Launching a New Community as a New Community Manager

This past year, Ellen Bechtol launched a brand new community as a brand new community manager. In this guest post she reflects on how that went.

This past year, I had the opportunity and privilege to launch a brand new community as a brand new community manager. And I think it went reasonably well! Here’s why:

Joining a Community of Practice

The Multimessenger Diversity Network (MDN) is a community of representatives from multimessenger astrophysics research collaborations focused on increasing diversity in the field. As a community of practice (CoP), the MDN is “a group of people who share a concern or a passion for something they do, and learn how to do it better as they interact regularly” (Wenger-Trayner & Wenger-Trayner). I find it fitting that to run a CoP I joined a CoP for community managers, the Community Engagement Fellows Program (CEFP) and subsequent CSCCE CoP. Within weeks of starting in my new role as a community manager, I applied to the CEFP with a strong sense that being part of it would be crucial to successfully launching the MDN. After all, I was stepping into a new role for a new community and was feeling rather lost as to where to begin. Although much of the content from the early CEFP trainings felt out of scope for the MDN, connecting with other community managers (CMs) and getting introduced to the foundations of community management from the perspective of mature communities was unbelievably helpful. Even more helpful were continued interactions, online and at subsequent trainings, with other Fellows. The collective resource of experiences from so many CMs in so many different types of organizations has been most valuable.

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Call for applications: 2019 cohort of AAAS Community Engagement Fellows!

It's finally here! Image Credit: https://www.pexels.com/photo/close-up-of-text-on-table-248360/
Image Credit: https://www.pexels.com/photo/close-up-of-text-on-table-248360/

We’re delighted to announce that we are now accepting applications for the 2019 cohort of AAAS Community Engagement Fellows, generously supported by the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation. The fellowship is a year-long professional development opportunity for existing scientific community professionals working in research collaborations, scientific societies, and other organizations supporting scientist-to-scientist or “in-reach” activities.

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Strategies for survival (and maybe even some success) in a newly created community manager position

In December, we wrapped up the first year of the 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 blog. In today’s post, Josh Knackert shares some reflections about his experience as a first time community manager. You can catch up on all posts by the Fellows here.

Scientific community manager positions often evolve from existing roles within an organization or are fostered by an intrepid individual, passionate for this type of work, who convinces stakeholders of its necessity and their fitness for the position.  (Here’s some great advice on how to be this intrepid individual.)  Another origin story is beginning to emerge as the benefits of scientific community managers are becoming increasingly recognized and valued–organizations are realizing a need for these positions and creating them independently of the these more organic methods.

While these newly built positions offer fantastic potential for a manager and their community, they can come with some unique challenges.  Back in January 2017, I found myself in just this situation, filling a newly established community engagement role with the IceCube Collaboration at the Wisconsin IceCube Particle Astrophysics Center (WIPAC).

What were your most successful strategies as a first time community manager? Image credit: https://pixabay.com/en/dock-feet-footwear-jetty-mat-1846008/
What were your most successful strategies as a first time community manager?
Image credit: https://pixabay.com/en/dock-feet-footwear-jetty-mat-1846008/

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How do I become a “community-whatsit”?

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 Malin Sandström discusses her path to defining her community manager career.

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

Magnifying glass highlighting the word "Jobs" in a newspaper
Job Listings” by www.flazingo.com under CC BY-SA 2.0

“Don’t worry about understanding everything at once, NOBODY has the right background for this” said my MSc thesis supervisor, a dozen or so years ago. Then, the advice applied to mathematical modeling of the biochemical networks involved in learning and memory, an area that came with heaps of dense academic papers peppered with acronyms and incomprehensibly condensed descriptions of experimental protocols. Now, that advice applies equally well to community management, an area of expertise I did not even know existed in science until a few years ago.

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The moment you realize you have become a “Community Engagement Manager”

In January 2017, we wrapped up the training week for the inaugural class of 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 the January training, the Fellows will report back on the blog, sharing their challenges, discoveries, and insights. Today, we’re sharing Elisha Wood-Charlson’s tale of becoming a community engagement manager.

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

White lightbulb
Lightbulb – Great Idea!” by uberof202, licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

Actually, there were several moments – four to be exact – where I stumbled into, explored, and finally embraced the role of “Community Engagement Manager”:

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Meet a scientific community manager: Tania Siemens

This month, we’re asking all community engagement professionals within science to complete our state of scientific community management survey. The survey’s intended to determine the variety of community-building roles that exist within science, and is the first activity of our Community Engagement Fellows program. We’ll be sharing a report of the survey results once we’ve analyzed them.

But just who are the scientific community engagement professionals? To help answer that question we’re running a series of Q&As with people in existing community-building roles. If any of these stories resonate, please do take 12 minutes to complete the survey! The more input we have to the survey, the more detailed our view of the overall landscape will be.

Today we’re featuring Tania Siemens:

Tania Siemens headshot
Tania is the Community Manager for STEM-Central.net, a community of practice for improving undergraduate STEM Education. She holds a Master’s degree in Invasive Plant Ecology from Cornell University. Tania also works as an Outreach and Extension Specialist on Aquatic Invasive Species at the Oregon Sea Grant College Program at Oregon State University.

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Meet a scientific community manager: Alex Jackson

This month, we’re asking all community engagement professionals within science to complete our state of scientific community management survey. The survey’s intended to determine the variety of community-building roles that exist within science, and is the first activity of the AAAS Community Engagement Fellows program. We’ll be sharing a report of the survey results once we’ve analyzed them.

But just who are the scientific community engagement professionals? To help answer that question we’re running a series of Q&As with people in existing community-building roles. If any of these stories resonate, please do take 12 minutes to complete the survey! The more input we have to the survey, the more detailed our view of the overall landscape will be.

Today we’re featuring Alex Jackson:

Alex Jackson runs the social media activities at the Royal Society. Alex is a keen science enthusiast, journalist and fond admirer of a good pun. He has worked in science/health publishing and research for more than six years, and before that worked in regional journalism.
Alex Jackson runs the social media activities at the Royal Society. Alex is a keen science enthusiast, journalist and fond admirer of a good pun. He has worked in science/health publishing and research for more than six years, and before that worked in regional journalism. Find Alex (@alexkeysjackson) and the Royal Society (@royalsociety) on Twitter.

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Meet a scientific community manager: Shaila Kotadia

This month, we’re asking all community engagement professionals within science to complete our state of scientific community management survey. The survey’s intended to determine the variety of community-building roles that exist within science, and is the first activity of our Community Engagement Fellows program. We’ll be sharing a report of the survey results once we’ve analyzed them.

But just who are the scientific community engagement professionals? To help answer that question we’re running a series of Q&As with people in existing community-building roles. If any of these stories resonate, please do take 15 minutes to complete the survey! The more input we have to the survey, the more detailed our view of the overall landscape will be.

Today we’re featuring Shaila Kotadia:

Shaila Kotadia headshot
Shaila Kotadia is the Education, Outreach, and Diversity Manager at the Synthetic Biology Engineering Research Center (Synberc). Prior to joining Synberc, Dr. Kotadia was a Policy Fellow at the American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology. Dr. Kotadia received her Ph.D. in genetics and development from the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center. Her postdoctoral work at the University of California, Santa Cruz focused on cell division and chromosome segregation.

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Meet a scientific community manager: Eric Olson

This month, we’re asking all community engagement professionals within science to complete our state of scientific community management survey. The survey’s intended to determine the variety of community-building roles that exist within science, and is the first activity of our Community Engagement Fellows program. We’ll be sharing a report of the survey results once we’ve analyzed them.

But just who are the scientific community engagement professionals? To help answer that question we’re running a series of Q&As with people in existing community-building roles. If any of these stories resonate, please do take 12 minutes to complete the survey! The more input we have to the survey, the more detailed our view of the overall landscape will be.

Today we’re featuring Eric Olson:

Eric Olson is the Outreach Coordinator for PressForward. Eric supports science organizations as they develop web publications by providing consultation about interacting with their community of audiences and collaborators. He is on the organizing committee for United Nations-sponsored conferences on scholarly communication and directs the Science Communication Network Initiative.
Eric Olson is the Outreach Coordinator for PressForward. Eric supports science organizations as they develop web publications by providing consultation about interacting with their community of audiences and collaborators. He is on the organizing committee for United Nations-sponsored conferences on scholarly communication and directs the Science Communication Network Initiative.

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Meet a scientific community manager: Giovanna Guerrero-Medina

This month, we’re asking all community engagement professionals within science to complete our state of scientific community management survey. The survey’s intended to determine the variety of community-building roles that exist within science, and is the first activity of our Community Engagement Fellows program. We’ll be sharing a report of the survey results once we’ve analyzed them.

But just who are the scientific community engagement professionals? To help answer that question we’re running a series of Q&As with people in existing community-building roles. If any of these stories resonate, please do take 15 minutes to complete the survey! The more input we have to the survey, the more detailed our view of the overall landscape will be.

Today we’re featuring Giovanna Guerrero-Medina:

Giovanna Guerrero-Medina
Giovanna Guerrero-Medina is the Executive Director of Ciencia Puerto Rico, an international network of scientists, students and educators committed to promoting scientific outreach, education and careers among Latinos. She is also the Director of the Yale Ciencia Initiative at Yale University, where she studies the impact of networks on access and participation in science and works to promote diversity through the Yale Provost Office.

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