Goodbye, Old Blog – Hello, New Blog

Posted 5 July 2016 by Matt Shipman

SciLogs announced earlier this month that it will be shutting down in September. This marks the end of Communication Breakdown, but the beginning of my new blog, Science Communication Breakdown. I was invited to join the SciLogs blogging team in the autumn of 2012. In my first post, published October 24 of that year, I posed a baseline question: Is there enough to say about science communication to sustain a blog? The answer is, apparently, yes. To date, I’ve published... Read more

Science Communication: The Eight Ideas I Keep Coming Back To

Posted 7 March 2016 by Matt Shipman

I get asked to give a lot of talks on science communication. These talks cover a lot of ground: metrics, writing, social media, working with reporters, you name it. But I recently realized that, while the details vary significantly depending on the subject, I end up stressing the same key ideas. Ultimately, I think the basics of practical science communication boil down to eight ideas that can be expressed in 10 words. Four of those ideas (and five of the... Read more

Paper Drives Home How Much Politics Influences Attitudes Toward Science Issues

Posted 3 March 2016 by Matt Shipman

  A recent paper in the journal Science Communication drives home the extent to which political identity – and the way we communicate about science – can influence a person’s attitude toward scientific issues. Here’s the short version: a study that measured the public’s response to a local water quality issue found that the more people knew about the relevant science, the more they supported an environmental science solution. However, if the water quality issue was framed as being related... 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

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 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