You Could Be Learning Something: An Interview with the Creators of ‘Plague of Species’

Posted 7 May 2014 by Matt Shipman

Games can be great science communication tools, engaging and educating people about scientific subjects. But while many of these games focus on subjects that we can’t see with the naked eye (such as proteins or RNA molecules), one small team is developing a game that focuses on a macro-scale issue: invasive species. The game is called Plague of Species, and is being developed by researcher Kathryn Turner, a Ph.D. candidate at the University of British Columbia who studies invasive plant... Read more

A Gap in the Market for Science — an Interview with Mark Henderson about Launching Mosaic

Posted 4 March 2014 by Matt Shipman

When a charitable foundation like the Wellcome Trust launches a news outlet focusing on long-form science news, it gets my attention. I’m always happy to see new homes for science features, but it raises some interesting questions. For example, how will it handle conflict-of-interest issues? The news site, Mosaic, launched March 4. One of the brains behind the site is Mark Henderson, head of communications for the Wellcome Trust, former science editor of The Times, and author of The Geek... Read more

A License to Be Curious: an Interview with Seth Mnookin

Posted 24 February 2014 by Matt Shipman

Seth Mnookin is a science writer. (I know, because I asked him.) But that seems kind of limiting. As a newspaper reporter he’s covered everything from rock n’ roll to the crime beat in Florida. As a magazine reporter, he’s written for outlets ranging from Vanity Fair to Wired. And while he’s the author of The Panic Virus, about the spurious link between childhood vaccinations and autism, he’s also written books about professional baseball and the Jayson Blair scandal. Clearly... Read more

Reporters, Authors, Artists and Scientists – a Collection of Interviews

Posted 17 December 2013 by Matt Shipman

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.... Read more

Why (and How) Nature and Reddit Science Are Teaming Up

Posted 11 December 2013 by Matt Shipman

On December 6, Reddit’s Science “Subreddit” announced a partnership with the venerable science news source Nature. Why did they team up? I wanted to know what Reddit, essentially an online bulletin board with an active community of users, would get out of partnering with Nature. I also wanted to know what Nature would get out of partnering with Reddit, which – though nicknamed “the front page of the internet” – has occasionally come under fire for the unsavory nature of... Read more

I’m Never Bored: an Interview with Florence Williams

Posted 9 December 2013 by Matt Shipman

“Breasts: A Natural and Unnatural History,” by Florence Williams, is one of the best nonfiction books I’ve read in years; a smart, funny read that touches on everything from evolutionary biology to toxicology and environmental health. In November, I met Williams at the annual conference of the National Association of Science Writers and she was exactly as smart and funny as I’d hoped she’d be, based on her writing. I wanted to know how she got into journalism, why she... Read more

What Freelancers and Editors Want From Each Other

Posted 3 December 2013 by Matt Shipman

Reporters and editors need each other, but this mutually beneficial relationship can sometimes be rocky—particularly for freelance reporters who might work with editors at a dozen different news outlets over the course of a year. In the interest of editors and freelancers everywhere, I asked a freelance writer and an editor to talk it out. Below, you’ll find a conversation between freelancer Jessica Morrison and editor Laura Helmuth. Morrison is relatively new to professional science journalism (less than two years).... Read more

Shoot What You Know: an Interview with Alex Wild

Posted 28 October 2013 by Matt Shipman

There is some truth to the saying that a picture is worth a thousand words. And, if done well, photographs can make science communication efforts more appealing and effective to a wide variety of audiences. Few science communicators use photography as well as Alex Wild. Wild has gone from academic entomologist to professional photographer, using his images to give viewers insight into the world of the insects that live all around us. His work has appeared in National Geographic, Popular... Read more

Fund It Yourself: How (and Why) One University Launched Its Own Science Crowdfunding Site

Posted 2 October 2013 by Matt Shipman

As grant dollars have begun to dwindle, the research community has become increasingly open to the idea of using crowdfunding to finance scientific research. One university has taken the idea a step further – creating its own crowdfunding site to support faculty research. The new site, called Georgia Tech Starter (GT Starter), works much like more conventional crowdfunding platforms, such as RocketHub, or Kickstarter. But there are a few differences – like the requirement that projects pass a peer-review... Read more

Easily Solved by Humans: An Interview with Phylo Co-Creator Jérôme Waldispühl

Posted 19 August 2013 by Matt Shipman

Several months ago I started playing an online game called Phylo. It is both simple and challenging, and I can feel virtuous as I play, since (according to its website) the gameplay is helping scientists “decipher our DNA and identify new genes.” Recently it occurred to me that, in addition to being a fun game with scientific value, it might be worth looking at Phylo from a science communication angle. After all, Phylo’s creators had to make the game engaging... Read more