In this post by CEFP2019 Fellow Camille Santistevan, Associate Director of Public Relations at the Advanced Science Research Center at The Graduate Center, CUNY, she explores how an organization’s anniversary can be an opportunity to nurture community. Camille shares 5 tips for success and 3 potential challenges to anticipate.
Community-first event planning
Is your scientific organization celebrating an anniversary sometime
soon? If so, how will you be celebrating?
In the higher education and non-profit sectors,
anniversaries are often used to launch major fundraising campaigns. Central
leadership, in concert with the development office, tend to spend a lot of
time, energy, and resources to organize a big bash for external stakeholders,
with the internal community often left as an afterthought.
How can we re-engineer some of this content and programming to supercharge our scientific communities? Below are some ideas both big and small for how community managers can leverage anniversary activities to nurture community.
Last week we celebrated the conclusion of the fellowship year for the 2019 cohort of our Community Engagement Fellows Program (CEFP) – with a three-day wrap-up meeting in NYC.
The meeting was a milestone for several reasons. It was our first true hybrid CEFP meeting where we bridged between in-person and remote participation, it was our first time hosting the CEFP training outside of DC (and we loved being in NYC!) and it was the first time that we now have a clear path from fellowship participation to a broader, ongoing set of professional development programming via our new community of practice.
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.
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.
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.
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.
In the second of our series of posts by the 2019 Community Engagement Fellowship cohort, Julianna Mullen walks us through her experiences building trust in an online community and sparking conversations in an authentic way. A marine biologist and writer by training, Julianna is the Communications and Community Manager for the Ocean Acidification Information Exchange at the Northeastern Regional Association of Coastal Ocean Observing Systems (NERACOOS) working at the intersection of scientists and conversations.
It had been the first bullet point in the job description: “Increase community engagement.”
The Community Manager for The Ocean Acidification Information Exchange would be in charge of getting its member scientists, policymakers, and educators talking to one another about preparing and adapting to ocean acidification. I’d been a scientist and communicator for some time, but I’d never been a Community Manager; when I accepted the post, I knew the learning curve would be steep, but I was excited! Fast-forward into Month Two of my employment, when I’d made a series of important discoveries:
The OA Information Exchange was so quiet I could almost hear the crickets when I logged on.
Using the phrase “increasing engagement” to describe the breadth, scope, and complicatedness of my work was like calling the Encyclopedia Britannica “some books.”
I couldn’t rely on researching myself out of the hole because there simply wasn’t much material that spoke to what I was trying to do.
I’d failed to understand that an online community, even one comprised of scientists and policymakers working on something as technical as ocean acidification, needs the same kind of emotional tending as in-person communities.
In a blind panic, I reached out to some members I knew personally and asked what was going on. What was the holdup?
“I don’t want to waste anyone’s time with my stupid questions.”
“I don’t think I have anything to contribute.”
“I’m worried people will think I’m unintelligent.”
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.
Address Your Bias, Call BS, and Broaden your Networks: Interview with Monica Feliu-Mojer
As the CEFP 2017 cohort’s final installment in our Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) series, we interview Monica Feliu-Mojer, an award-winning PhD scientist-turned-communicator who leads communications and outreach forCiencia Puerto Rico (CienciaPR), a global community of more than 10,000 scientists, students, educators, and allies transforming science education in Puerto Rico, democratizing science, and training young scientific leaders. Monica also works with the non-profitiBiology, leading science communication trainings and producingvideo stories that explore the intersection of the culture, identity, and research of underrepresented scientists.
Last week we hosted the initial training week for this year’s CSCCE Community Engagement Fellows. It’s an intense week with plenty of time spent together in the classroom and outside of it, and where we aim to do three things:
Equip the fellows with a shared understanding of some core community management principles – from how we think about scientific community managers to the role of strategy, programming and culture in the work that we do.
Surface the expertise that the Fellows already have – through lightning talks, small group discussions and the conversations that arise during the breaks and evening social events.
Nurture a sense of community between the Fellows so that together we create a trust-based cohort in which they can learn and support one another over the course of the year – and beyond.
So what materials do we cover during this foundational week? The curriculum builds each day to help fellows move from describing themselves and their own communities to appraising the strategies and tactics that they’re using – and how they might update them. By the end of the week they have plenty of tools and ideas to take back to their own organizations, as well as an understanding of the role that a community playbook or collaboration guide could play in their own work.
In this post we’ll give an overview of the core curriculum and in a second post we’ll outline the community playbook activities.
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