Why Use The Message Box Workbook?

This deceptively simple tool is incredibly versatile. It can help you prepare for interviews with journalists or employers, plan a presentation, outline papers or lectures, prepare grant proposals, or explain what you do and why it matters to family and friends.

As a pioneer in the practice of science communication, COMPASS has successfully trained thousands of scientists from a wide range of disciplines and institutions, inspired journalists to create and sustain coverage of science-related topics previously not on the public radar, and facilitated connections between scientists and policymakers that have enriched policy dialogues in meaningful ways. Working with us, scientists have shaped the public discourse on key issues such as ocean acidification, fisheries, water security in the American West, wildfire, ecosystem-based management, and more. Although COMPASS focuses largely on the environmental sciences, the Message Box is a useful tool for any scientist seeking to distill what they do and why it matters for a particular audience.


Too often, scientific knowledge is locked up in professional journals because scientists traditionally haven’t been trained to communicate effectively beyond their peers. Communicating in peer-reviewed journals or technical reports is an important part of science. But, if you want your work to be relevant to non-scientific audiences—from journalists, to policymakers, to members of your community, or others—you need to think differently about how you communicate.


Effective science communication requires recognizing the differences between how scientists have traditionally been taught to communicate and how the rest of the world communicates. In fact, scientific papers and presentations generally follow a different format than most other types of communication. In a scientific paper, you establish credibility in the introduction and methods, provide detailed data in results, and then share the significance of your work in the discussion and conclusions. But the rest of the world leads with the conclusions, because that's what people want to know. What are your findings and why is this relevant to them? In other words, what’s your bottom line?


Making your research accessible and relevant takes effort, but no one is better equipped to do it than you. Your passion, experience, and expertise are unique to you and policy makers, managers, journalists, and society want to hear from you!

The scientific method of presenting information, versus what non-scientists want to know. Adapted from Escape from the Ivory Tower: A Guide to Making Your Science Matter, by Nancy Baron (Island Press, 2010).

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