Small step for scientists, large leap for science communication

It’s said that many hands make light work, but could that be true for science communication too? In an opinion piece in PNAS that came out last week (Kuehne and Olden 2015 ), we propose that lay summaries – published online alongside traditional abstracts – are an efficient and needed science communication option in a changing media landscape. Communication of research is undergoing radical and rapid change through ever-increasing reliance on the internet, resulting in a shift from traditional top-down knowledge transfers to a “media ecosystem” (see figure below). Within this ecosystem, widespread adoption of lay summaries could substantially bolster current science communication efforts by creating reliable and direct pathways between scientists and diverse audiences including journalists, policymakers, resource managers, and the general public. We argue that it wouldn’t hurt interdisciplinary communication between scientists either! PNAS 2015 Mar 112(12) 3585-6, Fig. 1

Although lay summaries should enhance science communication across all disciplines, the need for broadly accessible research results is paramount in ecology and the environment. So we are taking this opportunity to urge journal editors and publishers in these fields to provide the platform for publication and incorporate requirement of lay summaries into their peer-review process.  If you support the inclusion of online lay summaries we hope that you’ll join us in signing an open letter to major ecology and environmental journals which will be sent on April 10th.


Lauren Kuehne and Julian Olden

University of Washington School of Aquatic and Fishery Sciences

Lessons learned as a first-year faculty member

By Sarah Bisbing


One of my ecology students showed her gratitude with a succulent terrarium. Awesome.

As I prepare to start my second year as an Assistant Professor, I’ve been thinking quite a bit about the highs and lows of my first year, the successful changes I made over that year, and my strategies for success going forward. I’ve shared some of the lessons I learned as a first-year faculty member over at Small Pond Science. Some of them are pretty common cries from new faculty, but these are a few things I wish I had known (or accepted) before starting my first year. Check out the post here.

An American postdoc in Europe

In January of this year my boyfriend, Andre, and I packed up our house in Fort Collins, CO, dropped our dog, Ginger, off with my mom and moved out of Colorado and the country. This marked the beginning of an international tour, and we were excited. Andre headed to live with his brother in Canada, while I flew solo to Germany for a three month position. We then met up in May in the Netherlands where I began a 2 year postdoc. The last 8 months have been enlightening, exhausting, and overwhelming. While we still haven’t figure everything out, we are having an amazing time. Here is our story, and a few tips for anyone embarking on a similar adventure- punctuated with a few on my instagram photos.

Andre and I, just visiting the #Colosseum in #Rome in the rain #nbd #postdoclife

Andre and I, just visiting the #Colosseum in #Rome in the rain #nbd #postdoclife

Continue reading

Science communication in grad school: should you or shouldn’t you?

Taking part in education and outreach events: time well spent or a distraction on the way to a thesis?

Science communication in graduate school: time well spent or a distraction on the way to a thesis?

Spoiler alert: I am going to try to persuade you that all graduate students should engage in science communication.  In fact, our Freshwater Ecology & Conservation lab – made up of 3 master’s and 2 PhD students, 1 post-doc, 1 research scientist, and 1 early career professor – wrote a hot-off-the-press journal article in Conservation Biology about how graduate students can (and should) do science communication. But we know that grad students don’t have time to read any more papers, so a “Cliff Notes” version seemed in order.

If you are reading this blog, you may know something about science communication, by which I mean (very generally) talking about research to audiences other than scientists. Maybe you even have an opinion about it, something like “I wish I knew how to do that better”, or “If only I wasn’t so busy”. Or maybe you already dislike this post, because “I’m still learning how to DO science – I’ll figure out communicating it later!” Continue reading

Plastic Purge: Mike SanClements on Reducing Plastic!


Plastic Purge Trailer from Mike SanClements on Vimeo.

Check out Dr. Mike SanClements discuss his efforts to reduce plastic in his life . . . and his new book on the subject!

A year in the lives of early career ecologists

Sorry we’ve been MIA for a while, but it turns out we actually have been in action – and plenty of it. An update on what’s been happening with ECE is overdue, but we thought it was also a good opportunity to ask: “What ARE early career ecologists doing when they aren’t blogging about their research?”. Since we are scientists, a graph was in order (Fig. 1), so you can examine the data yourself. Continue reading

#DataSharing in #ecology – risks, rewards and expectations?

Remember taking a math test in, say sixth grade? There was that painful requirement that you show your work. If 2 + b = 7 and a – 5 = 10, what does a + b equal? Line up those little equations and hammer them out for the teacher, because she doesn’t care if you get the final answer, she wants to see how you got the answer.

Just like sixth grade all over again, the current generation of young ecologists* will have to deal with showing their work. Specifically, there is an abundance of data we are collecting and working with, much of which can be used for multiple purposes, from meta-analyses (See Christopher Lortie’s recent PeerJ pre-prints) to systematic reviews to reanalysis. Based on the era of big data, there is a considerable and ever-evolving discussion on how data should be shared, used and published within the ecological and larger research communities. . Some people find it to be an ethical issue, whether data is made publicly available. In the vein of elementary school math exams showing one’s work and data, various discussions have come up in the social media world lately:

A couple days ago, Brett Favaro documented a nice Twitter discussion on several individuals’ thoughts on whether data-sharing entitles a data collector, steward, or supplier to authorship: Continue reading