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Why a TV Producer Created a Database for Finding Subject-Matter Experts

Posted 19 April 2016 by Matt Shipman

Editor’s Note: This is guest post by Stavros Rougas, a co-founder of Expertise Finder and a former producer at the Toronto-based current affairs program The Agenda with Steve Paikin. I recently heard of Expertise Finder and wanted to learn more about it. I figured that the fastest way to learn about it was to get the founder to explain it to me. To be clear, I’m not endorsing Expertise Finder, and have not been compensated in any way for running... Read more

The Peabody, Yale, and Natural History: an Interview with Richard Conniff

Posted 14 April 2016 by Matt Shipman

Photo courtesy of Richard Conniff.

I first visited the Peabody Museum of Natural History in the company of hundreds of science writers. The museum was hosting a social event for the annual conference of the National Association of Science Writers, which gave me the opportunity to explore its exhibits in the company of people who were exceptionally well-informed and gifted storytellers. It was the best possible introduction. I visited again a few years later, this time in the company of family and friends. The enthusiasm... Read more

How U.S. Reporters Are Using Facebook, Twitter

Posted 8 April 2016 by Matt Shipman

Image credit: Sean MacEntee. Retrieved via Flickr and shared under a Creative Commons license. Click for more information.

Social media are used to connect with people and share information, so it is not surprising that reporters are using social media platforms in their work – connecting with sources and collecting information are fundamental aspects of journalism. A recent paper offers insights into how, and to what extent, newspaper journalists are using Facebook and Twitter in their reporting. The paper, “Tapping Into a New Stream of (Personal) Data: Assessing Journalists’ Different Use of Social Media,” was published online April... Read more

For (German) Journalism Sites, Comments Are Only Bad News

Posted 7 April 2016 by Matt Shipman

Photo credit: Howard Lake. Retrieved via Flickr and shared under a Creative Commons license. Click for more information.

It’s not news that the comments sections of online news sites can be hot spots for sharing ill-informed views, ad hominem attacks, or just good old fashioned vituperation. A recent study out of Germany finds that online comments – even polite, well-reasoned ones – can also hurt the perceived quality of news stories. One reason this is worth noting is that people in the U.S. get a lot of their science news from online sources – and that number is... Read more

Science for Parents: an Interview with Tara Haelle and Emily Willingham

Posted 5 April 2016 by Matt Shipman

Cover of The Informed Parent. Image courtesy of Penguin Random House.

Parents, particularly first-time parents, get a lot of advice – whether they want it or not. Some of that advice comes from professionals, such as obstetricians, pediatricians and nurses. But a lot of advice comes from less reliable sources. New parents, and expecting parents, are often told that they “have” to do this or that. Sometimes it feels like everyone knows exactly what to do in order to get a baby to sleep, how a baby should be fed, or... Read more

A (Podcast) Conversation About Science Communication and Outreach

Posted 22 March 2016 by Matt Shipman

Photo credit: Chris Heidenreich. Retrieved via Flickr, shared under a Creative Commons license. Click for more information.

Want to hear me talk about some of the nuts and bolts of science communication? Now’s your chance. In autumn of 2015, PLOS launched a podcast series called PLOScast. The podcasts include periodic “Research Reading” roundups, as well as interviews on issues ranging from the future of scientific collaboration to open access publishing. Episode 8, which went online recently, was a conversation between me and Elizabeth Seiver, a science communication researcher at PLOS. The conversation was, naturally enough, focused on... Read more

Working Toward a Tool to Help Us Understand How Misinformation Spreads Online

Posted 18 March 2016 by Matt Shipman

Image credit: GotCredit. Retrieved via Flickr and shared under a Creative Commons license. Click for more information.

It is a truth universally acknowledged that people are often wrong on the internet. This can manifest itself in the form of conspiracy theories, inaccurate information related to breaking news, or misleading (or just plain wrong) information related to science and research. Sometimes inaccurate information is annoying, or even comical. Sometimes, however, inaccurate information can have serious consequences – such as online memes that mislead people about public health issues or when news reports say that an innocent person is... Read more

What Scientists Want Out Of Online Engagement

Posted 10 March 2016 by Matt Shipman

Photo credit: duncan c. Retrieved via Flickr and shared under a Creative Commons license. Click for more information.

A recent article published in PLOS ONE looked at what scientists hope to achieve when engaging with the public online – via websites, blogs or social networks. The findings are interesting. Among other things, the study reports that scientists give the lowest priority to the communication objectives that may be most useful for actually engaging effectively with the public. The article, “Scientists’ Prioritization of Communication Objectives for Public Engagement,” was published Feb. 25. The paper was co-authored by Anthony Dudo... Read more

Science Communication: The Eight Ideas I Keep Coming Back To

Posted 7 March 2016 by Matt Shipman

Photo credit: alkruse24. Retrieved via Flickr and shared under a Creative Commons license. Click for more information.

I get asked to give a lot of talks on science communication. These talks cover a lot of ground: metrics, writing, social media, working with reporters, you name it. But I recently realized that, while the details vary significantly depending on the subject, I end up stressing the same key ideas. Ultimately, I think the basics of practical science communication boil down to eight ideas that can be expressed in 10 words. Four of those ideas (and five of the... Read more

Paper Drives Home How Much Politics Influences Attitudes Toward Science Issues

Posted 3 March 2016 by Matt Shipman

Politics header

  A recent paper in the journal Science Communication drives home the extent to which political identity – and the way we communicate about science – can influence a person’s attitude toward scientific issues. Here’s the short version: a study that measured the public’s response to a local water quality issue found that the more people knew about the relevant science, the more they supported an environmental science solution. However, if the water quality issue was framed as being related... Read more