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Is That Science/Health Story Full of Nonsense? Some Things to Consider

Posted 31 March 2015 by Matt Shipman

Can you spot nonsense when you see it? Image credit: Chris, via Flickr. Shared under a Creative Commons license. Click for more information.

Someone recently asked me how I evaluate whether science- or health-related news stories are inaccurate, misleading, or otherwise full of nonsense. I hadn’t really organized my thoughts on this before. But I had read some pretty good tips from other science writers – including one by Michelle Nijhuis at Slate and one by Emily Willingham at Forbes.com. And I’ve also been reading the news with a more critical eye recently, since I started reviewing health stories for Health News Review.... Read more

Publishers Respond to NSF Public Access Plan

Posted 30 March 2015 by Matt Shipman

Update

On March 18, the U.S. National Science Foundation announced the steps it will take to make federally-funded research publicly available. I had some questions regarding what this might mean for publishing companies and peer-reviewed journals. I reached out to some of the largest publishers of scholarly journals, and representatives from three of the publishers responded. The answers ranged from certainty that NSF’s plan would be easily implemented to uncertainty about what the plan would mean. I’m including all three responses... Read more

News Brief: NSF Unveils Plan for Public Access to NSF-Funded Research

Posted 18 March 2015 by Matt Shipman

The U.S. National Science Foundation (NSF) unveiled a plan March 18 that would require researchers to make publications pertaining to NSF-funded research freely and publicly available within 12 months of their initial publication. The requirement will apply to all projects whose proposals are submitted after the agency issues its Proposal & Award Policies & Procedures Guide in January 2016. The change is outlined in the NSF’s new public access plan, titled “Today’s Data, Tomorrow’s Discoveries.” In a March 18 announcement,... Read more

Changes At WIRED (And Questions)

Posted 16 March 2015 by Matt Shipman

Earlier this month, WIRED unveiled a new design for its Science Blogs platform. But the re-design is only the most visible change to WIRED’s science coverage. There are plenty of other recent changes as well. While I have more questions than answers at this point, I thought I’d share the changes that I do know about (and my questions). Writers It appears that WIRED will be moving forward with fewer science bloggers than it has in the past. Some WIRED... Read more

Selfish Reasons for Researchers to Publicize Their Study Findings

Posted 6 March 2015 by Matt Shipman

Photo credit: Army Medicine, via Flickr. Shared under a Creative Commons license. Click for more information.

Researchers are not obligated to publicize their research findings – and they shouldn’t be. Some people enjoy public outreach. Some people don’t. But those who are on the fence should know that there are very practical, selfish reasons to publicize their work. I wrote about this on Scientific American Blogs several years ago, but thought it was worth revisiting the issue. A lot of the basic ideas haven’t changed, but I’ve added some new stuff – and included links to... Read more

Many Different Flows of Data: an Interview with Geraint Lewis

Posted 23 February 2015 by Matt Shipman

Detail of image by r2hox, via Flickr. Click for more information.

Finding effective and efficient means of sharing information is a key challenge for anyone involved in science communication – and that’s particularly true for large-scale health systems, in which data inform a wide range of decisions related to both policy and practice. To learn more about some of the challenges and opportunities in this arena, I talked to Dr. Geraint Lewis, chief data officer of the National Health Service in England. Communication Breakdown: Before we get into your work as... Read more

Try and Be Clever: an Interview with BrainCraft’s Vanessa Hill

Posted 19 February 2015 by Matt Shipman

Vanessa Hill. Image courtesy of Vanessa Hill.

I first met Vanessa Hill in early 2014 while touring a forensic anthropology lab in North Carolina. At the time, she was working for Australia’s Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation and had recently launched a web series called BrainCraft that explored issues related to psychology and neuroscience. Fast forward about a year and Hill is living in the U.S. and working full time on BrainCraft, which is now part of PBS Digital Studios. I recently had the chance to... Read more

From Policy to Funding, Science Communication May Be More Important Than Ever

Posted 30 January 2015 by Matt Shipman

Detail of an image by secretlondon123, obtained via Flickr. Used under a Creative Commons license. Click for more information.

If you think science should inform policy decisions or you just want to ensure that there is continued government support for scientific research, you should be alarmed by a new report from the Pew Research Center. Here’s the short version: the U.S. public is markedly less supportive of federal science funding than it was five years ago, and is less likely to be swayed by science on policy issues. This should be a wake-up call to the science community: science... Read more

A Journal to Advance Citizen Science: an Interview with Caren Cooper

Posted 26 January 2015 by Matt Shipman

Detail of a photo of the Cascade Butterfly Project in Mt. Rainier National Park. Photo credit: Kevin Bacher. Click for more information.

Science communication and citizen science have a lot in common – namely, the desire to engage with people both inside and outside of the traditional science community. But where science communication is often seeking only to educate or to get folks interested in science, citizen science is trying to get people actively involved in the scientific process. Citizen science can take many forms – from “games with a purpose,” such as Phylo, to projects that have people collecting ants from... Read more

Science Communication Needs and Best Practice: What Would a Top Ten List Look Like?

Posted 14 January 2015 by Matt Shipman

Image credit: Sam Churchill, via Flickr. Click for more information.

A new paper offers up a “top 10” list of science communication (scicomm) challenges and potential solutions – but also highlights the flaws in the list. I’m hoping it can be a starting point for a discussion that could help people address at least some of the scicomm problems they’re grappling with. Background Here’s the deal: science communication can be a tricky business. It can be defined in a wide variety of ways, and includes a host of different interests... Read more