Monthly Archives: February 2013


The Pros and Cons of Embargoes

Posted 26 February 2013 by Matt Shipman

Embargoes are a fact of life for many people in the science communication field. But a lot of people don’t know what they are, why some institutions require them and/or why some people don’t like them. In a scicomm context, an embargo is when a journal, researcher or public information officer (PIO) gives reporters a copy of a journal article before the article is published – but bars those reporters from releasing any stories about the journal article until it... Read more

Four Questions for Anyone Engaged in Outreach

Posted 21 February 2013 by Matt Shipman

I have four questions for anyone engaged in (or interested in) science outreach activities -- and you can define that term as broadly as you like. If you can answer any, or all, of these questions, I'd be very grateful. Just plug your answers into the comments section below. I'm hoping to use your answers to better organize my own thoughts on issues related to assessing the outcomes of outreach activities. For Those Engaged in Outreach If you are part... Read more

Study: Trying to Popularize Science Won’t Hurt You (and Probably Won’t Help You)

Posted 21 February 2013 by Matt Shipman

I write, and think, a lot about science outreach activities. I define the term broadly, to cover any efforts to communicate about scientific topics to any audience outside of one’s own discipline. One idea that crops up fairly often is that such efforts to “popularize” science could adversely affect one’s career – particularly in academia. And, while this has been the subject of some research, I hadn’t run across a large-scale study that evaluated the hypothesis that outreach efforts will... Read more

Will the U.S. Get a Science Media Center? Maybe.

Posted 19 February 2013 by Matt Shipman

When a big news event happens, reporters are left scrambling to cover it. And when the big news event raises significant science questions, reporters are scrambling to find scientists who can answer them. For example, in the wake of the Fukushima disaster in March 2011, reporters with little or no previous experience covering science stories found themselves searching for experts on earthquakes, tsunamis, nuclear power and the health effects of radiation exposure, among much else. There’s a concerted effort under... Read more

Let’s Find Out What Science Outreach Can Accomplish

Posted 15 February 2013 by Matt Shipman

[Note: This post first ran Feb. 13 on Nature's Soapbox Science blog.] Many people, including me, will tell you that science outreach is important. This is nothing new. The public lectures of Humphry Davy and Michael Faraday are thought of as crucial elements in the popularization of science in the 19th century, and they are as likely to be remembered for those outreach efforts as they are for their scientific contributions (which were considerable). But here’s the thing – we can’t prove it. Scientists pride... Read more

We Studied a Zoo: How Two Studies Assessed Outreach Impact

Posted 11 February 2013 by Matt Shipman

At the ScienceOnline conference earlier this month, I was bemoaning the dearth of literature evaluating the impact of science outreach activities. Luckily, Mun Keat Looi was part of this conversation, and he steered me to a 2012 paper he thought I’d find interesting. He was right. The paper, “Assessing Public Engagement with Science in a University Primate Research Centre in a National Zoo,” was published in April 2012 by PLOS ONE. The authors note in the opening lines of their... Read more

Inform, Engage and Inspire: an Interview with Jen Christiansen

Posted 6 February 2013 by Matt Shipman

Visual art is an important communication tool. To drive home the point, think of all the magazines you know of that have no photographs or illustrations. Short list, right? That’s because reading unbroken blocks of text simply doesn’t have the same appeal as reading stories and articles that are highlighted, broken up, complemented or entirely driven by images. But I’m a words guy, not an images guy. To get some insight into how science publications marry words and images, I... Read more

Art as a Science Communication Tool: I Need Your Help

Posted 4 February 2013 by Matt Shipman

Visual art has the power to inspire, provoke and fascinate. I know some incredibly talented artists that focus on scientific subjects, and I think their work is a beautiful and valuable science communication tool – but I'm having a hard time quantifying that value. So I want you to help me out. As a flack, I primarily use art (still images or video) to draw attention to a story. I rarely (if ever) use it to help tell a story... Read more