For a long time, I avoided promoting embargoed research findings as much as possible. Now I don’t. Now I use embargoes. I still don’t like them, mind you, but I learned that I have to use them – if only in self-defense. First off, a definition. 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... Read more
Matt Shipman: ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Matt Shipman is a science writer and public information officer at North Carolina State University, where he writes about everything from forensic anthropology to computer malware. He previously worked as a reporter and editor in the Washington, D.C. area for Inside EPA, Water Policy Report and Risk Policy Report, covering the nexus of science, politics and policy.
In his free time, Shipman runs a non-profit organization called the First Step Project that has nothing to do with science, plays guitar badly (but with enthusiasm) and keeps track of the juvenile humans who live in his house. You can follow him on Twitter: @ShipLives.
Anyone interested in hiring Shipman for freelance writing or editing projects can reach him at shiplives[at]gmail.com.
Matt Shipman: All Posts
When I was a reporter, I never thought I’d become a flack, or public information officer (PIO). But I did. A lot of the skills I developed as a reporter served me well after making the transition to the “dark side.” How common were my experiences? To get more information on making the shift from journalist to PIO, I decided to pick the brains of two well-regarded reporters who have gone on to become well-regarded PIOs. Mark Henderson served as... Read more
Social media platforms allow people to exchange information, including scientific information. That’s one reason many scientists are active on social media. I just read a paper (not new, but new to me) that suggests social media – particularly Twitter – may actually also serve as something of a crystal ball for predicting the scientific impact of journal articles. I read a recent post by entomology researcher Cameron Webb on whether social media can increase the exposure of newly-published research. (It’s... Read more
While publishers and researchers have mixed feelings about whether scientists should publish negative results in peer-reviewed journals, with some arguing that negative results are essentially a waste of time, federal funding agencies appear to be largely in favor of publication. I approached a number of federal funding agencies in the U.S. about their positions on publishing negative results, and the results ranged from relative indifference to vocal support in favor of publishing them. [Note: this is the third in a... Read more
Earlier this week I wrote about two questions regarding negative results. First, should researchers publish their negative results? Second, why is it so hard to publish negative results? Some of the responses I got on Twitter and Facebook drove home how divisive the issue can be. Many researchers thought publishing negative results would be incredibly helpful. But others were decidedly less enthusiastic. As Twitter user Peter Dudek put it, “If I chronicled all my negative results during my studies, the... Read more
If a bunch of people are working toward a shared goal – like, say, curing a form of cancer – it would make sense for them to compare notes, right? Significant discoveries should be made public so that researchers can adjust their efforts accordingly and move everyone closer to solving the problem. That’s what journal articles are – an opportunity for researchers to share information and get closer to solving whatever medical, scientific or technological challenges they’re grappling with. Except... Read more
On May 8 a lawmaker named Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.) introduced a bill in the U.S. House of Representatives to create the position of “Science Laureate of the United States.” Regardless of the bill’s chances of passage (more on that later), it raises an interesting question: Who would make a good ambassador for science in the U.S.? The “Science Laureate” bill (H.R. 1891) would allow the president to appoint up to three science laureates, who would serve renewable one-year or two-year... Read more
If I had to hatch a murder plot with a science writer, Deborah Blum would be my first choice. Like Agatha Christie, Blum’s work frequently references poisons, skulduggery and murder most foul. Unlike Christie, Blum’s work is nonfiction. An award-winning journalist, Blum has written about issues ranging from primate research to the science of sex. But in recent years her focus has been on, broadly speaking, the science of murder. Her 2010 book, “The Poisoner’s Handbook,” chronicles an exciting era... Read more
Despite the repeated claims that journalism is dying, we’re seeing a lot of news outlets spring into being. One of those new outlets, The Conversation, is taking a fairly interesting approach – marrying academia and journalism under one banner. The Conversation, which is based in the U.K., launched May 16. It is a free news site that (according to a teaser it posted online) is “produced by academics and journalists” and aims to “source news, commentary and the latest research... Read more
If someone just gave me a bunch of money, would you be interested? Probably not. That’s because when one person gets money it is not inherently interesting to anyone else. But when that money comes in the form of a research grant, there’s often a lot of pressure on public information officers (PIOs) to stir up interest among reporters. I am a PIO, and I struggled with this particular task for a few years before realizing that, sometimes, promoting grant... Read more