Tag Archives: resources for community managers

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!

From the very beginning, iUTAH was conceived as an interdisciplinary project spanning research, training, education, and outreach; and involving academic and non-academic partners, their stakeholders and the general public.  It is this set-up that made the project unique in our state and has allowed it to develop deeply impactful and societally relevant research over time.

But, for this to happen, we first had to build a space where professionals from disciplines as diverse and distinct as hydrology, biology, aquatic ecology, civil engineering, sociology, applied economics, geology, geography, urban planning, landscape architecture, atmospheric science, and communication science could all come together to collaborate to address and (hopefully) solve real-world problems. The Science of Team Science tells us that interdisciplinary teams produce more impactful research. But team science is also a high payoff-high risk proposition and many teams fail. This is because the very characteristics of teams that make them such powerful tools to address critical issues also make them susceptible to failure:

  • Practitioners trained in different disciplines each have their own unique jargon—the language and vocabulary they use when communicating with their peers that frequently means little or nothing to people from different disciplines
  • Methodologies used by different disciplines and areas of investigation can vary dramatically, as can the way in which they are perceived and evaluated—or judged—by others
  • Foundational approaches and philosophies can seem quite different—even incompatible—among disciplines

I learned that the hard way, when—one day—I found myself in the middle of a heated conference call that attempted to reconcile the meaning of “data” among a group of physical and social scientists. Who knew that smart, reasonable people could disagree on so much so vehemently? Clearly, this needed to be addressed before we could move forward as a team.

The iUTAH Data Policy—A First Step towards “Project Commons”

The iUTAH Data Policy was conceived quite early in our project, even before I joined. Its main purpose was to outline a common vision for and commitment to open access and public sharing of all iUTAH data. Mandated by the National Science Foundation, who funded our project, it quickly became a core value for our project and its participants.

Of course, as with many things, the devil proved to be in the details. Over the years, we realized that living up to both letter and spirit of this guiding document was frequently hindered by lack of a common language: what constitutes data, metadata, and derivative data products; what qualifies as an investigator-created resource; what is intellectual property; what are reasonable timelines to relax or completely surrender control over one’s data and research products? As it turns out, social scientists, modelers, and physical scientists all gave very different answers to these questions. Hence that conference call.

And so we modified the policy, incrementally at first, but more significantly as time went by. Designing a policy broad enough to make sure that iUTAH’s published data would be useful to everybody, but narrow and specific enough to address the unique needs of various disciplines (such as anonymization and disambiguation of human subjects data, or the treatment of model inputs, outputs, and simulation runs) forced us to align our goals, recognize and acknowledge our individual methodologies and approaches, and re-draw our mental maps to develop common ground: not just an amalgamation of individual disciplinary perspectives, policies, and special considerations, but a single, comprehensive expression of norms and values managed for the collective benefit of all—our first project “commons.”

Uniquely iUTAH

Of course, disciplinary background is not the only factor that makes our participants different from one another. We also had to contend with different professional backgrounds, different career stages, different professional affiliations and work sectors. And so, over time, other “commons” developed in the iUTAH project. Some came in the form of written documents and policies; others were more informal, such as in how we held meetings or interacted and conversed with one another; how we thought or talked about diversity, inclusion, and broader impacts; what we assumed about the person across from us, their motivations, aspirations, goals and challenges. But all were manifestations of a shared vision and purpose expressed in a common language that was universal, inclusive, and uniquely iUTAH. Collectively, they ensured that each and every one of our participants felt valued and understood. And I would argue that—across a project of over 800 participants—that is no small feat.

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Image provided by Andy Leidolf.

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

Part 1 – The Community Manager’s Survival Guide: Emphasizing “Inreach” to Overcome Geographic Dispersion

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.

The Challenge

When I began my tenure as Assistant Director of the iUTAH EPSCoR project in October 2014, the fact that the members of my research collaboration were not co-located, but dispersed among eleven institutions of higher learning spread all over the state of Utah, as well as 100 state, national, and—in some cases—international partner organizations, made settling into my position, frankly, a scary prospect. We were funded by a five year, $20M grant from the National Science Foundation to enhance Utah’s water resources through research, training, and education. This included studying the state’s water system, as well as working to understand how factors like population growth, climate variability, changes in land use, and human behavior impacted the sustainability of our state’s water resources. No small feat. How was I ever going to learn who all these people were, what role they played in and for our community, and—most importantly—how to communicate and engage with them?

Continue reading Part 1 – The Community Manager’s Survival Guide: Emphasizing “Inreach” to Overcome Geographic Dispersion

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

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 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

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

Resource Rabbit Hole: Part I

Today we continue our series of regular posts on the Trellis blog for science community managers interested in diversity, equity and inclusion. This installment was authored by Josh Knackert, UW-Madison Neuroscience Training Program. Additional series coordinators are Jennifer Davison, Urban@UW, University of Washington, Marsha Lucas, Society for Developmental Biology and Rosanna Volchok, The New York Academy of Sciences. You can find all of the posts in the series here.

Through our roles as community managers, and especially during our preparation for this series, we came across lots of great resources, examples, and tools. We will intermittently highlight these in a recurring segment we’re calling the Resource Rabbit Hole. While our posts are never meant to be a deep dive, we certainly like to encourage readers and collaborators to learn as much as they can about these topics. We hope these posts will help you delve further into areas that you find especially interesting. Also, feel free to share your favorite resources with us at info@trelliscience.com.

What resources have you found useful? Image Credit: https://www.geograph.org.uk/photo/5307228
What resources have you found useful?
Image Credit: https://www.geograph.org.uk/photo/5307228

Continue reading Resource Rabbit Hole: Part I

Fostering Diversity as a Community Manager: Series Introduction

Today we launch a brand new series of regular posts on the Trellis blog for scientific community managers interested in diversity, equity and inclusion. This installment was authored by Josh Knackert, UW-Madison Neuroscience Training Program. Additional series coordinators are Jennifer Davison, Urban@UW, University of Washington, Marsha Lucas, Society for Developmental Biology and Rosanna Volchok, The New York Academy of Sciences. You can find all of the posts in the series here.

Why does diversity, equity and inclusion matter in communities?

“Welcoming and supporting a broad range of backgrounds, skills, perspectives, and approaches helps communities be most effective.”

Community can mean different things for different people – a collection of individuals with a shared purpose, small efforts driving a larger movement, or a support structure, to name a few. Key principles at the heart of all of these definitions are diversity, equity and inclusion.  Welcoming and supporting a broad range of backgrounds, skills, perspectives, and approaches helps communities be most effective.

Hands up for diversity, equity and inclusion! Image credit: https://www.flickr.com/photos/wocintechchat/25388901994/
Hands up for diversity, equity and inclusion!
Image credit: https://www.flickr.com/photos/wocintechchat/25388901994/

Continue reading Fostering Diversity as a Community Manager: Series Introduction