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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Scheduling my way to success! Time management tips for community managers

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 Allen Pope shares an experiment in which he tries to solve his challenges with multi-tasking. You can catch up on all posts by the Fellows here.

Allen Pope is the Executive Secretary for the International Arctic Science Committee, an international scientific organization pursuing a mission of encouraging and facilitating cooperation in all aspects of Arctic research, in all countries engaged in Arctic research and in all areas of the Arctic region. On Twitter @PopePolar and online at &

I started my new job running the secretariat of the International Arctic Science Committee at the beginning of 2017. In the past year, there has been a lot for me to learn, a lot for me to get up to speed on, and a lot for me to do! After wrapping up our large annual Arctic science meetingI realized that I was spending too much time responding to emails and getting small tasks done and not enough time working on longer-term projects and thinking forwards. That might be okay for a little bit, but it isn’t sustainable in the long run.

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Scientific community managers’ top challenges and training needs

In our series of posts about results of the AAAS State of Scientific Community Management survey we’ve looked into what types of organizations are home to scientific communities, examined their communication channels and ways of planning activities, and analyzed scientific community managers’ backgrounds, skill sets, and how their positions are funded.

In our final blog post about survey results (complete report coming soon), we return to the topic of community managers’ skill sets, focusing on their top challenges and the areas where they want more training.

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