basics

 

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

Know What You Want, Part Two

Posted 7 August 2013 by Matt Shipman

In my last post I wrote about why it’s important to have clear goals when you engage in science communication efforts, particularly for PIOs, and how to write a single story that addresses very different audiences. Now I want to talk about what happens next. Once you’ve written something up, what do you do with it? To answer that question, it is absolutely essential to know your goals and your audiences (or your employer's goals and audiences). I'll use my... Read more

Know What You Want, Part One

Posted 1 August 2013 by Matt Shipman

If you are engaging in science communication (or any communication, really) you should know what you want before you start writing (or filming or recording). This is true for reporters, but it is especially true for public information officers (PIOs) – because the goals for PIOs can be a lot more diverse. Reporters generally have a limited number of goals in mind for what they are writing. Broadly speaking, they want to convey information in an accurate way that keeps... Read more

Why SEO Matters to Reporters and Bloggers: an Interview with Wil Reynolds

Posted 6 May 2013 by Matt Shipman

If you write it, they will come. Maybe. If they can find it. Reporters and bloggers want people to read the stories and posts they write, but first those people have to find the stories and posts. And while you may have hundreds or thousands of Twitter followers, that’s peanuts when you consider that people ask Google’s search engine more than one billion questions every day. So now I’m going to mention a term that makes (most) writers cringe: search... Read more

Who Reads Communication Breakdown?

Posted 25 April 2013 by Matt Shipman

Communication Breakdown has been around for more than six months now. And while you've had the chance to learn a lot about me, I don't know a lot about you. The first step in Communication 101 is to know your audience, and it's time I did that. I pulled together a brief survey to help me learn more about my readers and figure out what I can do to make Communication Breakdown better. Please take a moment to fill out... Read more

Do Not Bury the Lead

Posted 8 April 2013 by Matt Shipman

The opening lines of any written work are essential. This is true of news stories, blog posts and novels, and I’ve written about it before. But I forgot to mention an important point that all news writers (including bloggers) should bear in mind: you need to tell the reader right away why they should bother reading what you wrote. In other words, do not “bury the lead.” The lead (rhymes with greed) is the news hook of the story: What’s... Read more

Thou Shalt Not: The Science PIO Commandments

Posted 25 March 2013 by Matt Shipman

Public information officers (PIOs) often have a bad reputation among reporters – and not without reason. Bad PIOs can be annoying, misleading, frustrating and whatever the opposite of helpful is. When I made the move from being a reporter to being a PIO, I made a list of commandments for myself. Some of these things are specific to PIOs who work on science-related issues, but most apply to everyone in the business. If some sound familiar, it’s because I’ve mentioned... Read more

Four Ways to Open a Science Story

Posted 9 March 2013 by Matt Shipman

There are many ways to begin a story. And finding the right opening line can make writing the rest of the story much easier. Finding the right opening line is also important if you want the reader to keep reading. I am not the first person to say this. Tim Radford’s famous “Manifesto for the Simple Scribe” lists the all-important first line in rule number 12, which says (among other things) that “there is always an ideal first sentence.” But... Read more

Deciding Which Journal Articles to Promote

Posted 5 March 2013 by Matt Shipman

Public information officers (PIOs) write news releases and blog posts, which they pitch to reporters in hopes of convincing the reporters to write stories about, well, whatever it is the PIOs wrote about. As a PIO who covers a lot of scientific research, I do this too. I’ve been asked several times recently how I decide which research findings to promote, and which ones I (respectfully) decline to write about. That’s what this post is about. First off, when it... Read more