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

‘How Long Is a Blue Whale?’ Kids, Science, and Scribbling on the Sidewalk

Posted 26 May 2015 by Matt Shipman

I love science. And I want my kids to love science. But before they love it, I have to get them to like it. Luckily, this is pretty easy. My kids, like most kids, are drawn to insects, sharks, dinosaurs, horses and a wide variety of other critters. Fostering this interest in living things (or, occasionally, prehistoric things) has been a fun and easy way to encourage their interest in science. My plan is to parlay their fascination in animals... Read more

Science Communication Needs and Best Practice: What Would a Top Ten List Look Like?

Posted 14 January 2015 by Matt Shipman

A new paper offers up a “top 10” list of science communication (scicomm) challenges and potential solutions – but also highlights the flaws in the list. I’m hoping it can be a starting point for a discussion that could help people address at least some of the scicomm problems they’re grappling with. Background Here’s the deal: science communication can be a tricky business. It can be defined in a wide variety of ways, and includes a host of different interests... 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

Beyond The News Release – How PIOs Can Connect With The Public

Posted 18 October 2014 by Matt Shipman

Public information officers (PIOs) at research institutions are responsible for helping their employers connect with the public. Often this is through conventional media relations and social media efforts. But sometimes PIOs can find other ways, unconventional ways, of connecting with various audiences. To explore these issues, Karen Kreeger, senior science communications manager at Penn Medicine, organized a session for this year’s National Association of Science Writers meeting at Ohio State University. The session, “Beyond the News Release Grind: Connecting with... Read more

Hands-On Science For Kids: An Interview with Liz Heinecke

Posted 6 October 2014 by Matt Shipman

Anyone who spends time with children knows that they are information sponges, eager to learn new things. But, in my experience, they can also have incredibly short attention spans. So if you want kids to be passionate about science, you will likely have to do more than just give them a book. One way to capture (and keep) a child’s interest is to give him or her the freedom to make a mess, shoot a rocket or make candy. In... Read more

Study: Talking To Reporters Can Boost Scientific Impact (And So Can Twitter)

Posted 23 September 2014 by Matt Shipman

A recent paper in Journalism & Mass Communication Quarterly highlights the role of public communications in boosting a researcher’s profile in the science community and finds that Twitter appears to increase the impact of those public communication efforts. This is only the latest article to link news coverage of research to scientific impact (I’ve written about related research here and here), but the new paper does a few things I haven’t seen before. First, it looks at a number of... Read more

Science Borealis – Lighting up Canadian Scicomm

Posted 25 August 2014 by Matt Shipman

Editor’s note: This is a guest post by Jenny Ryan, a communications manager at Canadian Science Publishing and a founding member of the team behind the Canadian digital science salon Science Borealis. Ryan writes here about the evolution of Science Borealis from concept to reality, lessons learned during that process, and what the project’s organizers hope to do next. What happens when a bunch of Canadian science bloggers team up? Well, in the case of Science Borealis they turn their... Read more

One Way To Highlight Diversity in STEM Fields

Posted 29 July 2014 by Matt Shipman

The fields of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (known collectively as STEM) have a diversity problem. In 2013, the U.S. Census Bureau reported that women, African Americans and Hispanics are significantly under-represented in STEM fields. For example, in 2011, 11 percent of the U.S. workforce was African American, while 6 percent of STEM workers were African American. And while Hispanics made up 15 percent of the workforce, they made up only 7 percent of STEM workers. Women made up 48... Read more

Why a Bunch of Science Writers Are Writing About a Fictional Planet

Posted 22 July 2014 by Matt Shipman

Tatooine is a desert planet, home to Luke Skywalker and Jabba the Hutt, as well as a menagerie of large beasts: banthas and dewbacks, krayt dragons and sarlacci. Tatooine is also, of course, not a real place. Science writing aims to convey ideas, engaging and educating readers on topics from biology to astronomy. Because science writing is focused on real efforts to understand the real universe, you might reasonably ask why a collection of science writers have chosen to spend... Read more