basics

 

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

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

Is That Science/Health Story Full of Nonsense? Some Things to Consider

Posted 31 March 2015 by Matt Shipman

Someone recently asked me how I evaluate whether science- or health-related news stories are inaccurate, misleading, or otherwise full of nonsense. I hadn’t really organized my thoughts on this before. But I had read some pretty good tips from other science writers – including one by Michelle Nijhuis at Slate and one by Emily Willingham at Forbes.com. And I’ve also been reading the news with a more critical eye recently, since I started reviewing health stories for Health News Review.... Read more

Seasonal Science Stories: Using the Calendar as Your News Hook

Posted 4 December 2014 by Matt Shipman

Reporters and bloggers write in a variety of styles for a variety of audiences, but one of the things that every blog post or news item needs to do is explain to readers why the writer is telling this story now. What’s the news hook? Science stories are often reactive, meaning that the story was written in response to some external event that the writer had no control over – such as the publication of a journal article or a... Read more

Shirts, Science Communication, and Why Appearances Can Be Important

Posted 14 November 2014 by Matt Shipman

On Nov. 12, a robot launched by the European Space Agency (ESA) about ten years ago landed on a comet approximately 300 million miles away. Which is (literally) awesome. But this blog is about science communication, so I want to talk about a shirt. One of the ESA staffers prominently featured in coverage of the landing was Matt Taylor, who is head scientist on the project. Taylor is an intelligent guy, but he made the unfortunate decision to wear a... Read more

Science Blogging for Institutions: Your Virtual Roundup of the ScienceWriters2014 #OrgBlog Session

Posted 16 October 2014 by Matt Shipman

Editor’s note: This is a guest post by Rachel Ewing, a science and health news officer at Drexel University. Ewing is the organizer and moderator of a session called “Science Blogging for Institutions: How to Make Your #OrgBlog the Best it Can Be” at the National Association of Science Writers annual conference. This weekend at the National Association of Science Writers meeting in Columbus, OH, we’re going to talk about a topic that may be familiar to readers of Matt’s... Read more

Can Public Relations Be Science Communication?

Posted 22 September 2014 by Matt Shipman

In its most recent issue, the Journal of Science Communication raises the question of whether public communication efforts from research institutions are public relations or science communication. To address the question, the journal has published five commentaries, each of which covers a specific aspect of the issue and takes a different position. I wrote one of the commentaries. The commentaries (all of which are open access and can be found here) include an introductory piece by Rebecca Carver, who sums... 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

Incorporating Scicomm into the Science Classroom

Posted 27 March 2014 by Matt Shipman

Many people believe science communication (scicomm) is important. But one university professor decided to incorporate scicomm training into an advanced biochemistry course, with interesting results. Scicomm is important for securing research funding, boosting citations and encouraging future generations of scientists. But it’s also an important part of helping people find work. One study found that 90 percent of hiring managers felt “communication skills are essential for success” (Peterson, 1997). But, the study found, only 60 percent of job applicants had... Read more

Online Tools: The Waaaave of the Future

Posted 10 March 2014 by Matt Shipman

Editor’s Note: This is a guest post by Eleanor Spicer Rice, a freelance science writer and co-founder of the science communication company Verdant Word. She is also co-founder of the science/art blog BuzzHootRoar (she’s Roar) and the author of Dr. Eleanor’s Book of Common Ants and Dr. Eleanor’s Book of Common Ants of New York City. When my brother graduated from college, one of his commencement speakers, a distinguished professor, announced to us in a wizardly voice: “The Internet is... Read more