Science and Community Engagement: an Interview with Lou Woodley

Posted 12 November 2015 by Matt Shipman

Photo credit: Niall Kennedy. Image retrieved via Flickr and shared under a Creative Commons license. Click for more information.

On Nov. 3, the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) announced a new fellowship program focused on community engagement in the science community. This makes me curious. The new venture, called the AAAS Community Engagement Fellows program, was launched with support from the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation. The goal, according to a AAAS news release, is to “professionalize and institutionalize the role of community engagement managers in the scientific community” and “provide training and professional development for up... Read more

What Is a Science PIO’s Job?

Posted 18 September 2015 by Matt Shipman

Help Wanted

  I recently published a book about how to be an effective public information officer (PIO) at a research institution. In the book, I say that “a PIO’s job is to make his or her employer look good.” This has ruffled some feathers, so I want to talk about it. So, do I really think that it’s a PIO’s job to make his/her employer look good? You bet. But let’s unpack what that actually means. As a PIO at a... Read more

Reporters Are Having Trouble Reaching Government Researchers – and That’s a Problem

Posted 5 August 2015 by Matt Shipman

Photo credit: Lukas Benc. Image retrieved via Flickr and shared under a Creative Commons license. Click for more information.

A new report is highlighting a problem that has been apparent to reporters – particularly science and federal policy reporters – for years: the federal government generally makes it tough for reporters to talk to government scientists about work that is important to the general public. Why This Matters Here’s why this is a big deal: science is absolutely essential to understanding many of the most pressing issues that our society faces today. For example, global climate change is affecting... Read more

So, I Wrote a Book

Posted 23 July 2015 by Matt Shipman

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

So, I wrote a book. It’s called The Handbook for Science Public Information Officers, and if you’re the sort of person who enjoys reading this blog, I have high hopes that you’ll find it useful and interesting. What was I thinking? I’ve spent the past three years writing about the practical aspects of science communication, on this blog and elsewhere. Somewhat to my surprise, a lot of folks were interested in what I had to say. It occurred to me... Read more

No, Writing Intelligibly Is Not ‘Dumbing It Down’

Posted 8 June 2015 by Matt Shipman

Photo credit: Photo from, used under a Creative Commons license.

My list of pet peeves is pretty short. I can’t stand things that are misspelled intentionally (nothing should ever be “kwik” or “lite”). I don’t like rude people. And I can’t stand it when people talk about science communication as “dumbing it down.” Ugh. People usually use the phrase “dumbing it down” to refer to instances when someone who is writing or talking about science refrains from using jargon, as if the absence of jargon somehow changes the work that’s... Read more

Three Reasons I Love Being a Research PIO

Posted 4 June 2015 by Matt Shipman

Image Credit: Sean MacEntee, via Flickr. Used under a Creative Commons license. Click for more information.

I’m a public information officer (PIO) at a research institution. That basically means that I do public relations and media relations for a place that conducts a lot of research. And I love my job. Before becoming a PIO I spent more than nine years as a reporter, covering environmental policy issues for several “inside the Beltway” publications in Washington, DC. When I left reporting to become a PIO at North Carolina State University, I had very little idea what... Read more

‘How Long Is a Blue Whale?’ Kids, Science, and Scribbling on the Sidewalk

Posted 26 May 2015 by Matt Shipman

My daughter, helping me play the blue whale game we made up. Photo credit (or blame): Matt Shipman.

I love science. And I want my kids to love science. But before they love it, I have to get them to like it. Luckily, this is pretty easy. My kids, like most kids, are drawn to insects, sharks, dinosaurs, horses and a wide variety of other critters. Fostering this interest in living things (or, occasionally, prehistoric things) has been a fun and easy way to encourage their interest in science. My plan is to parlay their fascination in animals... Read more

Old News Won’t Help You, and More Tips on How to Pitch a Reporter

Posted 21 May 2015 by Matt Shipman

Photo credit: detail of a photo by Doug Miller, retrieved via Flickr and used under a Creative Commons license. Click for more information.

A few years ago, I wrote a long(ish) post on how to pitch story ideas to reporters without being annoying. A couple things have happened recently that make me want to add some new tips to the list. First, a reporter acquaintance of mine has been sharing some of the pitches she’s gotten lately which are particularly awful. And there are a lot of them. I won’t repeat the pitches, but I do want to highlight some of the mistakes... Read more

Journalism and Diversity: An Interview with Emma Carew Grovum

Posted 22 April 2015 by Matt Shipman

Photo credit: Alan Cleaver. Image retrieved from Flickr and shared under a Creative Commons license. Click for more information.

Journalism – including science journalism – has a long way to go in terms of increasing diversity. A 2013 article in Columbia Journalism Review reported that minorities make up less than 12.5 percent of newsroom staff – and only around 10 percent of newsroom supervisors. Earlier this year, I learned about the Journalism Diversity Project (JDP), which aims to boost newsroom diversity. To learn more about the project, I reached out to Emma Carew Grovum, one of the co-founders of... Read more

Quantity, Quality, and Scope: an Interview with Siri Carpenter

Posted 20 April 2015 by Matt Shipman

(Photo credit: doctor-a/stock.xchng.)

MIT’s Knight Science Journalism program (KSJ) announced April 13 that it will be providing financial support to the non-profit website The Open Notebook (TON). KSJ will give TON $60,000 under a one-year pilot agreement to support the site’s mission of helping science journalists sharpen their skills. TON is a great resource for science reporters, and science writers generally, so I reached out to TON co-founder Siri Carpenter to learn more about the agreement and what KSJ’s support will enable TON... Read more