Reporters, Authors, Artists and Scientists – a Collection of Interviews
Communication Breakdown has given me the opportunity to interview people engaged in a wide variety of science communication activities: authors, reporters, scientists, graphic designers, you name it. These Q&A features are often a lot of fun, and I always learn something new.
I decided to pull together links to all of these Q&A sessions in one post, in case you missed them when they first ran. You can click on the bold-faced headers to go directly to the relevant post. Enjoy!
“Breasts: A Natural and Unnatural History,” by Florence Williams, is one of the best nonfiction books I’ve read in years. I asked Williams how she got into journalism, why she started covering science, and whether there should be a support group for reporters on the environment beat.
Alex Wild has gone from academic entomologist to professional photographer, and his work has appeared in National Geographic, Popular Science, Scientific American and the New York Times, among other outlets. I wanted to know what drew him to photography, why he made the switch from professional scientist to professional photographer, and what he views as the biggest challenge for professional science artists.
I talked to Allison Mercer, the Georgia Tech physicist who came up with the idea for a university-specific crowdfunding platform, about the crowdfunding site, whether her university is giving researchers science communication training to help them pitch their research projects, and whether she thinks the platform itself a science communication tool.
The online game called Phylo was designed to help scientists “decipher our DNA and identify new genes.” I asked Phylo co-creator Jérôme Waldispühl about the genesis of Phylo, what he did to spread the word about the game and any tips he has for future science-game designers.
I talked with Ivan Oransky about everything from medical school to his career in journalism, and why he launched blogs focusing on news embargoes and research retractions.
I’ve always thought it would be difficult to be a radio reporter who covers science. To learn more about the challenges and rewards of radio journalism, I contacted NPR science reporter Joe Palca.
What is the science communication community in the U.S. doing to reach a Spanish-language audience? To begin finding out, I reached out to Luis Quevedo, a scientist turned science communicator.
An award-winning journalist, Blum has written about issues ranging from primate research to the science of sex. But in recent years the author of “The Poisoner’s Handbook” has focused on, broadly speaking, the science of murder. I wanted to know how she approaches her material, how she keeps from going nuts when writing about serial killers and why she left the newspaper business for academia.
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. But how can a news outlet cover research impartially if it is working directly with the universities who conduct the research? To find out, I asked Akshat Rathi, the science and technology editor for The Conversation.
“The Philadelphia Chromosome,” by first-time author Jessica Wapner, is an example of great medical writing. The book involves dozens of researchers, more than a century of complex medical research and the maddening bureaucracy of the pharmaceutical industry – yet Wapner pulls these disparate threads together into a compelling narrative. I wanted to know where the idea for “The Philadelphia Chromosome” came from, how she organized such a staggering amount of material and how she got into writing in the first place.
I talked with Wil Reynolds, the founder of SEER Interactive, about why SEO matters to writers, how writers can actually do something about SEO – and whether it’s possible to incorporate SEO into your work without sacrificing the quality of the writing.
To learn more about new science magazine Nautilus, I picked the brain of Amos Zeeberg, the magazine’s digital editor.
I asked Brian Switek, Phenomena blogger and author of “Written in Stone” and “My Beloved Brontosaurus,” how he determines what to include in his books (and what to leave out), and how he juggles his passion for doing fieldwork at dinosaur digs with his responsibilities as a blogger, freelance writer and author.
Mary Roach is the is the author of “Stiff,” “Spook,” “Bonk,” “Packing for Mars,” and “Gulp: Adventures on the Alimentary Canal.” I think the humor in Roach’s books makes people more willing to consume “sciencey” information, especially information about sensitive topics like sex and death. I asked her if that was something she did on purpose, how she approaches her topics and whether she’s had trouble getting researchers to talk to her.
This blog focuses on science communication from blogging to institutional communication to mainstream reporting. It was almost inevitable that I’d end up interviewing Ed Yong, who started in institutional communication, moved to blogging and now writes for mainstream news outlets ranging from Nature to Slate while maintaining his blog, Not Exactly Rocket Science.
To get some insight into how science publications marry words and images, I reached out to Jen Christiansen, an accomplished artist and art director at Scientific American.
David Dobbs is the author of “The Northern Forest,” “The Great Gulf” and “Reef Madness,” and has written for The Atlantic, New York Times Magazine, National Geographic and other outlets. I talked to him about how he got into science writing, and how he feels science writing has changed – or at least how his view of it has changed – over time.
How do some active scientists find time to write books for mainstream audiences? What sort of fall-out do they face in the research community when they write books that people can actually read on the beach? To get answers to those questions, I interviewed scientist Rob Dunn, who is also the author of dozens of popular magazine articles and two books: “The Wild Life of Our Bodies” and “Every Living Thing.”