Our Stories: Supporting Wildfire Scientists To Engage

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We often 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. And remember, if you want to join our team to support scientists in their engagement efforts – we are hiring!
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Want To Work At COMPASS?

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Many of us on the COMPASS team get asked “What’s your favorite thing about working at COMPASS?” The initial response is always the same: “Just ONE thing? Yikes, that’s hard.” But when we get down to it, I hear two consistent answers:

The people. Our teammates. The scientists we support. The networks we connect them to, especially journalists and policymakers. We are people people.

The work. Making a difference in the world. Knowing that you helped support scientists to find their ‘so what’ and find their voiceto share both their insights and their passion.  Being part of society’s journey to help people and environment thrive. Figuring out what it really means to be a science communication practitioner. Being part of a small organization with big impact. Innovating. Busting silos. Connecting.
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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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Wilburforce Training: The Heart Of The Matter

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,

Something magical happened at the first training for the Wilburforce Fellowship in Conservation Science two weeks ago. Once again, storytelling revealed its power to inform, to inspire and bring together a group of people focused on a common cause.

The fellowship originated with Amanda Stanley, the Wilburforce Foundation’s Conservation Science Program Officer. When she approached COMPASS to partner with her and Wilburforce and help design the fellowship, we leapt at the chance. Our shared dream is to build a network of conservation scientists who can successfully bridge the science-to-society gap by being strong communicators, leaders, and agents of change. We not only want them to connect to their science in new ways, we want to them to connect to each other, so they can support each other in the inevitable ups and downs that come with tackling big challenges.

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Farewell To Chad English: A Pioneer At The Science-Policy Interface

Chad at the April 2015 Wilburforce Fellows training in Seattle.

We like to think that our work speaks for itself, through the scientists we train, the communities we build, and the conversations we spark. As coaches, connectors and enablers, we are intentionally and happily behind the scenes. We prepare, support, and cheer for the researchers on the front lines to share their scientific insights with the world. This week I want to focus on one of our behind-the-scenes champions – Dr. Chad English, whose last day here at COMPASS was May 1st. He pioneered our work at the science-policy interface, and his influence will be felt for years to come.

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Want to Get Policymakers Engaged With Your Field of Research? Integrate Them Into Your Scientific Conference

Panelists from left to right: 
Michael Curley, Environmental Law Institute
David Batker, Earth Economics
Jody Springer, Federal Emergency Management Agency   
Mary Ruckelshaus, Natural Capital Project, Stanford University
Mary Erickson, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration
Laura Petes, White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, Moderator

This post is co-authored by COMPASS Director of Science Policy Outreach Chad English.

Scientific conferences are hotspots for researchers to come together to share their latest discoveries, form new collaborations, and glean new insights from one another. But traditional conferences can also be very insular affairs, where researchers geek out with one another and non-experts find it practically impossible to glean much value from the proceedings. For scientific communities that want to see their science used by society, we think the benefits of engaging policymakers are clear.  When done well, the very audiences you most want to share your science with become engaged participants and help shape both the formal talks and informal side-conversations throughout the conference.  So, what does it take to recast conferences as opportunities to integrate external audiences into these discussions? What does it take to engage policymakers effectively? [Read more…]

Taking Meetings From Painful To Productive

COMPASS Fire Workshop 2014

From one-hour conference calls to multiple-day workshops, meetings are all too often considered a necessary evil. Although bringing people together can be critical for building consensus or tackling problems that involve multiple stakeholders, many of us see meetings as stealing time from more engaging and rewarding efforts, like conducting research, writing papers, or sharing your science with new audiences. However, with a little more investment upfront, most meetings could be much more efficient and – better yet – productive. [Read more…]

Straight From The Scientist: Francis Chan

Dr. Francis Chan of Oregon State University

At COMPASS, we sometimes work with an individual scientist in a variety of contexts and over several years.  As they engage with journalists, policymakers, and others outside their research community, we often hear how their thoughts around sharing their science continue to evolve. We recently caught up with one such scientist – Francis Chan of Oregon State University – after he got back from a trip to our DC office earlier this month to meet with policymakers about ocean acidification. Here are some of the things he has picked up over the course of his communication and engagement experiences that we’re excited to share with you! [Read more…]

Cracking The Capitol Hill Nut

Tourists aren't the only ones who need guidance on Capitol Hill. These tips will help you make your meetings with staff efficient and productive. Image courtesy of fensterbme on flickr.

Washington D.C. often gets a reputation for being opaque, with lots of rules and unspoken customs for how things are done.  It’s true that D.C. has its own culture, and Capitol Hill especially can feel like its own world. My experience is that there are many dedicated staff on Capitol Hill who want to understand the best science available and how it can help them develop the best policies – but they have limited time and a number of diverse issues on their plate.  Reaching out and making your science available in an accessible way is essential to making your voice and your science heard.  [Read more…]

Why Do You Do What You Do?

“My motivation – to base management on the most relevant science – that seems like apple pie to me. Who wouldn’t eat it up?” - Tania Schoennagel
Image by Carol Atlantica via flickr
Solving mysteries? Stellar colleagues? Saving the world?

Last week, I wrote about why the why can be hard for scientists. This week, I offer perspectives from scientist colleagues on their whys. All share a passion and commitment to engage beyond the walls of the ivory tower. But their underlying ‘whys’ vary a lot.

Perhaps not too surprisingly, this series of posts are motivated, in part, by reflecting on my own whys. One of the reasons I do what I do is the opportunity to connect with some amazing people, including the inspiration and energy I draw from the contributors here.

Scientists have many reasons for doing what they do, and just as many reasons for sharing (or not sharing) their whys. I hope the whys of these scientists – and their willingness to share them, not only here, but also more broadly – inspire you as much as they have inspired me. [Read more…]