RY2015-1 Project Update uri icon

DCO ID 11121/6857-1441-7679-4172-CC

Date Submitted

  • 2015-08-28

Update Text

  • INTERIM REPORT (Phase II through August 2015):
    Active progress on many initiatives associated with the Engagement Team’s Phase II work began in May 2014. Highlighted in this interim report is a suite of accomplishments:


    Through a concerted effort of the Engagement Team and others, since May of 2014 the number of individuals registered as members of the DCO Science Network has risen from approximately 250 to more than 700. Some new members signed on due to a new requirement for attendees of DCO-hosted workshops and meetings to become Network members. Others were specifically recruited through a series of targeted campaigns led by the Engagement Team. For instance, after the DCO Reception at AGU 2015, personal invitations to join were sent to all those who provided their names at the reception. Also, after the DCO International Science Meeting in March 2015, individual invitations to join were sent to all speakers and poster authors, and their co-authors, resulting in portion of the noted increase.

    To further promote the Network, the monthly DCO Newsletter contains a prominent “Join the DCO Science Network” button, and a call to join the Network was added to the DCO Community Portal home page. With recent developments by the Data Science Team in the public People Browser (generated dynamically from DCO Science Network member data in the Vivo-based Data Portal), as of August 2015 we are able to extract lists of individuals associated with each of the DCO Communities. We are currently in the process of working with each Community to compare official member lists drawn from the People Browser with the lists held by each Community. The goal is to reconcile these lists to inform Community leaders of new individuals who have chosen to affiliate with their Community and proactively recruit any individuals on the Community-held lists who are not yet members of the DCO Science Network. Once reconciled, each Community will have access to an easy-to-use listserv system for communicating with their respective Community members.

    The Engagement Team also crafted new wording to highlight the benefits and incentives of joining the DCO Science Network, and made this information readily available on the “Join the DCO Science Network” recruiting page. In addition, we worked with the Data Science Team and created a Welcome Page with a “Welcome to the Deep Carbon Observatory" video and a “How do I log in” video as well as other “FAQ” and “How To” descriptions.


    The keys to user participation in the DCO Portal (both the Community Portal—Drupal-based and the Data Portal—VIVO-based) are ease of access and use, availability of content of interest to the DCO community, and availability of desired functionality. Currently, the Portal satisfies only some of these requirements.

    The Community Portal continues to showcase DCO Science and Highlights. As of 28 August 2015, the Engagement Team has posted 31 Science features and 21 Highlights features on the Community Portal. In all of 2014, we posted a total of 31 Science features and 27 Highlights (see DCO Research and Highlights Features spreadsheet). More DCO scientists, including senior as well as those early in their careers, are reaching out directly to the Engagement Team to share their new publications and to highlight announcements related to and successes of workshops and other initiatives. The comprehensive DCO Events calendar on the DCO Community Portal contains a useful listing of upcoming meetings, conferences, and workshops, regularly updated by the Engagement Team and the Secretariat.

    Recent discussions on regular DCO Portal teleconferences point to inherent shortcomings in the usefulness of the group functionality in the Drupal infrastructure and the significant user interface issues with the Data Portal and its associated Vivo-based reporting system. These issues are significant enough that they actually alienate DCO’s target audiences rather than embrace them.

    As for the Group functionality designed by the Data Science Team as a component of the “collaborative tools” within the Community Portal, it has become clear the shortcomings in their suitability for “collaboration” in the traditional sense make continuing to promote their use a futile effort. People are effectively using Google Docs and other mainstream platforms for this purpose. However, the Groups do serve as an important, convenient, and suitable place for those planning and executing DCO workshops, conferences, meetings, and teleconferences to post and archive a variety of documents associated with these activities. The Group has worked particularly well for managing materials and information associated with the Executive Committee's ongoing activities. Thus, the time has come for the Engagement Team to work with the Data Science Team to salvage the useful portions of the Group infrastructure and encourage the Data Science Team to do whatever programming/coding is necessary to discard and remove from view extraneous components not worthy of further development or promotion, leaving the Groups to function as a readily accessible repository and archive for events and ongoing information sharing of the Executive Committee and other planning and management functions.

    Over the past year, organizers of a number of meetings, workshops, etc. effectively used the “posting and archive” functionality of Groups. These included Data Science Day, DCO Summer School 2014, the Second International Science Meeting (Munich), ICDP Drilling Project Workshop, DCO Thematic Institute, DCO Modeling and Visualization Workshop, DCO Second Early Career Scientist Workshop, and DCO Synthesis Planning Workshop, the last two just beginning to utilize the Group functionality. Most of these and others (such as the Deep Life Community Workshop in Lisbon) did take advantage of the Engagement Team-developed online registration/application form system and other resources such as agenda and name badge templates, PowerPoint templates, etc.

    Keeping track and cataloging photos and images is important for visual documentation of DCO results and findings. A suitable system for inputting, viewing, and retrieving images has not been made available within the DCO Data Portal, and the Engagement Team continues to utilize and maintain a DCO Flickr account as an alternative.

    To facilitate more streamlined communications and decision-making within the DCO management and leadership, the Engagement Team and the Secretariat have continued the practice of weekly teleconferences to address ongoing as well as emerging topics of mutual interest and overall programmatic importance. A teleconference including individuals representing the Sloan Foundation, Secretariat, Data Science Team, and Engagement Team focused on DCO Portal Development regularly addresses the more technical and interface infrastructure issues associated with the DCO Data Portal and its integration with the Community Portal.

    Open access is an underlying tenet of DCO’s vision for making its growing bibliography of scientific output broadly available. To further promote open access, the Engagement Team solicited input from the Executive Committee and Secretariat and updated DCO's open access policy. This update capitalizes on the ongoing work of Shaun Hardy, Librarian at the Carnegie Institution of Washington, who regularly tracks open access policies of geoscience-focused journals. 


    Building a stronger base of personal connections and a distribution database of international journalists and media with interest and expertise in reporting Earth science stories has been a priority for the Engagement Team over the last year. Beginning with a list of 130 names shared by DCO’s former media relations consultant, the Engagement Team has expanded its database to nearly 1000 journalists worldwide, personally connected with numerous journalists interested in DCO’s field studies, proactively sought out journalists in the Press Room and throughout venues at the December 2015 AGU, actively engaged Public Information Officers (PIOs) at institutions of DCO scientists, and reached out to personally connect with communications professionals at geoscience societies throughout the world to make them aware of DCO and its wide range of research interests.

    Field Studies Media Advisory:
    In the summer 2014 the Engagement Team canvassed DCO scientists involved in field studies throughout the world and undertook the following actions to meet a prescribed set of goals related to DCO’s far-reaching field study activities:

    1. Developed and distributed survey of PIs involved in DCO field activities.
    2. Compiled survey data: 70 distinct Field Studies representing more than 150 specific sites entered into DCO Managing and Reporting System – 18 PIs representing 35 field sites offered journalists the option to join them in the field.
    3. Developed script and illustrations for a three-minute video produced in collaboration with Smithsonian Media highlighting the scope and location of DCO field sites around the world.
    4. Developed a new public-facing web page summarizing DCO’s field studies.
    5. Created an overview illustration of DCO field activities, as well as customized PowerPoint slides for use by DCO scientists.
    6. Distributed media advisory to the new, greatly expanded DCO media list.

    Goals Reached:
    1. Provided the broader DCO community and the media with a more thorough understanding of DCO’s global field studies strategy in an easily understood and visually appealing manner.
    2. Created a special section on the DCO website to showcase DCO’s involvement in field studies throughout the world, highlighting involvement of DCO Early Career Scientists and others.
    3. Developed graphics, video, and other visual resources for use by DCO scientists to simplify and enhance presentations of their fieldwork and related research to their scientific colleagues and broader audiences.
    4. Shared current findings generated from DCO’s field studies with the DCO community and global media.
    5. Built a more comprehensive, geoscience-focused media database and connected journalists with DCO’s field-based efforts through development of an ongoing plan to provide opportunities for their participation in field activities, as appropriate.

    Field Study Media Inquiries:
    The Engagement Team received 16 inquiries from members of the press to join field expeditions. Unfortunately, without travel support and with newsrooms today generally unable to cover these costs, the expenses associated with embedding a journalist in an expedition were prohibitive for most of the interested journalists. Our outreach was ultimately successful, however, in that we developed a strong rapport with the following 16 journalists, all of whom remain on our distribution list for future opportunities and coverage of DCO’s field study activities. These journalists included:

    Kathrin Werner (New York correspondent for the German Newspaper Sueddeutsche Zeitung; we put her in touch with Jeff Gralnick)
    Ginger Vaughan (CCTV America)
    Laura Daverio (RSI Swiss Television and Radio, based in Beijing)
    Christine Dell'Amore (National Geographic, USA)
    Carmen Drahl (Chemical and Engineering News)
    Susan Fourtané (Freelance Journalist in Finland)
    Andrew Freedman (Mashable)
    Anna Kuusela (Turun Sanomat, Finland)
    Alanna Mitchell (Freelance Journalist and Author in Canada)
    John Pavlus (Freelance Science Writer in USA)
    Randy Showstack (Senior Writer at the AGU)
    John Tennant (Freelance Science Writer and Blogger, UK)
    Timothy Wheeler (Baltimore Sun, USA)
    Allie Wilkinson (Freelance Science Journalist in USA)
    Alexandra Witze (Nature)

    Related Field Studies Activity:
    In Spring 2015 we again reached out to the DCO community to ask scientists to let us know of upcoming opportunities where a journalist might join them in the field this summer. We successfully connected Tullis Onstott with New York Times science reporter Kenneth Chang, whose interest in DCO developed from our personal engagement with him at the December 2014 AGU meeting. Chang accompanied Onstott and his team in South Africa, 15-24 June 2015. We also connected freelance science writer Matthew Francis with Rick Colwell. Together they are exploring the possibility of Francis joining future research cruises led by Colwell. Competition for berth space always poses a challenge for this sort of engagement activity. Although it may take some time to place Francis on one of Colwell's cruises, we will continue to facilitate this connection. The Engagement Team will also continue nurturing these kinds of activities through personal communications with members of the DCO Science Network and our growing network of science journalists.  We are currently beginning another broad canvassing of the DCO Community to update their Field Study entries in the Vivo reporting system, to work with the Data Science Team on an updated field studies map format to better showcase the breadth of DCO’s field efforts worldwide, and to identify future expeditions in which journalists might join DCO scientists.

    DCO Press Release and Related Media Relations
    In December 2014 the Engagement Team focused significant effort to capitalize upon DCO’s strong presence at AGU In San Francisco, undertaking the following activities:

    1 The Engagement Team was heavily involved with the content, design, and production of DCO’s Midterm Scientific Report, written by Rus Hemley.
    2. We collaborated with Smithsonian Media to create a video about DCO’s Midterm Report, featuring interviews with Rus Hemley and Bob Hazen.
    3. We compiled a comprehensive web page on the DCO website to highlight DCO participation in the 2014 AGU Fall Meeting and the associated reception to celebrate release the report.
    4. We collaborated with several members of the DCO Science Network at a range of career stages to highlight their work and involvement in the Fall Meeting in the press release.
    5. We prepared and broadly disseminated a broadly informative news release titled “The Deep Carbon Observatory: Investigation Quantities, Movements, Forms, and Origins of Carbon in Earth.”
    6. We prepared an abbreviated, single page AGU tip sheet to highlight presentations and events of interest to the press during the Fall Meeting and distributed it internationally as well as in person at the AGU press room.
    7. We created a Flickr gallery of captioned and credited images to complement the release.
    8. Approximately three weeks before the meeting, the Engagement Team shared advanced notice of many of these presentations and events with a short list of ~150 journalists interested in the geosciences with whom we have established relationships.
    9. An expanded list of close to 1000 journalists worldwide received the press release with links to the tip sheet in an email when it went live on 15 December.
    10. We posted the release on Eurekalert and had it translated for Chinese Eurekalert.
    11. In collaboration with the DCO Secretariat the Engagement Team organized a gathering in San Francisco to celebrate the release of the mid-term report. The successful event was attended by close to 200 scientists and members of the international news media.

    Goals Reached:
    1. Provided the broader DCO community and the media with an understanding of the accomplishments of DCO at the mid-point of the decade-long program via an internationally disseminated news release and follow-up activities at the AGU Fall Meeting in San Francisco (December 9-15, 2014).
    2. Utilized the release of the midterm report to generate more global interest among deep carbon scientists in joining the DCO Science Network.
    3. Shared findings generated from the first five years of DCO’s research program with the broader DCO community and global media.
    4. Developed a cadre of DCO scientists, both established and early career, able to articulate both the goals of the overall DCO program as well as a synoptic view of the program-wide findings to date.

    Media Outcomes:
    The release was viewed 1735 times on EurekAlert, 328 times on EurkeAlert Chinese, and 280 times on the DCO website. Our advance communications with journalists ahead of AGU were important in both establishing trusting relationships and ensuring DCO coverage at the Fall Meeting. Of particular note were pre-meeting conversations with BBC reporter Rebecca Morelle, Kenneth Chang of the New York Times, Carmen Drahl at Chemical and Engineering News, and Nature correspondent Alexandra Witze.

    AGU’s press room is an important place for networking with members of the international news media. In addition to the reporters mentioned above, we also had fruitful conversations with Mohi Kumar (Eos), Becky Oskin (Live Science), Laura Helmuth (Slate), Keith Kloor (Discover), Nick Wiggington (Science), Jamie Vernon (American Scientist), Kirsten Sanford (This Week in Science), among others. Both Mark Fischetti (Scientific American) and Eric Hand (AAAS/Science) attended the DECADE Town Hall on Thursday. The Engagement Team’s strong presence in the AGU press room (in terms of staff and our range of targeted materials for journalists) established DCO as a significant player at AGU and in the geoscience world. We prominently displayed print copies of DCO’s press release, tip sheet, copies of the Midterm Scientific Report, and other branded giveaways (notebooks, pens, and stickers). Unlike many other groups’ materials in the press room, DCO’s materials were all gone by the end of the week. We attribute this interest to a combination of well-developed materials and our personal interactions with members of the press. Also as a result of connections made at AGU, Katie Prat initiated and co-authored a DCO feature article with Robert Hazen for submission to Eos in late summer 2015.

    Engagement Team members have also developed a strong working relationship with Peter Weiss, AGU’s public information manager and just recently with Nancy Bompi who has taken over this role from Weiss. As a result of these interactions, Weiss and Bompi are eager to help us expand DCO’s presence at AGU for the purpose of engaging journalists. We are currently preparing a pitch for a news conference at the 2015 AGU focused on The Carbon Mineral Challenge (see below) and an associated news release. A corollary press release may focus on science presentations and news associated with DCO’s presence at AGU 2015. The Engagement Team already submitted an idea to AGU organizers for a deep carbon-related SWIRL, and as in past years, we have already begun preparing the web-based framework for a comprehensive compilation of DCO-focused abstracts and posters DCO scientists will present at AGU in December. 

    In addition to continued reaching out to the international media, the Engagement team also sent
    introductory emails to major international geoscience societies to introduce their communications professionals to the activities of DCO. These individuals and organizations included:
    Marie-Aude Hulshoff at EAG who subsequently placed DCO materials at their booth at Goldschmidt 2015 in Prague; Kevin Johnson at the Geochemical Society who offered placement of stories about DCO in GS newsletter on occasion; AGI (a group for which the Engagement Team has provided counsel on their DCO diversity project) that offered placement of DCO items in their newsletter on occasion; and continuing correspondence with Billy Williams at AGU and Alex Speer of MSA. Initial correspondence with Hirkaru Yabuta at the Geochemical Society of Japan , Christa Stratton at the Geological Society of America, and EGU still requires additional follow-up by the Engagement Team.

    The Carbon Mineral Challenge: A Worldwide Hunt for New Carbon Minerals
    As DCO Executive Director Robert Hazen notes, “A key decadal goal of the DCO is to identify the forms of carbon in Earth. Recent statistical studies of mineral diversity-distribution data point to the existence of more than 1500 minerals on Earth that have not yet been discovered and described. Employing species accumulation curves similar to those long employed in biological ecosystem studies, Hazen et al. predict that approximately 145 as yet un-described minerals incorporate carbon as an essential element—a significant number compared to the 404 known C minerals. Presently, 4 or 5 new C minerals are described each year, with many new minerals found only in a very few locations on Earth.”

    The Engagement Team is working closely with Hazen, Robert Downs, and Daniel Hummer to design and launch “The Carbon Mineral Challenge: A Worldwide Hunt for New Carbon Minerals” as a one-of-a-kind international challenge designed to engage the international mineralogical community—both serious amateur collectors and professional mineralogists—and to kickstart a targeted search for undiscovered carbon-bearing mineral species. The Challenge will encompass a window of ~1,400 days; December 2015 - September 2019. The objectives of the Challenge are to:
    1. Expand the catalog of known carbon minerals with the expectation that approximately 25 new carbon mineral species will be discovered by 2019.
    2. Generate interest in carbon minerals, mineral collecting, and Earth science.
    3. Promote the goals and research findings of the DCO.

    Plans are underway for a multi-pronged launch of the Challenge in December 2015 at AGU via an evening celebratory event, an international news release, and potentially a news conference at AGU.
    Other Community Resources and Public Engagement
    The Engagement Team carried out a range of other engagement activities designed to reach the scientific community as well as broader audiences. Besides producing videos focused on DCO field studies and its mid-term accomplishments with Smithsonian Media, over the past year the Engagement Team reported on, live tweeted, and created additional videos to document Data Science Day, the DCO Summer School at Yellowstone, the Second International Science Meeting in Munich and the Modeling and Visualization Workshop at Smithsonian.

    The Engagement Team continued to produce the monthly DCO Newsletter, "From the Deep," highlighting a selection of the myriad Science and Highlights features, events, honors and awards, calls for proposals and other DCO initiatives. The monthly eNewsletter reaches a list of approximately 2300 subscribers with an open rate of approximately 40%. According to MailChimp (the service the Engagement Team uses for distributing the DCO newsletter), the industry average open rate is 2.8% for non-profits. Newsletter metrics show opens are concentrated in the US (between 50 and 60 percent). After the US, France, Germany, and the UK are the countries with the most opens. Over the last year, we've seen a modest but noticeable increase in opens in Japan. 

    The Engagement Team also manages and actively promotes its Facebook and Twitter accounts. For Facebook, DCO gained 451 likes in the last year and garnered 327 new followers on Twitter. The Team also monitors Google Analytics, solicits anecdotal feedback from users, and collects submissions through a new online feedback form in order to continue to refine the content on the DCO Community Portal. 


    The Sloan Foundation organized External Review of DCO at its mid-point stressed the importance of moving forward with efforts to plan ahead for the end of Sloan’s support of the 10-year DCO research program in 2019. The Engagement Team believes a comprehensive plan for synthesizing DCO’s discoveries and findings by 2019 is paramount for sharing a new understanding of deep carbon science with the broadest possible range of audiences.

    DCO Timetable and Matrix of Potential Synthesis Products and Activities
    After the Executive Committee meeting in Oman in January 2015, the Engagement Team took the lead in assembling a detailed Timetable to help facilitate further program-wide planning and a comprehensive Matrix of Potential Synthesis Products and Activities to highlight potential partners and initiatives for synthesizing DCO outcomes. The matrix was shared with the Executive Committee and their additional ideas and suggestions were incorporated into this evolving document.

    DCO Synthesis Planning Workshop
    To advance a discussion of possible synthesis products and activities, and draft a plan for carrying out these initiatives, the DCO Engagement Team took on the responsibility of hosting and facilitating a DCO Synthesis Planning Workshop in Rhode Island in October 2015. The workshop will be held at the University of Rhode Island's Whispering Pines Conference Center beginning the evening Wednesday, 28 October and continuing through Friday afternoon, 30 October 2015.

    The goals of the workshop are to: 1) Receive input from each of DCO's four research Communities regarding the likely conclusions, findings, and discoveries DCO scientists may be ready to report by 2019; 2) Solicit ideas and suggestions for products and activities to share these accomplishments with a range of audiences (with suggestions for prioritizing initiatives as well as potential funders); and
    3) Gather input on how DCO might best organize management and oversight of the Synthesis process through 2019. Invitations have been sent and accepted for this small, ~30-person workshop to bring together a small but representative group of DCO Science Network members at various stages of their scientific careers—early, mid, and senior—to share ideas of interest to all DCO Communities. Additional attendees will include representatives from the DCO Secretariat, Engagement Team, and Data Science Team, the Sloan Foundation, and experts in the field of science communication. This assemblage of individuals will explore a variety of options for an ambitious, yet feasible, portfolio of synthesis mechanisms for sharing DCO’s achievements with both the scientific community and the public.

    Results of a pre-workshop input from a survey sent in late August to DCO Community leadership and selected DCO Science Network members will provide a starting point for discussion of the larger findings, discoveries, and insights we can expect to showcase in 2019. Workshop participants will also provide input as to how DCO should organize management and oversight of the Synthesis process over the next four years, thus ensuring a strong synthesis portfolio is delivered by 2019. Participants will join the DCO Executive Committee in nominating individuals for a four-year commitment as members of a “synthesis oversight committee or task force” (final name of this group to be determined). Attendees will also be asked to express their thoughts about the goals and expectations of this oversight group. The Engagement Team will provide detailed feedback from this workshop to DCO Leadership who will make final decisions about the path forward, including the role the Engagement Team will play in executing the overall DCO Synthesis effort.