August Community Call Recap: Meeting members where they are to build a successful scientific community

Our August 2020 community call coincided with the release of the CSCCE Community Participation Model, a cornerstone of our Community Engagement Fellowship Program training but until now not publicly available. To celebrate, we invited two CEFP alumni to share their experiences using the model to inform how they think about, and engage, the members of their communities. 

In this blog post, we’ll recap a few takeaways from the call, and we share each of the presentations as standalone videos for you to watch at your convenience. Plus, we share what we’re cooking up for next month’s call! 

The CSCCE Community Participation Model

Lou Woodley introduces the CSCCE Community Participation Model.

The CSCCE Community Participation Model describes how members of a scientific community might interact with each other in terms of four different modes, CONVEY/CONSUME, CONTRIBUTE, COLLABORATE, and CO-CREATE. As Lou outlines in her talk, the model also considers the role of a scientific community engagement manager in instigating or scaffolding these interactions, and how that role changes in each different mode. In developing the model, we realized that there is also a fifth mode, the CHAMPION mode, that exists peripherally to the other four, and describes “super-users” who are particularly invested in the mission of the community and actively promote it externally or take on leadership roles within it. 

As the call progressed, we collectively explored that the power of this model, as opposed to lifecycle or maturity models, is that it acknowledges the changing levels of engagement of individual community members. For example, a member might be highly invested, operating in CO-CREATE mode and CHAMPION-ing the community, for a year or two, but then might need to take a step back for professional or personal reasons and spend some time primarily in the CONVEY/CONSUME mode. 

It also acknowledges why you might not want all members in your community to “make it” all the way to CO-CREATE: This level of engagement requires significant infrastructure including dedicated community managers or highly active volunteers as well as the brokering of power dynamics and building of trust.

How does the model work in practice

Shane Hanlon shares his experience launching a community of practice within a scientific association. 

Shane Hanlon is a Program Manager for AGU’S Sharing Science program, which trains scientists to be better communicators and teaches them ways to effectively engage non-scientist audiences. He joined the CEFP 2019 cohort to understand how he could use the AGU Connect platform to build a community of people who have an interest in this topic or have participated in Sharing Science trainings. 

In his presentation, Shane outlined how he quickly realized that so many of the things you need to build a successful community, such as a detailed onboarding process, a recruitment strategy, and buy-in from colleagues, were not yet in place. He also noted that while he managed to recruit effective ambassadors (aka CHAMPIONS), he simply did not have the time to nurture this emergent leadership to reach its full potential.

Shane discussed how other community models had failed to resonate with his particular experiences and the goals of his community. He detailed how CSCCE’s model had enabled him to reimagine the different modes of member engagement within his community. 

Shane also highlighted AGU’s new strategic plan, which emphasizes the need for engaging a broader, participatory membership, and the potential that opens up for his community and the Sharing Science team. 

Elisha Wood-Charlson lays out her tiered community member engagement strategy. 

Elisha Wood-Charlson is the User Engagement Lead for the National Microbiome Data Collaborative (NMDC), a research collaboration focused on making microbiome data FAIR (Findable, Accessible, Interoperable, and Reusable). She came to this role after completing CEFP 2017 training, and worked with Lou Woodley to develop her tiered engagement strategy based on the different modes of user engagement. 

Elisha’s work involves culture change, shifting the perception of publication as the only metric of success in academia (and thus the hoarding of data) and instead giving proper credit and attribution for the act of collecting and carefully archiving microbiome data. Her tiered engagement strategy acknowledges that for some in the community, they are simply there to deposit and/or access data sets. But others, which her team have dubbed “champions,” also share the NMDC’s commitment to FAIR data principles and are invested in the success of the community on a more philosophical, less utilitarian level. 

She and her team are also about to launch an ambassador program, with members tasked with promoting the specific mission of NMDC and becoming the faces of the community. By elevating scientists into the role of community spokespeople, and offering them the training and support they need, Elisha hopes to grow the community, making NMDC a household name. 

What else can the Community Participation Model tell us? 

Join us next month to hear about CSCCE’s Community Profiles, a research project that was informed by the Community Participation Model. We’ll also be launching a new working group focused on building community champions programs, which will consider the why and how of mobilizing emergent leadership within a scientific community. 

Date: 23 September 2020

Time: 6pm UTC / 2pm US EDT

Zoom link: 


A big thank you to our presenters this week, who did a wonderful job of highlighting why the CSCCE Community Participation Model is so powerful for thinking about member engagement strategies. We’d also like to thank everyone who participated in the call and added to the discussion. 

If you have ideas for future calls, or would like to tell us how you’ve used the CSCCE Community Participation Model in a guest blog post, please let us know at