writing

 

One Reason Scientists and Science Writers Want to Talk About Game of Thrones

Posted 23 June 2016 by Matt Shipman

From dragons and dire wolves to the arid Red Waste and the frozen lands beyond the Wall, Game of Thrones is teeming with exotic creatures and habitats. It’s also teeming with violence, disease and cultural practices that often swing from pseudo-historical to utterly bizarre. And, in an impressive collection of blog posts, there are scientists and science writers who want to talk about Game of Thrones and the world in which it takes place. Westeros and its environs were created... Read more

Science for Parents: an Interview with Tara Haelle and Emily Willingham

Posted 5 April 2016 by Matt Shipman

Parents, particularly first-time parents, get a lot of advice – whether they want it or not. Some of that advice comes from professionals, such as obstetricians, pediatricians and nurses. But a lot of advice comes from less reliable sources. New parents, and expecting parents, are often told that they “have” to do this or that. Sometimes it feels like everyone knows exactly what to do in order to get a baby to sleep, how a baby should be fed, or... Read more

Why It Was So Mysterious: an Interview with Steve Silberman

Posted 29 February 2016 by Matt Shipman

Neurotribes is an ambitious book. It is, as Oliver Sacks describes it in the foreword, “a sweeping and penetrating history of [autism, Asperger’s syndrome and how those diagnoses are understood]. Grappling with such a sweeping topic is a challenge, especially when it is subject to public controversy. How does a science writer deal with readers whose fears have led them to discount science (as is the case with those who claim vaccines have caused an autism “epidemic”)? For author Steve... Read more

Checking in on Mosaic at the Two-Year Mark: an Interview with Editor Giles Newton

Posted 22 February 2016 by Matt Shipman

In March of 2014, the Wellcome Trust launched Mosaic, an online science magazine devoted to publishing long-form science journalism. At the time, I interviewed Mark Henderson, the trust’s head of communications, about his expectations for the fledgling publication. Now, almost two years and about a hundred stories later, it’s time to check back in. Has Mosaic lived up to expectations? And how has it evolved over time? To find out, I caught up with Giles Newton, Mosaic’s editor. Giles earned... Read more

It’s True, Hope Jahren Sure Can Write

Posted 19 February 2016 by Matt Shipman

I just finished reading Hope Jahren’s forthcoming book Lab Girl, due out April 5. It’s somewhere between a popular science book and a memoir – two tricky genres. Either one, done poorly, can feel like impenetrable jibberish or self-indulgent navel-gazing. Luckily (though I suspect luck has nothing to do with it), Jahren handles both styles well. Since most people read a book review to decide whether they want to read the book in question, I’ll give you some idea of... 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

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

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

Following Your Passion Project: Notes from the 2014 National Association of Science Writers Meeting

Posted 13 November 2014 by Matt Shipman

Editor’s Note: This is a guest post from Brooke Borel. Borel is a freelance science writer and author. She organized a session at the 2014 meeting of the National Association of Science Writers on what it takes to make a “passion project” a success, and I asked her to write a guest post on the subject. Last month, 430 science journalists and communicators took over a Marriott hotel in downtown Columbus, Ohio for their annual meeting, which included talks and... Read more

Choosing Between Blog Posts and News Releases

Posted 5 September 2014 by Matt Shipman

In my day job, I’m a public information officer (PIO) at NC State University. Part of my job is to pitch research stories to reporters, and two of the tools I use when pitching stories are blog posts and news releases. This post discusses two examples that shed some light on how I decide which tool to use. The Similarities Earlier this summer, researchers came to me with two forthcoming papers. They had a lot in common. Both papers were... Read more