Saturday, October 19, 2013

Why I'm trying this blogging thing again

I am a scientist-practitioner specializing in issues related to the environment (a description of my actual work is here). There has to be a better way to describe my professional identity, but my inability to do so is, in my mind, reflective of the state of the field.

I started my career in science and communication - I worked in marketing and communications to get myself through my undergraduate degree in environmental science and geology. Science and communication are equally ingrained in me. I have been doing both in varying degrees for over 20 years at this point. During that time I've seen science communication turn into a Real Thing, which has been great to be a part of. At the same time, I continue to see a lot of frustration about the state of science communication on all levels, from the process to its outcomes to the state of the profession. I don't think all of it is warranted, as I've seen and been a part of lots of successful science communication efforts. But, the frustration exists.

While I am always interested in science communication methods and outcomes, I am focusing more and more on the profession and practice of what might be loosely grouped under a science communication umbrella, but which I am also coming think may be too limiting a term for what I (and many others) do professionally. Terms like engagement, outreach, integration, and co-developed and use-driven science come to mind. So, more and more I find myself simply interested in what it means to be a scientist practitioner (compared to a research scientist, for example). I will begin to try to parse out what I mean by scientist-practitioner in subsequent posts - the hardest part is really trying to talk about it in a way that isn't about what it's *not*. Perhaps this blog will help me figure it out.

So, why do this now? Well, I have also started two other blogs - one on "alternative" careers in the environmental sciences in 2007, and another on trying to broaden how science communication is defined in 2008. Both of these topic areas have expanded a lot in the past 5-6 years. For example, the language I used has changed (many folks are now using "diverse careers" versus alternative, for example). While needing to be compassionate with my younger self ("time makes you bolder, children get older" and all that good stuff), I can also see that I continue to wrestle with many of the same issues, and from conversations with lots of people, I know I'm not alone. Looking back at my thoughts from years ago gives me pause in attempting this again as I can see how quickly my perspective and the context for it changes/becomes outdated. But, I can also see that I've been thinking about the same things for quite a while and something in me continues to want to be a part of a conversation outside of conferences, small groups, and, most especially, journal publications.

My intention is to focus on experiences related to being a scientist and practitioner. Based on my own personal interests these days, I will likely spend a lot of time talking about cultivating skills and capacities that help in practitioner roles (things like emotional intelligence, relationship-building, conflict resolution, and compassion), enhancing true engagement with communities, what it might be like to create a professional/practitioner track in natural science PhD programs, and what we can learn from fields with practice-oriented training such as law and medicine. It will undoubtedly evolve over time as well.

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