Online Co-working Partnerships are Community of Practice in Action

When Naomi Penfold of the CEFP2019 cohort and Stefanie Butland (#CEFP2017) met in person at the January 2019 CEFP training week they decided to continue collaborating online – by setting up virtual co-working sessions. In this joint post they describe the format that’s worked for them and why they’ve found their shared time so valuable.

What is online co-working – and why is it good?

After meeting at the first CEFP2019 Fellows’ meeting, we started a co-working partnership. We meet face-to-face online, at agreed times, to do work – our own work, but together in time. This is remote synchronous co-working via video-meeting.

Briefly, we start a session with each of us saying what we are working on, and how we’d like to break up our time together into work blocks and discussion. At the end of each work block, we report back to each other what we’ve accomplished in that time and whether we’re struggling with anything. These breaks can turn into work discussions when we feel we need that, and that’s the real magic.

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Crafting effective community surveys

Toby Hodges is a Bioinformatics Community Project Manager at the European Molecular Biology Laboratory. He coordinates the EMBL Bio-IT Project, a community building and support project for bioinformaticians and computational biologists. In this role, he works with volunteers from the community to provide training and consulting, information, networking opportunities, and resources to EMBL scientists who use computational approaches in their research.

As community managers, one of the of the pressures on us is the requirement that we make decisions based on an understanding of our community members. We must frequently make choices on the assumption that we know what the desires, motivations, and preferences are of the people that make up our community. Although we have a close working relationship and perhaps even friendship with some of them, it’s generally very difficult for us to maintain a deep understanding of what makes every member of our community tick, what they want to achieve, and how we can help them to do that.

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Impostor syndrome and community management – lessons on building a community while building myself

Shane M Hanlon is the Program Manager for AGU’s Sharing Science Program and a Senior Producer with the science storytelling organization The Story Collider. Learn more about the Sharing Science Community / @AGU_SciComm and follow him @EcologyOfShane.

Community (and Communication) Don’t Happen Naturally

Six months ago, I had no idea what a community manager was.

I’m the Program Manager for the American Geophysical Union’s (AGU’s) Sharing Science Program. My team and I work to provide scientists with the skills, tools, and opportunities to help them share their science with any audience. We hold workshops, webinars, create tools, manager social media outlets, and more, all in the pursuit of this goal. Eventually we starting pulling folks together into a network of like-minded individuals who are passionate about, and committed to, science communication (scicomm), policy, and outreach. We called it the “Sharing Science Network.” At that point I don’t know if I would have called it a community – but it quickly evolved into one.

Shane at AGU’s annual meeting (giddily) displaying a Sharing Science Community banner. Credit: Olivia V. Ambrogio
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Stepping Beyond the Personal and Professional Silos of a Research Project Manager

Brit Myers is a Project Manager for the Arctic Research Consortium of the U.S. (ARCUS), a non-profit membership organization with the mission of facilitating cross-boundary Arctic knowledge, research, communication, and education. She works to enhance the ability of the highly distributed Arctic research community to connect with one another and work more effectively through collaborative research programs.

Last year I was invited by Dr. Luisa Cristini  from the Alfred Wegener Institute to co-convene a session at the American Geophysical Union (AGU) Fall Meeting.  Luisa was interested in submitting a session proposal specifically focused on issues relevant to the work of scientific project managers – a job title she and I share. Hoping to attract a larger number of abstracts to the proposed AGU session, we also agreed to reach out to the AAAS CEFP community to see if our session topic might be similar enough to their interests to warrant collaboration.  Luckily, CSCCE’s Lou Woodley and another group of #CEFP17 session conveners agreed to join us in our efforts!

However, as we drafted the combined AGU session description – and during a number of other conversations that followed – there was some genuine uncertainty about where the boundaries might stand between those focused on professional development from a “Project Manager” standpoint vs. that of a “Research Community Manager.”  For anyone with a Project Management job title, it is hard to forget that Project Management is a well-established profession with an official Body of Knowledge (PMBOK) regulated through accreditation organizations like the Project Management Institute.  Alternatively, the “Research Community Manager” is viewed by the new Center for Scientific Collaboration and Community Engagement as an “emerging profession,” distinct enough from both traditional project management and/or non-scientific online community management to justify the time and attention needed to professionalize and institutionalize the role.

Image by Pixabay: https://www.pexels.com/photo/building-ceiling-classroom-daylight-373488/
Image by Pixabay: https://www.pexels.com/photo/building-ceiling-classroom-daylight-373488/

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Ten networking strategies for community managers

Rayna Harris is a Postdoctoral Scholar at the University of California Davis. In addition to conducting neuroscience and genomics research, she works to build multi-disciplinary communities that share computational tools to solve diverse biological problems. 

One task of a scientific community manager is to facilitate the activities of a community and to create opportunities for community members to engage in productive interaction. Networking is a process we use to exchange ideas and to build relationships with individuals that share a common interest.  In previous decades, most networking was done in-person, perhaps with the exchange of a business card or elevator pitch; however, digital communication is an increasingly common way that people network (Leek 2016). Whether you are an introvert or extrovert, the goal of this blog post is to provide community managers with a few strategies for networking to build their community and facilitate the exchange of ideas and information.

Networking strategies for social media

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An agile community strategy — or how to use OKRs to say no and stay focused

In the first of our series of posts by members of the CEFP2019 cohort, Naomi Penfold walks us through her strategy for prioritizing her workflow and staying focused. As Associate Director of ASAPbio, Naomi is leading activities to engage the research community around the use of preprints for biology. She cares about improving transparency and inclusion in processes that affect how scientists do their work, from the evaluation of manuscripts to the design of everyday tools.

You look at your week ahead, and see a calendar jam-packed with meetings and not enough time to respond to community requests or even start to deal with your inbox. Some of these interruptions will be exciting opportunities, but will they help you stay focused on your current goals for the community? Will you ever be able to leave your desk and go home? Despite our best efforts to stay organised and in control, I suspect we all end up feeling overwhelmed at times, especially when community management requires you to be there for people and be reactive in the moment as well as keep the ball rolling with long-term projects and general community programming.

If this resonates, you’re not alone: 32% community managers reported ‘prioritizing number of tasks to do’ as the greatest challenge in their role in CSCCE’s survey in 2016. Clearly something has to give, but who do you prioritise and why? How do you know which tasks are most likely to contribute to your overall mission? How can you say no and avoid becoming overwhelmed? In this post, I describe a method I’m trying to outline, use, and evaluate a community-based strategy. This method has helped me to say no and stay focused before, and now I’m trying to combine it with what we are learning about community strategy through the Community Engagement Fellowship Program.

Lay out your objectives to keep your community on track. Photo by Pille Kirsi from Pexels.
Lay out your objectives to keep your community on track. Photo by Pille Kirsi from Pexels.

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Part 3 – The Community Manager’s Survival Guide: Transcending Disciplinary and Thought Boundaries with “Project Commons”

In December, we wrapped up the first year of the AAAS Community Engagement Fellows Program (CEFP), funded by the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation. The first cohort of Fellows was made up of 17 scientific community managers working with a diverse range of scientific communities. We’ll be recruiting for Cohort Two later this year for a start date of January 2019.

Meanwhile, we’re continuing to share reflections from the 2017 Fellows on the Trellis blog. In today’s post, Andy Leidolf wraps up his four part series, “The Community Manager’s Survival Guide: Building Social Capital in Large, Heterogeneous, Geographically Dispersed Research Networks.” You can catch up on all posts by the Fellows here.

Posted by Andy Leidolf, Coordinator, Honors Program, Utah State University, and Executive Director, Society for Freshwater Science. Leidolf served as iUTAH Assistant Director and Project Administrator from 2014-2018.

If you have been following my series of blog posts (thank you!), I have probably succeeded by now in convincing you that iUTAH was a large, complex, and diverse project that would pose any number of challenges for even the best-trained and most well-resourced community manager. Having already shared my thoughts on how to deal with geographic dispersion and institutional diversity, I want to end by considering a third and final challenge: transcending boundaries imposed by collaborators’ differences in disciplinary background.

Jargon, Jargon, Everywhere!

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Part 2 – The Community Manager’s Survival Guide: Addressing Institutional Diversity and Power Imbalance by Promoting Community Equity, Tolerance, and Fairness

In December, we wrapped up the first year of the AAAS Community Engagement Fellows Program (CEFP), funded by the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation. The first cohort of Fellows was made up of 17 scientific community managers working with a diverse range of scientific communities. We’ll be recruiting for Cohort Two later this year for a start date of January 2019.

Meanwhile, we’re continuing to share reflections from the 2017 Fellows on the Trellis blog. In today’s post, Andy Leidolf continues his four part series, “The Community Manager’s Survival Guide: Building Social Capital in Large, Heterogeneous, Geographically Dispersed Research Networks.” You can catch up on all posts by the Fellows here.

Posted by Andy Leidolf, Coordinator, Honors Program, Utah State University, and Executive Director, Society for Freshwater Science. Leidolf served as iUTAH Assistant Director and Project Administrator from 2014-2018.

iUTAH—A Textbook Case for Institutional Diversity

Like most other states, Utah has a large number of institutions of higher learning: in addition to three research universities granting doctoral degrees, there are eight primarily undergraduate-serving institutions (PUIs), both 2- and 4-year. Although Utah is generally perceived as a fairly homogeneous state, there is a surprising amount of diversity even among peer institutions. For example, our research universities include both public and private universities (Brigham Young University is owned by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, aka. the LDS or Mormon Church) and are situated in settings that span the rural-suburban-urban gradient. Not unexpectedly, these universities attract very different student and faculty populations.

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Part 1 – The Community Manager’s Survival Guide: Emphasizing “Inreach” to Overcome Geographic Dispersion

In December, we wrapped up the first year of the AAAS Community Engagement Fellows Program (CEFP), funded by the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation. The first cohort of Fellows was made up of 17 scientific community managers working with a diverse range of scientific communities. We’ll be recruiting for Cohort Two later this year for a start date of January 2019.

Meanwhile, we’re continuing to share reflections from the 2017 Fellows on the Trellis blog. In today’s post, Andy Leidolf continues his four part series, “The Community Manager’s Survival Guide: Building Social Capital in Large, Heterogeneous, Geographically Dispersed Research Networks.” You can catch up on all posts by the Fellows here.

Posted by Andy Leidolf, Coordinator, Honors Program, Utah State University, and Executive Director, Society for Freshwater Science. Leidolf served as iUTAH Assistant Director and Project Administrator from 2014-2018.

The Challenge

When I began my tenure as Assistant Director of the iUTAH EPSCoR project in October 2014, the fact that the members of my research collaboration were not co-located, but dispersed among eleven institutions of higher learning spread all over the state of Utah, as well as 100 state, national, and—in some cases—international partner organizations, made settling into my position, frankly, a scary prospect. We were funded by a five year, $20M grant from the National Science Foundation to enhance Utah’s water resources through research, training, and education. This included studying the state’s water system, as well as working to understand how factors like population growth, climate variability, changes in land use, and human behavior impacted the sustainability of our state’s water resources. No small feat. How was I ever going to learn who all these people were, what role they played in and for our community, and—most importantly—how to communicate and engage with them?

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Introduction – The Community Manager’s Survival Guide: Building Social Capital in Large, Heterogeneous, Geographically Dispersed Research Networks

In December, we wrapped up the first year of the AAAS Community Engagement Fellows Program (CEFP), funded by the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation. The first cohort of Fellows was made up of 17 scientific community managers working with a diverse range of scientific communities. We’ll be recruiting for Cohort Two later this year for a start date of January 2019.

Meanwhile, we’re continuing to share reflections from the 2017 Fellows on the Trellis blog. In today’s post, Andy Leidolf introduces his four part series, “The Community Manager’s Survival Guide: Building Social Capital in Large, Heterogeneous, Geographically Dispersed Research Networks.” You can catch up on all posts by the Fellows here.

Posted by Andy Leidolf, Coordinator, Honors Program, Utah State University, and Executive Director, Society for Freshwater Science. Leidolf served as iUTAH Assistant Director and Project Administrator from 2014-2018.

It’s Monday morning, 9 am. I am fresh off a two-week trip that seemed like a great idea when it was conceived three months ago. Confronted with the stark reality of my overflowing e-mail inbox, endless to-do lists spread across no less than three project management software applications, and the surly looks with which I am greeted by my co-workers, that axiom clearly no longer holds. In exactly four weeks, iUTAH EPSCoR will hold its last Annual Symposium and Summer All-hands Meeting, to cap off a successful 5-year run of advancing water science, training, education and outreach for the citizens of the state of Utah. And I am way behind.

I need to recruit people to introduce five invited talks of participants sharing their personal journeys with our project. I need to confirm 39 oral presentations spread among seven concurrent sessions. I need seven session chairs and one panel moderator. I need to sweet-talk/coerce/beg contacts at ten state institutions of higher education into convincing their top-level administrators to record a short video message congratulating iUTAH on its successes. I need to breathe. I need help. Fast.

Broader Impacts forum and workshops on March 31 in Salt Lake City UT. Credit: UU Office of Undergraduate Research
Broader Impacts forum and workshops on March 31 in Salt Lake City UT. Credit: UU Office of Undergraduate Research

Continue reading “Introduction – The Community Manager’s Survival Guide: Building Social Capital in Large, Heterogeneous, Geographically Dispersed Research Networks”