What Is a Science PIO’s Job?

Posted 18 September 2015 by Matt Shipman

  I recently published a book about how to be an effective public information officer (PIO) at a research institution. In the book, I say that “a PIO’s job is to make his or her employer look good.” This has ruffled some feathers, so I want to talk about it. So, do I really think that it’s a PIO’s job to make his/her employer look good? You bet. But let’s unpack what that actually means. As a PIO at a... Read more

Reporters Are Having Trouble Reaching Government Researchers – and That’s a Problem

Posted 5 August 2015 by Matt Shipman

A new report is highlighting a problem that has been apparent to reporters – particularly science and federal policy reporters – for years: the federal government generally makes it tough for reporters to talk to government scientists about work that is important to the general public. Why This Matters Here’s why this is a big deal: science is absolutely essential to understanding many of the most pressing issues that our society faces today. For example, global climate change is affecting... Read more

So, I Wrote a Book

Posted 23 July 2015 by Matt Shipman

So, I wrote a book. It’s called The Handbook for Science Public Information Officers, and if you’re the sort of person who enjoys reading this blog, I have high hopes that you’ll find it useful and interesting. What was I thinking? I’ve spent the past three years writing about the practical aspects of science communication, on this blog and elsewhere. Somewhat to my surprise, a lot of folks were interested in what I had to say. It occurred to me... Read more

Three Reasons I Love Being a Research PIO

Posted 4 June 2015 by Matt Shipman

I’m a public information officer (PIO) at a research institution. That basically means that I do public relations and media relations for a place that conducts a lot of research. And I love my job. Before becoming a PIO I spent more than nine years as a reporter, covering environmental policy issues for several “inside the Beltway” publications in Washington, DC. When I left reporting to become a PIO at North Carolina State University, I had very little idea what... 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

New Resource Aims To Help Reporters Cover Genetics

Posted 5 January 2015 by Matt Shipman

Editor’s Note: This is a guest post by Robin Bisson. Bisson is a former staffer at the UK’s Science Media Centre, and is launching a similar initiative in the US that focuses solely on issues related to genetics and biotechnology. He describes the new initiative here. During the last few weeks I’ve frequently had two scenarios described to me. One: a scientist gets frustrated about the latest misinformation about their field playing out in the media, and would like to... Read more

Health News and the Importance of News Releases

Posted 10 December 2014 by Matt Shipman

A new study from the BMJ highlights the link between exaggeration in news releases about health-related research and exaggeration in news stories about that same research. And, in a timely coincidence, a project based out of the University of Minnesota has announced that it will be holding people accountable for misleading news releases. A paper describing the work, “The association between exaggeration in health related science news and academic press releases: retrospective observational study,” by Petroc Sumner, et al., was... 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

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

Readable, Accurate and Engaging: an Interview with Terry Devitt

Posted 1 October 2014 by Matt Shipman

Off the top of my head, I can list dozens of websites that offer readers science news. But in 1996, there were very few websites devoted exclusively to sharing high-quality science writing. One of the first sites to step into that niche was The Why Files, and it’s still cranking out stories almost two decades later. One of the founders of The Why Files is Terry Devitt, who is also the director of research communications at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.... Read more