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

We’re continuing to share reflections from the 2017 Community Engagement Fellows on the 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

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Empowering a community with the Google Summer of Code

We’re now mid-way through the first year of the AAAS Community Engagement Fellows Program (CEFP), funded by the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation. The first cohort of Fellows is 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 Trellis blog, sharing their challenges, discoveries, and insights. Today, Fellow Malin Sandström describes how a new project made a difference in her community.

Posted by Malin Sandström, Community Engagement Officer at INCF (International Neuroinformatics Coordinating Facility) 

The author (Malin Sandström, right) with a colleague (Chris Fitzpatrick, middle) and a 2016 student (Devin Bayly, left) in the Google Summer of Code program.
The author (Malin Sandström, right) with a colleague (Chris Fitzpatrick, middle) and a 2016 student (Devin Bayly, left) in the Google Summer of Code program. Photo by Ylva Lillberg, INCF.

This summer, just above 1300 students have spent their time writing open source code for projects from over 200 mentoring organizations, within a program called “Google Summer of Code” that is run and sponsored by Google. I work for one of those 200 organizations. I have been involved in recruiting mentors and projects for us since 2013, and in charge of managing our participation since 2015. This is a fantastic program that has been of much value to us as an organization, and very enjoyable to work with for me personally.

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What is the role of an online community during a crisis?

We’re now mid-way through the first year of the AAAS Community Engagement Fellows Program (CEFP), funded by the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation. The first cohort of Fellows is 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 Trellis blog, sharing their challenges, discoveries, and insights. Over the last several days, Fellow Elisha Wood-Charlson has reflected on the role of a community manager during a national emergency.

Posted by Elisha Wood-Charlson, Data/Research Communications Program Manager for the Simons Collaboration on Ocean Processes and Ecology

"#AntarcticLog 13, August 31, 2017" by Karen Romano on Instagram
#AntarcticLog 13, August 31, 2017” by Karen Romano Young, Instagram: @antarcticlog

28 August 2017

As the devastation of Hurricane Harvey continues to cripple the metropolis of Houston, Texas, I feel helpless, but also grateful. Grateful that a community – networked online – allows a person to quickly report they are safe with a single tweet saying they have found sanctuary outside the flood zone.

As a fledging scientific community manager working to find solutions to our community’s research challenges in the age of big data, I was not prepared for the feeling of helplessness that came when Hurricane Harvey hit the University of Texas Marine Science Institute (UTMSI) where Professor Brett Baker and his lab call home. While I have a personal connection to the Baker lab, after hosting several Baker lab members for a community workshop just last summer, I realized I had lost connection to the physical places behind the online community.

Now, those people very same people are unsure if they have homes or a science lab left. A press release from UT News on 27 August confirmed that several buildings experienced roof failures. Brett’s twitter update – “I just hope the plastic we put over it [lab equipment] all stay[ed] in place!”

But what happens next? What is the role of an online community during a crisis?

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Choose Development! chooses Trellis: starting a new online community

We’re now mid-way through the first year of the AAAS Community Engagement Fellows Program (CEFP), funded by the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation. The first cohort of Fellows is 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 Trellis blog, sharing their challenges, discoveries, and insights. Today, Fellow Marsha Lucas describes the process of creating a new online community with Trellis.

Posted by Marsha Lucas, Publications and Communications Coordinator at the Society for Developmental Biology

Blue egg shell on the ground
Hatched” by Kaarina Dillabough under CC BY-SA 2.0

This year the Society for Developmental Biology (SDB) decided to create an online community for their Choose Development! summer research program. Choose Development! matches undergraduate students from underrepresented groups to labs of SDB members for 10 weeks of summer research. Fellows are spread out in labs across the country and only meet in person at the SDB annual meeting the following summer.

A Trellis group offered a way for fellows to connect with each other well before the SDB annual meeting. It also provided a platform to fulfill one of the program’s major goals: to provide long-term mentoring of fellows and help them navigate a path towards graduate school.

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The Value of #Welcome

We’re now mid-way through the first year of the AAAS Community Engagement Fellows Program (CEFP), funded by the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation. The first cohort of Fellows is 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 blog, sharing their challenges, discoveries, and insights. Today, Fellow Stefanie Butland shares her experience welcoming new members to her community.

Posted by Stefanie Butland, Community Manager at rOpenSci, – Open Tools for Open Research

Hanging wooden sign that reads "Welcome"
“Welcome” by Nathan under CC BY-SA 2.0

In my training as a AAAS Community Engagement Fellow, I hear repeatedly about the value of extending a personal welcome to your community members. This seems intuitive, but last week I put this to the test. Let me tell you about my experience creating and maintaining a #welcome channel in a community Slack group.

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Should I Stay or Should I Go? Considering switching platforms in an early stage community

We’re now mid-way through the first year of the AAAS Community Engagement Fellows Program (CEFP), funded by the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation. Today, Fellow Melissa Varga looks at the challenges of switching community platforms.

The first cohort of Fellows is 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 blog, sharing their challenges, discoveries, and insights.

A stack of cardboard boxes
Moving Day by Nicolas Huk under CC BY 2.0

There’s one piece of advice I’ve heard from multiple experienced community managers about switching platforms: don’t do it. Switching platforms is painful; it means uprooting your community and potentially losing some members (or losing their trust), disrupting the flow and familiarity you’ve been working hard to build among members and between you and your members, not to mention creating a ton of work for the community manager on the back-end.

However, these same experienced community managers cautioned that if you absolutely must switch platforms, it’s best to do it in the earliest stages of the community. Without getting into too much detail, that is the situation I find myself in now with the community of scientists that I am managing. And while hindsight is 20/20, here are a few things I wish I had known last summer, when I was getting ready to launch our new online group.

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The Community Lifecycle – Converting theory to practice as a community manager

In this post, CSCCE Director Lou Woodley takes a look at the four-stage lifecycle model as presented in Rich Millington’s book, “Buzzing Communities,” and how it can inform the work of a community engagement manager.

Caterpillars and butterfly on a leaf
Monarch butterfly stages of development” by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Northeast Region under CC BY 2.0

Building online communities can be hard. Maybe you start a discussion and nothing happens – silence. Or maybe last week saw lots of conversation but this week you’re back to worrying that you’re talking to yourself. Combine that with the lack of training and resources for community managers and you can be left confused about what to do to help your community activate and grow.

One of the resources that we’ve used a lot is the four-stage lifecycle model presented in Rich Millington’s book, “Buzzing Communities”. Millington’s model is based on a systematic review by Iriberri and Leroy which synthesized the results of 27 papers about online communities to create a model for how online communities progress. This lifecycle model is key if you’re a community manager because it explains clearly what to expect at each stage – and what you should be doing to move things along to the next.

We’ve now used this model in exercises for our internal Community manager journal club, for our Community Engagement Fellows training and even for a staff lunch and learn event. Read on for some key takeaways about the lifecycle model.

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Celebrate milestones with Trellis groups

Confetti against a blue sky
Confetti” by ADoseofShipBoy under CC BY 2.0

2017 has been an exciting year for Trellis. We’ve seen record numbers of users logging in and engaging a rise in weekly active groups. We’ve also launched new groups for AAAS members interested in science advocacy and Trellis group admins. Beyond these site-wide metrics, a number of individual Trellis groups have also hit membership milestones this year. Join us in celebrating these growing communities.

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Supporting a community of community builders on Trellis

Human pyramid
People pyramid” by Nathan Rupert under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

One of our founding values at Trellis is our commitment to training and supporting community managers in their efforts to nurture their communities. We knew from the start of this project that you can build a desirable toolset, but without dedicated group admins, it’s hard, if not impossible, to see groups thrive.

What’s more, community management matters regardless of the type of group involved. It could be a community of interest, gathering loosely around a particular topic. Or it could be a community of practice, wishing to advance and develop skills together. Or it could be a specific collaboration with defined goals and deliverables. In all cases, a skilled community manager will bring out the best in the group.

And that’s why, today, we’re delighted to launch a new group specifically for those running Trellis groups: The Trellis Admin Community.

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Why do academics use social networking sites?

This post, written by CSCCE Director Lou Woodley, takes a look at the motivations of academics who use social networking tools.

Person using a laptop
Browsing” by Nick Olejniczak under CC BY-NC 2.0

Last week our team took a quick look at a recent paper, which asks “Why do academics use academic social networking sites?” The paper presents the results of a survey of 81 researchers at three Israeli institutes who were asked about their motivations for using ResearchGate and Academia.edu.

The survey draws upon the Uses and Gratifications theory from the field of media studies for its research questions – exploring whether the five broad motivations for media consumers may also apply to academics that use online professional networks. Here we outline that theory and then highlight some of the findings from the paper.

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