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It’s not all about the money: Community investment

February 01, 2017

Earlham Institute supports the AAAS Community Engagement Fellows Program – where budding community managers benefit from a shared knowledge base and peer support to excel their careers and make inroads to the scientific research network.

Communities that grow around scientific projects and associations are increasingly recognised as invaluable for building effective collaborations and innovation. The Earlham Institute (EI) recognises this through its support for a range of initiatives promoting and build community engagement.

For example, the Open Source bioinformatics community work led by the Davey Group, such as the Collaborative Open Plant Omics (COPO) project and the computational infrastructure and informatics node CyVerse UK; the Di Palma and Haerty Groups on building collaborations and consortia around aquaculture in Tanzania; as well as the Institute’s commitment to Open Science.

Investment in community engagement and management, along with a perception of its importance, is booming in the commercial sector. The Sloan Foundation and the world’s largest general scientific society, AAAS have established a new initiative to promote and professionalise scientific community engagement – the 2017 Community Engagement Fellows Program (CEFP). The programme kicked off the year in Washington D.C., USA, where the fellows met for a week to learn from each other and external experts, to start forming and shaping their own community.

EI’s Aidan Budd, Senior Community and Business Development Manager in the Korcsmáros Group participated as a trainer and mentor to show the fellows how events can build a stronger sense of community.

“It was a wonderful experience to join the cohort and other trainers, organisers, and mentors, in Washington.” said Aidan. “I am convinced that the work of AAAS, particularly of Lou Woodley, programme manager for the CEFP, in promoting the development and growth of scientific community management as a profession, is going to pay off with huge dividends to the academy as a whole.

“It was extremely exciting to meet such a group of engaged, diverse, inspirational people – it really felt like we had come together at the birth of a new profession (to paraphrase Josh Freeman, Founding General Manager of Trellis – the AAAS’s new online platform for scientific communication, which is being used by AAAS to the support engagement with the CEFP fellows).”

“The importance that AAAS attaches to this programme, and community engagement for the sciences in general, was underscored by the attention and commitment of the AAAS CEO Rush Holt to the project. Rush gave an inspirational presentation, and made a point of spending time talking with participants on several occasions – providing, implicitly, an important reminder to all involved of a key principle of community engagement; conspicuous buy-in and commitment from leadership to the goals and activities of a community has a huge impact on motivation and buy-in across the whole group.”

Aidan’s community engagement work is enthusiastically supported by Group Leader, Dr Tamás Korcsmáros: “I was really glad that Aidan could join this meeting – so often in my work I see the real tangible value of promoting community for science. Aidan has many years’ experience of scientific community engagement and it’s great that he had the opportunity to share this with the CEFP cohort. I’m very excited to see what comes out of the important and timely initiative!”

Find out more about the AAAS programme, AAAS.

Check out the event’s Storify

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Hayley London

Marketing and Communications Officer