Learning can be a very individual experience; after all, gaining knowledge and skills is something that happens internally. But what you learn takes on new significance and understanding when you practice it, which is why our trainings emphasize hands-on group activities. And that learning takes on a life of its own when you share it with others. It’s inspiring to see the community of scientists that are taking their communication knowledge to their colleagues, students, labs, and institutions, and we’re thrilled that today, scientist across the country are putting a special emphasis on encouraging each other to communicate their work. Tessa Hill, one of the core organizers for today’s activities, shares the impetus for this event and some of the tools and events happening today. [Read more…]
As schools let out and the days grow longer and hotter in the Northern Hemisphere, the busy buzz of the summer field season is often punctuated by a flurry of scientific conferences.
Conferences are great places to work on your communication, share your science, and connect with new people. They can be exhilarating and exhausting, stimulating and stupefying, optimistic and overwhelming – but don’t forget to incorporate ways to improve your communication skills and work toward your communication goals. This week, we’re sharing our top tips to help you communicate at conferences. [Read more…]
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.
“People never ask whether birds are good or bad because they fly in flocks,” I say, while a murmuration of starlings whirls on the screen behind me. I pause, letting the audience watch the dark forms flow across the sky, “but discussions of social media always seem to focus on how these technologies turn us into a mindless mob. It’s a condemnation and a dismissal. I hope we stop thinking like that and instead, ask better questions about what drives these amazing patterns of behavior online and off.”
This is my favorite moment in our workshops on social media. I feel grounded – like we can step back and take a deep breath, soothed by the strange and beautiful rhythms of the flock coming to roost as dusk falls. It reminds me too, of days online where I’m one of the flock, banking and wheeling as memes and must-reads ripple across twitter.
It’s not just entertainment either – the hive mind is capable of mind-boggling knowledge production. Whether it’s crowd-sourced science projects like FoldIt (protein folding), EyeWire (neuron mapping), Galaxy Zoo (analyzing Hubble images) or expert communities like the Polymath Project, (blog-based “massively collaborative mathematics”), the social media swarm can both work and play.
But what if you don’t have a flock?
Whether for a scientific paper or a news article, titles and headlines have a pretty tough job. They need to grab your attention and make you want to know more, while also avoiding false pretenses that leave you feeling betrayed by time you are halfway through reading. Many scientists often view these things as an add-on, but studies have shown that headlines can significantly influence readers. And we have found that thinking about headlines can actually be a useful way to take your Message Box to the next level. Of course, scientists don’t get to choose headlines for news stories about their work – in fact, that task usually goes to the editor of the piece – but thinking about what you would like the headline to say can be a useful exercise in distilling your science down even further.
This week, we welcome Dr. Dawn Wright to the COMPASS Board of Directors! Dawn’s day job (and she would probably tell you, her night and weekend job too) is the Chief Scientist at Esri. I love her story of why, after 17 years in academia, Dawn made the “escape”, as she says, to Esri. At its core, her story is really one of communication, leadership, exploration of the relevance of her science, and examination of her place in the scientific enterprise (all things we like helping scientists think about). Dawn is an amazing scientist, a generous human being, a committed communicator, a prolific tweeter and a hard-core cyclist. We couldn’t be more thrilled to welcome her to our board, so she can contribute to helping all of us at COMPASS support scientists in finding their own “so what”. [Read more…]
The long hot days of summer are turning to the brief and – here in Oregon – soggy days of fall. For grad students and faculty alike it’s a return to the hectic rush of the academic year. We have compiled a list of COMPASS blog posts that can help those of us headed back to school… [Read more…]
During the past few weeks I had the opportunity to attend two conferences that had related themes and took place literally across the street from each other, but in other ways were worlds apart. First was the Ecological Society of America’s Annual Meeting (#ESA2014), which was dominated by ecological scientists sharing their research. The following week, government officials, land managers, city planners, and NGO representatives met at the first ever California Adaptation Forum (#CAF14). While both conferences explored the possibility of finding solutions by forging new connections, there was still clearly a gap between those talking about the latest research on one side of the street and those trying to figure out how to implement it on the other. [Read more…]
As a graduate student in the sciences, with a strong desire to make my work relevant to society, I often asked myself “How can I get the communications skills I need?” Long days in the field and late nights in the lab sometimes made it hard to add communications to my list of things to do, but it was really worth it – the time I invested paid off in so many ways, from expanding my skill set to informing my research (and inspiring me to build real-life applications into my masters project). One of the first things I found after joining COMPASS with my hot-off-the-press degree is that I wasn’t the only grad student asking that question. The COMPASS team hears it all the time, and is working actively to address it. [Read more…]
This post is co-authored by COMPASS Director of Science Policy Outreach Chad English.
The COMPASS team is in Missoula, Montana this week for the 2014 North American Congress for Conservation Biology (NACCB). Our plenary “Tapas” and the reception that followed kicked off myriad conversations between scientists and journalists. There were conversations about pikas and the Endangered Species Act, about endangered primates, as well as innovative efforts to engage stakeholders in discussions about what a changing climate will mean.
For us, conferences are about making connections: with people, with ideas, and between communities. One of our core activities is sleuthing new science, to identify ideas and insights that are not yet well connected to the public discourse, and brokering connections that can transform the conversation. Sometimes those connections are amongst peers. Sometimes those connections are with journalists. And sometimes they’re in the world of policy. [Read more…]