March’s Community Call Recap: Community manager roles in STEM

The March community call focused on the different forms that community manager (CM) roles take across the STEM ecosystem. The agenda included presentations and reflection questions to guide the conversation, which covered career paths, professional development, and common challenges. 

To kick off the meeting, Lou Woodley spoke about CSCCE’s research program, highlighting our newest resource-creation project: STEM Community Manager Case Studies. Malin Sandström (International Neuroinformatics Coordinating Facility) and Elisha Wood-Charlson (Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory) then described work they performed as CSCCE Community Engagement fellows to characterize CM positions. This work will feed into a new CSCCE working group, which will launch in April and continue studying scientific community manager roles.

CSCCE’s community manager case studies project

In 2016, CSCCE conducted a survey of community managers in STEM to gauge the state of the profession. We also interviewed several community managers to find out more about their work at a time when these types of roles were just starting to appear in science. We asked questions about how community managers came into their roles, how their positions were funded, and how they spent their working hours.

The field of community management in STEM has grown substantially since 2016, so CSCCE is revisiting our initial interview questions to understand whether this growth has been accompanied by an evolution in the types of roles and the types of organizations hosting them. In February, we started reaching out to community managers in our community of practice to see if they would be interested in sharing their perspectives in a new series of case studies. Each case study is a two-page snapshot of an individual CM, including information on their career path, where their positions fit within their organizations, and their favorite parts of their roles. We began publishing these case studies on 8 March 2022, and will release one per week through early summer. If you’d like to be profiled in a case study, let us know!

The Catalyzing Cultural Change (C3) team, past and future

In 2017, four members of the Community Engagement Fellows program (Jenifer Davison, Andreas Leidolf, Malin Sandström, and Elisha Wood-Charlson), together with Lou, formed the C3 team to investigate how CMs’ skills, duties, and professional relationships position them to influence STEM culture.

Elisha and Malin described some of the C3 team’s key outputs, such as a skills wheel that describes 45 key capabilities — nine in each of 5 categories — that CMs use to influence their communities. Data they collected from their cohort also identified commonalities between many CM positions. You can watch their presentation in full below. 

One trend the C3 team noticed was that most CM positions were nestled in communications or member service departments on the lower levels of organizational charts, but were often involved in project teams with more senior staff. As a result, they had some influence across their organization, but not necessarily recognition of the wide-ranging importance of their roles.

When we polled participants in this month’s call, however, many of them reported that their organizations have flat structures, so they report to executive directors directly. (One person reported that they are their organization’s executive director.) This may indicate that a shift has occurred since 2017.

CSCCE is planning to launch a new working group to revive and extend this work on community manager roles and we asked call participants for additional suggestions for questions that the working group could tackle. Several people wondered about the demographics of CMs. These positions seem to be mostly filled by women, so are expectations gendered? What do CM positions look like on a global scale? Other people wondered what the optimal level of STEM education is for scientific CMs, and some wondered how the careers of veteran CMs have evolved over time.

If you’re interested in joining the working group, email us at We’re planning to launch in early April.

April Community Call

Join us on 20 April 2022 at 11am EDT / 3pm UTC for our next community call, when we’ll be talking about community/customer relationship management systems (aka CRMs). We’ll be releasing more information about the call soon, but in the meantime if you have experience using a CRM to manage a STEM community and would like to present on the call, please let us know by emailing

Mark your calendars: iCal | Google