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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Join CSCCE at FSCI 2019!

Join CSCCE at the 2019 FORCE11 Scholarly Communication Institute (FSCI)

FSCI is a week-long course in scholarly communication for anyone who works in the world of science and scholarship. Classroom courses, group activities, and hands-on training provide attendees with “a friendly, community-based way of learning about and keeping up to date on the latest trends, technologies, and opportunities that are transforming the way science and scholarship is done.”

CSCCE Director Lou Woodley and Bruce Caron, PhD, Research Director, New Media Research Institute, Santa Barbara will be teaching a course at this year’s FSCI called “Help! How Do I Build Community and Bring About Culture Change for Open Science in My Organization?”

https://www.force11.org/fsci/2019
https://www.force11.org/fsci/2019

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Building Trust in Online Communities

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:

  1. The OA Information Exchange was so quiet I could almost hear the crickets when I logged on.
  2. Using the phrase “increasing engagement” to describe the breadth, scope, and complicatedness of my work was like calling the Encyclopedia Britannica “some books.”
  3. 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.
  4. 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.”

Sound familiar?

Julianna Mullen, Communications and Community Manager, NERACOOS
Julianna Mullen, Communications and Community Manager, NERACOOS

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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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What do we do in the foundational training week of the CSCCE Community Engagement Fellows Program? Part one: the core curriculum.

Posted by Lou Woodley, CSCCE Center Director.

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.

It's all about the teamwork! Image credit: Lou Woodley
It’s all about the teamwork! Image credit: Lou Woodley

Continue reading “What do we do in the foundational training week of the CSCCE Community Engagement Fellows Program? Part one: the core curriculum.”

Breaking the Ice Well, Part 2

Breaking the Ice Well, Part 2

2017 marked 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. As they continue to develop their community engagement skills and apply some of the ideas and strategies from their training, the Fellows will report back on the CSCCE blog, sharing their challenges, discoveries, and insights. Here, Fellows Allen Pope, Amber Budden, and Stefanie Butland and mentor Aidan Budd discuss facilitating interpersonal community interactions in person.

Photo credit: Jaymantri, https://www.pexels.com
Photo credit: Jaymantri, https://www.pexels.com

As we discussed last time, the purpose of icebreakers is to bring together a group of people (e.g., professionals, students, community members, etc.) and facilitate social cohesion for the purpose of having them start learning together, benefit from shared experiences, and collectively ‘produce’ during the course of the event. These introductory activities start building shared understanding within the group and allow the group to begin to work toward shared goals.

You’ve chosen an activity or two that suits your community and your specific situation – now what?

Continue reading “Breaking the Ice Well, Part 2”

Breaking the Ice Well

Breaking the Ice Well

2017 marked 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. As they continue to develop their community engagement skills and apply some of the ideas and strategies from their training, the Fellows will report back on the CSCCE blog, sharing their challenges, discoveries, and insights. Here, Fellows Allen Pope, Amber Budden, and Stefanie Butland and mentor Aidan Budd discuss facilitating interpersonal community interactions in person.

Photo credit: Wikimedia
Photo credit: Wikimedia

The purpose of icebreakers is to bring together a group of people (e.g., professionals, students, community members, etc.) and facilitate social cohesion for the purpose of having them start learning together, benefit from shared experiences, and collectively ‘produce’ during the course of the event. These introductory activities start building shared understanding within the group and allow the group to begin to work toward shared goals.

As CEFP Fellow Melissa Varga wrote: “It can be a little nerve-wracking to bring people together in person, but there are some tactics that can help people ‘break the ice.’ Icebreakers are a great way to help get everyone on the same page and get people chatting to one another. They can be silly, or they can be more structured and topically focused; the goal is to get people to introduce themselves and get comfortable.”

But, as a community manager, where do you start with implementing and designing an Icebreaker during an event?

Continue reading “Breaking the Ice Well”

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.

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