This year’s AMS Summer Policy Colloquium is a wrap. The participants have all made it home. Back at the office, we’re closing out the books and writing inadequate acknowledgments to the distinguished speakers who took time out of their crazily-busy schedules to meet with the group. We’re absorbing the feedback from participants in order to improve the experience for everyone next year. And speaking of gratitude, we’re thankful to the participants for taking ten days out of their schedules to be with us. They had many competing claims on their time.
As participants were grabbing their luggage and heading for airports, some asked about next steps. Over the years, we’ve probably paid inadequate attention to this aspect of the Colloquium. We make every effort to maintain contact with alumni and provide opportunity and venue for them to stay in touch and reconnect, particularly at AMS Annual Meetings. But we can and should be doing more. So here’s a first installment in that direction: a preliminary list of areas that merit attention and work. Though the nominal audience is the 2015 Colloquium contingent, the list applies equally well to all alumni from prior years – and, for that matter to all readers of this blog and all members of the Earth observations, science, and services community. Note the emphasis on the word preliminary. Readers are invited to enrich this list with additions and reworking of these initial ideas. Please help us tap into the wisdom of crowds!
Start with your science/profession. Stick to the knitting. Your science, your research, your day job is what got you here. You’re a graduate student? Doesn’t matter whether your research is on metallic-compound precipitation on Venus or tropical convection or squid larvae in the Pacific here on Earth. Maintain your intensity/focus. You’re working in a government agency? Move your piece of the mission forward, be it public safety, or climate services, or national security. Employed by the private sector? Do your bit to improve your product/service line, build markets and profits (all of us need to remember that “profit” is just “sustainability” by another name). Whatever your role, expand the envelope of human knowledge/capability. Doesn’t matter how incremental or narrowly specific that new bit of insight might be. Remember seven billion people are working alongside/behind you, doing their bit as well. That massive collaborative effort has the human race on a roll.
Then expand your horizons. You can do this in any of a number of directions. Let’s start with your day job. Of those seven billion people, only a handful are your nearest neighbors… the men and women working in closely allied fields. Are you merely competing with them? You ought to be communicating, collaborating. There’s more than enough work to go around. And opportunity isn’t zero-sum. Keep your ideas to yourself today, and tomorrow you’ll find you’re even more timid. And others will pick up on your negative vibe. Little by little your field will shrivel and die. But freely share what you see and know, and you’ll bring others out of their shells. Your aggregate work will grow in significance. You’ll find your work more satisfying. You’ll attract others who’ll join in. The more you work with others, the more field and scope your work will enjoy.
Or you could go in another direction. You could begin by setting aside some time each day to consider the application of your work for societal benefit. Ask yourself: why does my work matter? How might it benefit others? What extra effort would I have to make that potential benefit a reality? If I can’t do that by myself (and face it… you probably can’t) then how do I go about partnering up? How can I, and my organization, grow to be more intentional, disciplined, and effective in transitioning from science to services that change the world? And (looking beyond your own work), what about the innovation I see from others? How could their work be harnessed to manage resources more effectively? Provide for public safety? Slow or reverse environmental degradation? As an extension of these ideas, you might try developing your own “case for the geosciences and related social science.” Ask yourself why so many members of Congress seem to be content to cut funding for these disciplines. And don’t take some lazy way out, don’t just assume that it’s a matter of knowledge deficit, that if they only knew what you knew, they’d increase that funding. Instead think through what changes you and I might make in the way we do business on the provider side of geosciences and services to earn a bigger following. Share your insights with the rest of us.
Here’s a third option. Start taking what’s happening in your home city or county or state more seriously. Begin by developing your own informal SWOT analysis for the place you call home. What do people need? Jobs? Education? Better access to health care? Productivity? What’s the local conversation like on these issues? Is it non-existent? Desultory? Mis-directed? Heated and divisive? Then ask how your skill set fits in. What might you do at the grassroots level, through local NGO’s or faith-based organizations, to change the conversation, build trust, identify common ground. What small success could you and others achieve that might be a basis for building community? (To bring this down to specifics, close to home… NOAA’s Weather-Ready Nation program might provide just such an opportunity.)
Don’t forget the AMS. Of course we want you to take opportunities to submit your papers to our journals, join in our meetings, and volunteer. But we also want you to let us know how we can better serve you, equip you for next steps in your career, continue your professional development.
Please stay in touch.