Why a Bunch of Science Writers Are Writing About a Fictional Planet

Posted 22 July 2014 by Matt Shipman

Tatooine is a desert planet, home to Luke Skywalker and Jabba the Hutt, as well as a menagerie of large beasts: banthas and dewbacks, krayt dragons and sarlacci. Tatooine is also, of course, not a real place. Science writing aims to convey ideas, engaging and educating readers on topics from biology to astronomy. Because science writing is focused on real efforts to understand the real universe, you might reasonably ask why a collection of science writers have chosen to spend... Read more

Scicomm Accessibility: Accessing Scicomm Journals

Posted 8 July 2014 by Matt Shipman

Science communication researchers aren’t the only people interested in science communication research. Reporters, bloggers and researchers from various fields interested in sharing their work (among others) are interested in learning what “scicomm” can tell us about conveying scientific information to various audiences. But reaching the relevant research findings can be difficult. I doubt that most people expect scicomm research to give us a specific prescription for how to communicate effectively. Research doesn’t work that way, and most of us know... Read more

Ocean 180: Challenging Scientists to Explain their Research

Posted 1 July 2014 by Matt Shipman

Editor’s Note: This is a guest post from Mallory Watson, a scientist with the Florida Center for Ocean Science Education Excellence. Watson is also part of the Ocean 180 Video Challenge, which aims to help scientists improve their science communication skills by creating short videos that explain scientific research and its relevance. This post offers an overview of Ocean 180, how it came into being, and how marine scientists can participate. I suspect this may be of interest to folks... Read more

Social Media 101: Notes From My Talk At Sharing Science

Posted 27 June 2014 by Matt Shipman

I was recently invited to speak at a conference called Sharing Science: Writing and Communications Skills for the 21st Century. The June 27 conference was aimed at “science and health writers working for universities, non-profits and hospitals,” and was held at the University of Wisconsin-Madison with support from the National Association of Science Writers. Specifically, I was asked to speak, along with Lee Aase of the Mayo Clinic Center for Social Media, on issues related to new media and social... Read more

How I Decide What To Blog About

Posted 23 June 2014 by Matt Shipman

I think about writing in different ways, depending on who I’m writing for. I’m a science writer and public information officer (PIO) at a large university. When I’m writing in my capacity as a PIO, I am writing for my employer; I’m pretty thoughtful in regard to both what I choose to write about and how I choose to write about it. Is it a story that people will be interested in? Is this research interesting or important to external... Read more

Scicomm Accessibility: A Call For Shared Language

Posted 17 June 2014 by Matt Shipman

High profile policy issues, such as those related to global climate change or antibiotic resistance, highlight the need for helping people understand scientific concepts and how they relate to “real world” problems. And there seems to be an increasing level of awareness among scientists, reporters and bloggers (among others) that science communication, as a discipline, can help us communicate more effectively with a wide array of audiences. But there’s a stumbling block – and it’s an ironic one: science communication... Read more

Dealing With Embarrassing Stuff

Posted 10 June 2014 by Matt Shipman

This post isn’t about science communication. It’s about the idea that sometimes there are ways to address those little pieces of guilt that nag away at the back of your mind. And occasionally, if you tackle those things head on, you can replace a long-standing chunk of guilt with something both good and productive. About 19 years ago, I did something stupid, if relatively unremarkable on the grand scale of poor decisions that 18-year-olds make. I dropped out of a... Read more

Big Picture Lessons from an Unfortunate Tweet

Posted 21 May 2014 by Matt Shipman

Editor’s note: A recent tweet from Pat Sajak, host of the American gameshow Wheel of Fortune, has stirred up a great deal of attention regarding celebrities, soapboxes and scientific subjects (climate change, in this case). In many instances, this attention has taken the form of people in the science community rolling their eyes or making sarcastic remarks. But Marshall Shepherd, former president of the American Meteorological Society and director of the Atmospheric Sciences Program at the University of Georgia, is... Read more

Context is Key: Reporters, PIOs, and Handling Health Study Findings Responsibly

Posted 14 May 2014 by Matt Shipman

Coffee is good for you. Or bad for you. The same can be said for red wine, chocolate, and eggs. It depends on which news story you just read. Media coverage of health research can give readers cognitive whiplash. There’s an explanation for this. “The reason the stories contradict each other is because the studies contradict each other,” Virginia Hughes wrote in a May 12 post at her blog, Only Human. “The science of health is so, so confusing, I... Read more

You Could Be Learning Something: An Interview with the Creators of ‘Plague of Species’

Posted 7 May 2014 by Matt Shipman

Games can be great science communication tools, engaging and educating people about scientific subjects. But while many of these games focus on subjects that we can’t see with the naked eye (such as proteins or RNA molecules), one small team is developing a game that focuses on a macro-scale issue: invasive species. The game is called Plague of Species, and is being developed by researcher Kathryn Turner, a Ph.D. candidate at the University of British Columbia who studies invasive plant... Read more