Scientific Community Engagement Fundamentals

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Course overview

Scientific Community Engagement Fundamentals is designed to offer new or existing community managers core frameworks and vocabulary to describe their community’s purpose, refine or create strategic engagement programming to match community member goals, and describe their own roles and value as a community manager in STEM. While the content is designed for any level of learner, it should not be thought of as a “beginner” course. Rather, it is intended to create common ground so that scientific community managers can converse across disciplines, more efficiently learn from one another, and build successful engagement strategies that are grounded in research.

While we have yet to decide on what a future version of our Community Engagement Fellows Program (CEFP) might look like, Scientific Community Engagement Fundamentals will be a prerequisite. You may also find that completing this course gives you a stronger foundation for other CSCCE modular online trainings, such as Nurturing and Stewarding Engaged Online Communities, although it is not required.

Our fall 2021 session of CEF is sold out, but you can pre-register to be the first to hear about future sessions here.

Course structure

Each week, participants will meet virtually (using Zoom) for a 90 minute lesson and a 60 minute Co-Lab. While lessons will involve structured presentations and activities, Co-Lab time is for discussion, reporting out, and seeking feedback from instructors and fellow learners. In addition to our virtual lessons and co-labs, from the fall 2021 cohort onwards, participants will use our new learning management system (LMS) to access and engage with course materials and activities to support their participation.

Each week will also include approximately 90 minutes of homework, for a total time commitment of 4 hours per week

Successful completion of the course requires attendance at 11 out of 12 of the core classes (not including social hour), at a minimum, as well as completion of homework assignments.


This course is facilitated by two of the following CSCCE instructors:

  • Jenny East, CSCCE Trainer
  • Camille Santistevan, CSCCE Lead Trainer
  • Lou Woodley, CSCCE Director

Topics covered


Before the course begins, we host a virtual social hour for all participants to find out about their instructors and fellow learners.

Week one: What is community?

Participants will gain an understanding of the different types of community common in STEM fields and will define their own community in these terms, gaining increased clarity on the reach of their activities.

Week two: Exploring community engagement roles

Consider the skills needed to excel in the role of a community manager, and use CSCCE’s skills wheel to assess where you or your team might need to expand your repertoire. We’ll also explore different leadership models, empowering participants to recognize that community managers represent a new kind of network-centric leadership.

Week three: Purpose and people

With a stronger understanding of the nature of community, participants will work to identify the different stakeholder or member relationships within their community and the desired goals for each relationship. 

Week four: Community member participation

Using the CSCCE Community Participation Framework, participants will analyze the current programming in their own communities – identifying gaps and how to better align programming with desired outcomes. They’ll also acquire core vocabulary for describing different aspects of their community programming.

Week five: Communication ecosystems and scaffolded participation

We’ll introduce the concept of scaffolded participation in creating supportive, responsive and multi-modal programming that empowers members to participate. Discussion will include the challenges of distributing power. 

Week six: Community lifecycle models and group-level engagement 

Community lifecycle models can inform the type of programming appropriate for your community, as well as how your role as a community manager changes. We’ll explore several models and discuss the implications of each – for programming, team planning and evaluation.


100% of course participants say they are extremely likely (91%) or likely (9%) to recommend our courses to their colleagues. Here’s what some of them have to say about Scientific Community Engagement Fundamentals:

Incredibly professional in every aspect; I couldn’t think of one detail in structure or facilitation that wasn’t perfect!

CEF20F Participant

Amazing effort by the course leaders to create such an IRL feeling in an online course!

CEF20F Participant

I love the way you lead by example. The way you plan lessons, design exercises, and make homework short, up to the point, and doable is so inspiring.

CEF20F Participant

Upcoming session

#CEF21F will run for 7 weeks. The course will start on Thursday, 23 September and runs Mondays and Thursdays at 4 pm UTC / 12 noon EDT until Thursday 4 November. In addition to our virtual lessons and co-labs, you will have the opportunity to use our new learning management system (LMS) to access and engage with course materials and activities to support your participation. The key dates are:

Course dates

  • Pre-course social: Thursday, 23 September at 4pm UTC / 12 noon EDT. During this session you will start to get to know your coursemates. 
  • Lessons: Lessons will take place on Mondays as follows: 27 September, 4,11,18, and 25 October, and 1 November.
  • Co-Labs will take place on Thursdays as follows: 30 September, 7, 14, 21, and 28 October, and 4 November. 
  • Graduation: Thursday, 4 November – an extended 2-hour session to include a 30-minute poster viewing session followed by poster presentations (3.30pm – 5.30 pm UTC / 11.30am – 1.30pm EDT).

This course is SOLD OUT. Pre-register to be the first to hear about future sessions here.

Future Sessions

Pre-register for future CEF sessions here. Pre-registration guarantees that you will be among the first to know when we announce new training dates, including receiving access to priority registration.

Current session

#CEF21S will run for 7 weeks, due to the addition of a reading week compared to past offerings, around the 4 July holiday. The course began on 1 June and runs on Tuesdays and Fridays at 4pm UTC / 12 noon EDT until Friday 16 July. The key dates are: 

  • Optional pre-course social: Friday, 28 May at 4pm UTC / 12 noon EDT 
  • Lessons (90 mins) will take place on Tuesdays as follows: 1, 8, 15, 22 June and 6, 13 July
  • Co-Labs (1 hour) will take place on Fridays as follows: 4, 11, 18, 25 June and 9, 16 July 
  • Reading week: Due to the 4 July holiday in the US we will be pausing lessons the week of 28 June and instead you will have the opportunity to join optional office hours with the course instructors.
  • Graduation: Friday, 16 July – an extended 2-hour session to include a 30-minute poster viewing session followed by poster presentations (4.30pm – 6.30 pm UTC / 11.30am – 1.30pm EDT)

Past sessions


#CEF21W2, our third Scientific Community Engagement Fundamentals cohort, finished on Friday, 19 February. The course ran on Mondays and Thursdays at 2pm Eastern, as follows:

  • Monday Lessons (2 – 3:30pm US Eastern Time): 22 February, 1,  8, 15, 22, 29 March
  • Thursday Co-Labs (2 – 3:00pm US Eastern Time): 25 February, 4, 11, 18, 25 March, 1 April


#CEF21W, our second Scientific Community Engagement Fundamentals cohort, finished on Friday, 19 February. The course ran on Tuesdays and Fridays, beginning with an optional class social on Friday 8 January 2021 at 12pm Eastern, as follows:

  • Tuesday Lessons (12 – 1:30pm US Eastern Time): 12, 19, 26 January, 2, 9, 16 February 
  • Friday Co-Labs (12 – 1:00pm US Eastern Time): 15, 22, 29 January, 5, 12, 19 February


Our Fall pilot of Scientific Community Engagement Fundamentals (#CEF20F) wrapped up on Thursday, 3 December. The course took place on Mondays and Thursdays starting on Monday, 26 October 2020 at 2pm Eastern and ran as follows:

  • Monday Lessons (2 – 3:30pm US Eastern Time): 26 October, 2, 9, 16, 23, 30 November
  • Thursday Co-Labs (2 – 3:00pm US Eastern Time): 29 October, 5, 12, 19, (Weds) 25 November and 3 December.