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What is Community Engagement Within Science?

In the context of CSCCE’s activities, we use the term community engagement to refer to engagement with the members of an organization, association, community of practice, or research group within the STEM community, rather than public engagement.

Specific examples of scientific communities might be:

  • The members of a professional scientific society such as AAAS
  • The members of a multi-institutional research collaboration
  • The members of a hosted community working together on software or standards – sometimes referred to as an infrastructure organization
  • The members of a scientific community of practice such as a mentoring network for under-represented minorities in STEM

Community engagement involves the participation of members of a community in that community’s activities. This may result in some or all of the following:

  1. A shared sense of belonging and self-identification as a member of the community
  2. The exchange of scientific information and/or connection to other community members
  3. The accomplishment of specific project goals

Who are community engagement managers?

A community engagement professional or community manager is someone who facilitates the activities of a community or collaboration and the interactions between its members. These activities may or may not take place within a dedicated online network, but likely involve the use of online tools. Community management may be considered as “in-reach” rather than “outreach” or public engagement.

Typically, the role of a scientific community engagement manager (often part of the job description of a Center Director or Assistant Project Director) is to ensure cohesion in their community, yet they may have no formal training in the skills required to strategically do this.

In science, the term community manager is gaining some traction within associations and within “infrastructure” organizations that serve scientists through the provision of specific tools and trainings. However, in a research collaboration context the term is rarely used and instead may be found within research development, program management, and research director roles. Supporting this observation, results of the 2016 State of Scientific Community Management survey conducted by AAAS reveal that “Other” was the most popular option when community professionals were asked about job titles.

We are working to identify the full taxonomy of community engagement roles within science and the skillsets deployed in each role.