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Happy Birthday, SciCheck – How Was Your First Year?

Posted 29 January 2016 by Matt Shipman

On January 29 of 2015, FactCheck.org – the nonpartisan fact-checking site based at the Annenberg Public Policy Center – launched a new feature called SciCheck. At the time, Eugene Kiely, the director of FactCheck.org, said in a statement that SciCheck “will focus exclusively on false and misleading scientific claims that are made by partisans to influence public policy.” I was curious about how SciCheck has done in its first year, so reached out to Dave Levitan, who was the primary... Read more

What Reporters Can Do to Work More Effectively With PIOs

Posted 21 December 2015 by Matt Shipman

Note: This post first appeared on the Association of Health Care Journalist’s Covering Health blog. There are a lot of posts and stories out there focused on how public information officers (PIOs) can work more effectively with journalists, or that highlight extremely bad pitches aimed at reporters. I’ve written a few of them myself. But there are also things that reporters can do to work more effectively with PIOs. You don’t see many posts about that. A couple years ago,... Read more

Science and Community Engagement: an Interview with Lou Woodley

Posted 12 November 2015 by Matt Shipman

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

  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

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

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

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

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

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

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