Community Managers: Overview
Community Managers: Overview#
Community Managers roles are well established in technical industry but only over the last years they have gained recognition within academia and scientific communities. Often these roles may not be called community managers, but their responsibilities include establishing engagement, organising community spaces and events, supporting people through inclusive practices, developing and maintaining resources, growing and evaluating use cases and collaborating with people involved in research and scientific communities.
What do Community Managers do?#
Community Managers main objective is to organise groups of scientists, researchers and/or patients and the public around shared research topics and objectives. They are often employed by professional societies, universities, research institutions, larger programmes, and non-profit organisations.
Each role is varied but the main activities are typically focused around compassion, stewardship, and collaboration with the community:
Catalyse connections with all stakeholders
Foster communities (integrating communities together)
Linking the right people up together (based on expertise and interests)
Active community member
Communicating technical topics to non-technical colleagues and vice versa
Encouraging high standards of reproducible, ethical, inclusive and collaborative data science
Creating sub-networks within the community around shared experiences, for example, such as an early career researcher network
The day-to-day tasks of a community manager could include:
Organising and hosting community calls
Onboarding new members
Attending community leadership meetings
Writing community reports or newsletters
Maintaining and updating the community site
Posting on social media
Planning for upcoming community initiatives
Running training courses & workshops
Reading publications relevant to the community
Managing membership lists
Mentoring community contributions
Creating informational materials to help the wider field or public learn about the community and their projects
And a lot more!
What qualifications or skills do you need to be a Community Manager?#
The vast majority of community managers will have a scientific background that may include advanced degrees (at a masters or doctoral level). Many community managers also have a background related to the specific field or discipline they manage a community in, but not all of them do. If the community is associated with software or programming, it is common for community managers to also have some coding skills.
There is no professionally recognised qualification or training course to become a scientific community manager, but organisations do offer training and resources to help support the professional development of people in these roles. The values and approaches community managers bring to their roles are often the most important qualifications for success as a community manager.
Community Skills and Core Competancies
The Community Skills Framework™ by Community Roundtable includes five skill families: Content, Technical, Business, Engagement and Strategic community management skills. See the full document online under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.
The CSCCE Skills Wheel include five core competancies: technical skills, communication, programme management, programme development and interpersonal.
See the full document on Zenodo under the Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial No Derivatives 4.0 International.
Challenges for Community Managers#
Need to mediate between community members
May not be seen as a part of the community themselves and need to build trust and credibility within it
Need to have a lot of different skills (technical, interpersonal, project management)
Supporting and encouraging engagement in the community
Building infrastructure from scratch in newly created roles
Being seen as a professional in their own right and not just adminstrative staff
Connecting with new audiences who are not aware of the community
Translating between different groups in the same field or institution
Managing tasks where there is little formal process in place
Managing the different priorities of different stakeholder groups
Not always visible when things go well!
Lack of formal career progression
Benefits to having Community Managers#
Able to offer meta-thinking about how the community is structured and run
Shares best practices around communication, collaboration, diversity, equity and inclusion, and other areas of research
Supports the upskilling of members via technical skill sharing and training
Supports other members of the community to take on more active roles, increasing resilience and expansion of the community
Stewarding initiatives to develop the community such as data standards, a code of conduct, or training workshops
Offers a stable base for the community, to make sure meetings happen on time
Connecting groups working on similar projects together, to support increased collaboration
Breaking down siloes between departments, fields, research groups
Greater understanding of the needs of the community
Organisations that support Community Managers#
The Center for Scientific Collaboration and Community Engagement (cscce.org works to “professionalize and institutionalize the role of the community engagement manager (CEM) within science.” They offer training, co-created resources, research, and an active community of practice for scientific community managers to connect and support each other.
Community Managers are an important part of scientific communities, supporting collaboration, best practices, and stewarding their communities as they develop. They do not have a formal career path or qualifications, but typically have a scientific or research background themselves.