A study of online scientific and scholarly communities for broadening participation in STEM

In collaboration with Dr Lisa Elliot at Rochester Institute of Technology, CSCCE’s director Lou Woodley is working to answer three research questions about online communities for broadening participation in STEM.

Grant abstract

NSF INCLUDES EAGER – award number #1834978

This project is conducting exploratory research about two currently existing online scientific and scholarly communities (OSSCs), each of which was established to broaden participation in STEM in identified target communities: (a) the NSF INCLUDES Open Forum (NSF-1748345); and (b) the Deaf STEM Community Alliance’s Deaf and Hard of Hearing Virtual Academic Community (NSF-1127955).

The goals of the proposed study are:

1) to apply the information systems theory of the life cycle of online communities and the theory of social capital to understand the dynamics of two NSF-sponsored OSSCs that are focused on broadening participation in STEM;

2) to strengthen NSF INCLUDES Network activities with best practices and lessons learned from the project.

The project is conducting comparative analyses of the OSSCs:

1) to determine life-cycle stages of the OSSCs;

2) to examine leadership and engagement activities of community engagement managers in each community and how they evolve over time; and

3) to explore the perceptions of community members.

Why is this of interest to scientific community managers?

  • Communities often progress along a lifecycle from inception to maturity and possibly then decline or fragment into new communities. Little has been done to look at how the lifecycle maps to online communities of practice in science and specifically with communities focused on broadening participation – which is what the first part of this study is looking at.
  • Community managers help to steward their communities through the different stages of the lifecycle and their roles and activities change as a result. Part two of the study is looking at how the four community managers involved in the study use their skills over time.
  • Finally, online communities can be thought of as places where social capital is distributed and accumulated. This study seeks to explore what social capital looks like in the context of the two communities of practice and what role community managers may be playing in its distribution.

Dissemination of results so far

July’s community call: Adding to the collection of CSCCE community profiles

Our July community call focused on one of CSCCE’s ongoing research projects: Creating scientific community profiles. We heard from Lou Woodley and Katie Pratt, who led the project, as well as three of the scientific community managers who took part in the project. In this blog post we briefly recap why we’re doing this work, what’s coming in the next few months, and share videos of the three community manager presentations. 

If you are interested in creating a profile for your community, please let us know by filling out this short form

A selection of some of our newest community profiles. Image credit: CSCCE
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Announcing a second collection of scientific community profiles! A year in the life of 14 STEM communities

This week we published 14 new community profiles in our growing collection that describes different STEM communities. Each profile is a free-to-download infographic that provides a snapshot of the community’s structure and programming, as well as a look at its outputs, challenges, and plans for the future. 

These profiles are part of a research project we began last year, to provide a resource to describe and discuss STEM communities – and inspire community managers, senior managers and funders alike about the possibilities of community-based projects. In addition to 13 profiles created in 2020, we are conducting a meta-analysis to investigate trends observed across the dataset, as well as building out additional resources to complement the collection. 

Some of the profiles included in our newest collection. Image credit: CSCCE
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July’s Community Call: CSCCE community profiles round two

This month, we’re showcasing a new collection of community profiles on our community call, and have invited four of the community managers who took part in this project to share their experiences. Join us on Wednesday, 21 July 2021 via Zoom, and read on for more details about the call. 

Join us to learn more about research into STEM communities. Image credit: the CSCCE. 

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First Birthday Series: The future of CSCCE’s community of practice

For our “First Birthday Series” of blog posts, we took some time to reflect on CSCCE’s community of practice, which turned one year old on 21 October 2020. In this final post in the series, jointly authored by Communications Director, Katie Pratt and Center Director, Lou Woodley, we look back on CSCCE’s seed funding, how the Center is supported now, and our plans for a financially sustainable future.

Previous posts in this series outlined the community “by the numbers,” delved a little deeper into our programming offerings, discussed our resources and the importance of co-creating together, and summarized how our working groups and special interest groups operate and further our mission. Together, these five blog posts celebrate year one of CSCCE’s community of practice, and look ahead to the future of the Center. 

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CSCCE’s Community Profiles Project: How did we do it?

In out last blog post, we announced the release of 13 new “Community Profiles,” created by CSCCE staff in collaboration with independent contractor, Sara Kobilka. In this post, which was co-authored with Sara, we delve a little deeper into our methodology. 

Survey Design

As we began the survey design process we worked to balance multiple considerations. First, we wanted something as complete as possible. Lou created the first version of the survey with the goal of collecting information about communities that scientific community managers had previously expressed interest in learning about – such as funding models, staffing, and online collaboration tools. At the same time, we didn’t want to make the survey too onerous for community managers to complete.

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CSCCE’s Community Profiles Project: First round of profiles now out!

Today we’re launching the first outputs from a project that we’ve been working on this year to better characterize communities in science – and to support scientific community managers, their leadership, and funders to meaningfully compare some of the current activities taking place across the broad landscape of STEM community projects.

The CSCCE community profiles project has resulted in the creation of an initial collection of 13 community profiles – two page PDFs capturing core features of each community from staffing to programming and funding sources. We collected the data using a custom, detailed survey and then translated what we found to a standardized profile template, which was specifically created for this project. The resulting profiles, which incorporate CSCCE’s own frameworks for describing communities and community member engagement, allow easy comparison between different scientific communities. 

In this post we introduce the rationale for the project and highlight the first 13 profiles. In Thursday’s post, we outline how the project was carried out.

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Research

CSCCE is primarily concerned with community management roles within scientific teams, groups, and communities – the human infrastructure for collaboration. Our research work focuses on better characterizing these human infrastructure roles and their impact in a range of scientific contexts and organizations.

We do this work in three primary ways: 

  1. CSCCE-led – where we spend some of our staff time on advancing knowledge in a priority area, sometimes working with members of our community of practice individually or in a related working group. E.g., our CSCCE Community Profiles and STEM Community Manager Case studies projects
  2. Grant-funded research – as either the grantee or a contractor on specific projects. E.g., An NSF EAGER grant to research the impact of community managers
  3. Consultancy – in partnership with clients, often as part of a larger piece of work we are delivering for them. E.g., working to characterize different types of value created via the NMDC Ambassadors Program.  

The intention of our research is to provide practically applicable knowledge that can assist community managers, their organizations, funders, evaluators, and others interested in community management in STEM.

If you would like to discuss our ongoing research, please email info@cscce.org.

Ongoing research projects

CSCCE Community Profiles

Scientific communities can come in a range of different configurations – from those hosted by professional associations to large-scale research collaborations. The CSCCE Community Profiles provide a snapshot of each community featured, highlighting member demographics, programming, funding and what community management looks like.

We have made 33 profiles since starting the project in 2020, and each year the collection grows. We are planning a meta-analysis of the profiles to highlight commonalities and differences between scientific communities.

If you are a community manager and would like to see your community profiled, please let us know by filling in this form. If you are interested in collaboration with us on a special collection of profiles, such as this one on open hardware created with the Wilson Center’s Science and Technology Innovation Program, please email info@cscce.org to set up an informational meeting.  

Find out more about this project. 

STEM community manager case studies

STEM community managers support a range of different communities – from research collaborations to infrastructure organizations and communities of practice hosted by scientific associations. The CSCCE community manager case studies provide two-page snapshots of how individual community managers came to their roles, what activities they support, and what they most enjoy about their work.

By creating these case studies, we hope to demonstrate what it means to work as a community manager in STEM, elevate the importance of these roles in supporting inclusive and collaborative scientific practice, and highlight the variety of settings in which community engagement is key. 

This project builds on a set of 10 interviews we conducted in 2016. We launched the current iteration of case studies in March of 2022, and we are releasing a new one every Tuesday. If you are interested in being featured in a case study, please fill in this short form

Find out more about this project. 

A study of online scientific and scholarly communities for broadening participation in STEM (NSF EAGER)

In collaboration with Dr Lisa Elliot at Rochester Institute of Technology, CSCCE’s director Lou Woodley is working to consider the role of community managers in online communities for broadening participation in STEM. The goals of the project are: 

  1. to apply the information systems theory of the life cycle of online communities and the theory of social capital to understand the dynamics of two NSF-sponsored OSSCs that are focused on broadening participation in STEM;
  2. to strengthen NSF INCLUDES Network activities with best practices and lessons learned from the project.

Find out more about this project.

Completed research projects

State of Scientific Community Management – 2016 landscape survey

In 2016 we carried out a survey of over 100 scientific community professionals to determine more about their career paths to date, their skill sets and challenges.

For this survey we partnered with The Community Roundtable, who generously let us use and adapt their State of Community Management survey question bank which they use each year to look at corporate communities.

We found that: 

  • Scientific community managers are often self-taught with a PhD 
  • Funding for scientific community managers tends to vary depending on the type of organization they’re working for
  • Online platforms are still making inroads in scientific communities
  • Community managers tend to result in more strategic, more regular community programming 

Find out more about this project.

CSCCE Skills Wheel 

The CSCCE Skills Wheel describes 45 skills used by STEM community managers divided into 5 core competencies. It was created by the C3 project team from the 2017 cohort of the CSCCE Community Engagement Fellows Program (CEFP 2017). The members of the team were four Fellows: Jennifer Davison, Andreas Leidolf, Malin Sandström, Elisha Wood-Charlson; along with CSCCE’s director Lou Woodley. 

The team carried out a range of activities to create the wheel, including comparing the skills listed in a range of scientific community manager job descriptions, surveying scientific community managers within the 2017 CEFP cohort, and undertaking additional literature analysis regarding similar models. From this work, they identified the five core competencies and component skills that make up the wheel.

We are currently convening a working group within our community of practice to continue this research. 

Find out more about this project.

STEM netweaver dialogues – exploring transformative STEM learning network

Netweaving is a term used in STEM education for the brokering of relationships between stakeholders and has many similarities to community management. Lou Woodley participated in a research study led by the Netweaver Network in 2019. 

Here’s a description of the study from their website:

“During the last half of 2019, Network of STEM Education Centers (NSEC) convened three 90-min network learning dialogues with four leading experts in network facilitation, systems change, and STEM education reform (Julie Risien, Lou Woodley, Ann Austin and Emily Miller). Our focus was how to design, create, facilitate, and manage transformative STEM learning networks. 

These dialogues are being analyzed in conjunction with a parallel set of discussions among social-ecological netweavers to advance netweaving practice and identify next steps…We are analyzing the results of these dialogues in order to identify the insights and identify possible next steps to support a STEM netweaving community of practice.”

Find out more about this project.

Ambassadors and Advocates in scientific community programs

Two CEFP project teams conducted research on ambassadors and advocates in scientific communities. In 2017, the Advocacy Ninjas looked at the programs that support ambassadors, and in 2019 the Busy Bees surveys participants in these programs. The Advocacy Ninjas work is published as a guidebook and is available for download here

We now refer to advocates, ambassadors, and fellows collectively as community champions, emergent leaders within a community who take on more responsibility for the success, sustainability, and/or running of the community.

This research, as well as our own establishment of the CSCCE Community Participation Model in 2020, led to the formation of a community of practice working group that ran throughout 2021 and into 2022. We will be releasing the output of this working group, a series of 9 tip sheets, in 2022. 

Explore more resources related to community champions and champions programs. 

Collaborate with CSCCE on a research project

We are always open to research collaborations. We bring a deep understanding of communities, especially in the STEM ecosystem, and an ongoing commitment to improving the diversity, equity, inclusion, and accessibility of scientific research. If you would like to work with us, please contact info@cscce.org. If you are interested in writing us into a grant application, we appreciate you contacting us as early in that process as possible.