COMPASS’ goal for 2012 was to explore the possibilities of expanding our communications savoir-faire beyond ocean science, to develop a plan and roadmap for what this might look like. We all felt excited and energized at this potential but we also felt some angst and trepidation. But now, a year out, we can look back and say we’ve come a long, long way and have successfully defined and aligned behind a vision of what our future looks like. And, with all of 2013 in front of us, our next goal is equally one-part thrilling and one-part daunting: retool our organization and expand our capacity to achieve this new vision. [Read more…]

Beyond The Sea, Busting Silos For The Future

It's all connected.  Where the ocean meets the land.
Photo courtesy of Gord McKenna via Flickr.

Pop quiz – pick one and only one answer:

Hurricane Sandy is related to: a) weather, b) climate, c) oceans, d) public safety

Ocean acidification is an issue related to: a) oceans, b) carbon, c) agriculture, d) food security

Marine debris is an issue related to: a) oceans, b) consumption, c) population, d) health

Marine aquaculture is an issue related to: a) oceans, b) food security, c) agriculture, d) social equity [Read more…]

Divide And Conquer

COMPASS is a distributed organization with staff located on both coasts.  Photo courtesy of NinJA999 via Flickr.

A little over five months ago on my first day at COMPASS, I shook hands with my new office mates, Chad and Erica, sat down at my computer, and was introduced to the rest of my co-workers: a gaggle of disembodied heads in a Skype window.  Though physically distant, throughout the days and weeks that followed my co-workers would ease me into my new role, guiding me through my responsibilities and the inner-workings of COMPASS via screen-sharing, phone conversations and a flurry of online chat discussions.

COMPASS is a small, non-profit organization.  We are 12 dedicated individuals who work with scientists to help them communicate their science ­– clearly, succinctly, and efficiently – to a variety of audiences.  And, central to how we function, is the fact that we are distributed widely around the United States.

The COMPASS team holds Monday morning scrum meetings over Skype.

It’s more than just our desks… which are located in offices throughout California, Oregon, Washington and Washington, DC… we are constantly on the move: giving workshops, attending conferences, meeting with scientists and policymakers.  At times, this distribution can be so comically vast we once considered creating a “Where in the World is COMPASS?” interactive map resplendent with blinking indicators or a bunch of little Waldos lost on a rotating globe. [Read more…]