NCA Inside & Out

Photo of Paaige Turner

Letter from the Executive Director

September 1, 2017

A Seat at the Table

Our discipline faces a significant challenge: Communication is ubiquitous and perceived by many to be “everything.” As articulated by research on whiteness, when something is everything, it becomes nothing—its influence becomes invisible. 

Increasingly, the importance of communication is being “discovered.” For example, a report for the National Science Foundation (NSF) on “The Value of Social, Behavioral, and Economic Sciences to National Priorities” lists four areas that require greater attention, including “communication of social, behavioral, and economic (SBE) research that NSF supports and how NSF grants advance NSF’s mission.”  The American Council of Learned Societies recently appointed NCA members Michelle Rivera and Kara Wentworth as Public Fellows. The American Association for the Advancement of Science is delivering workshops on communication through its Center for Public Engagement with Science & Technology. And, Laura Helmuth, Health, Science & Environment Editor of The Washington Post, recently spoke at a seminar about “Getting the story right: How to communicate about science.” During her remarks, she called for more “informed opinions” and for learned societies to help bridge the gap between the academy and media

NCA amplifies the voices of our members to ensure that our discipline is recognized for its ability to contribute to the conceptualization and analysis of the challenges facing our world—and not just as the designers of the PowerPoint used to describe them. 

To that end, NCA has a seat at the table of ideas and exchange through key partnerships with associations in the DC area. Examples include:

  • The American Council of Learned Societies: a private, nonprofit federation of 75 national scholarly organizations, the preeminent representative of American scholarship in the humanities and related social sciences.
  • The Consortium of Social Science Associations: a nonprofit advocacy organization working to promote sustainable federal funding for and widespread use of social and behavioral science research and federal policies that positively impact the conduct of research.
  • The National Humanities Alliance: an advocacy coalition dedicated to the advancement of humanities education, research, preservation, and public programs.

While it appears that the Communication discipline is no longer invisible, we still have much work to do to make our scholars’ expertise and impact even more apparent and accessible. In the next few months, the National Office will begin increasing its direct outreach to the DC community. We will catalog individuals and organizations in DC that should know about the work of our association and its members. We will also begin hosting salons at our office for NCA members to share their expertise with 6-12 individuals in an informal, conversational format, and to develop new collaborations and partnerships. If you know of individuals or organizations with whom we should be in touch, please contact me.

Starting in 2018, we will be mailing Spectra magazine to the Presidents, Provosts, and Deans of all universities and colleges with a Communication department/school. As a former faculty administrator, I have seen administrators lose touch with the activities and accomplishments of their faculty because of the number of competing demands on their time. Spectra will provide them with a reminder of the value of the work achieved by their Communication faculty and our discipline.

NCA is working to be sure we have a seat at the table, not only to validate our discipline, but also so that we can help address the challenges facing higher education and our society. We can’t always wait to be invited—sometimes we must invite ourselves.