Expand Your Audience by Sneaking Up On Science

Posted 4 November 2013 by Matt Shipman

Science writers do a good job of conveying science news to people who are interested in science. But we don’t always do a good job of reaching people who aren’t interested in science. In fact, if you’re not interested in science, you’ve already stopped reading this post, because I used the word “science” three times in the first sentence. Reporters are trained to put the news up front. If you’re writing about a new discovery in cancer research or cellular... 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

Embargoes and Retractions: an Interview with Ivan Oransky, Part Two

Posted 25 July 2013 by Matt Shipman

In the second part of my interview with Ivan Oransky, we talk about what led to his founding of Embargo Watch and co-founding of Retraction Watch – as well as the Ingelfinger Rule, what he looks for in a medical reporter and what you can learn from grad students. The first part of the interview can be found here. CB: You started at Reuters Health in 2009, and I’m guessing that being executive editor took up an enormous amount of... Read more

Run Home to Start Writing: an Interview with Ivan Oransky, Part One

Posted 24 July 2013 by Matt Shipman

From family practice to cancer research, there are many career paths open to medical doctors. But few take the path chosen by Ivan Oransky, who became a journalist after earning his M.D. Oransky has worked for news outlets from Scientific American to Reuters Health, and has most recently taken a position as global editorial director for the online news service MedPage Today. Somehow, he’s also found time to create two blogs, Retraction Watch and Embargo Watch, that focus on little-discussed... Read more

Dinosaurs, Negative Results and Science Festivals: 2013 Second Quarter Roundup

Posted 11 July 2013 by Matt Shipman

Dinosaurs, negative results, Deborah Blum, science festivals, Nautilus, Jessica Wapner and the importance of words. Communication Breakdown has covered a lot of interesting, important and (often) fun things over the past few months. Because it can be tough to keep track of every post on a blog, I’m writing quarterly roundups of all the posts I’ve run here. Here’s what you might have missed from April 2 through July 9, 2013. If you find anything great that you missed before,... Read more

The Story Trumps Everything: an Interview with Deborah Blum

Posted 21 May 2013 by Matt Shipman

If I had to hatch a murder plot with a science writer, Deborah Blum would be my first choice. Like Agatha Christie, Blum’s work frequently references poisons, skulduggery and murder most foul. Unlike Christie, Blum’s work is nonfiction. An award-winning journalist, Blum has written about issues ranging from primate research to the science of sex. But in recent years her focus has been on, broadly speaking, the science of murder. Her 2010 book, “The Poisoner’s Handbook,” chronicles an exciting era... Read more

Grants: The Pros and Cons of Telling the World You Just Got Some Money

Posted 9 May 2013 by Matt Shipman

If someone just gave me a bunch of money, would you be interested? Probably not. That’s because when one person gets money it is not inherently interesting to anyone else. But when that money comes in the form of a research grant, there’s often a lot of pressure on public information officers (PIOs) to stir up interest among reporters. I am a PIO, and I struggled with this particular task for a few years before realizing that, sometimes, promoting grant... Read more

How Do You Not Get Curious? An Interview with Jessica Wapner

Posted 7 May 2013 by Matt Shipman

Medical writing can be dry, technical and confusing. But it can also be spellbinding, pulling readers into a world where men and women are engaged in a daily battle against human suffering. At its best, medical writing reminds readers that the triumph of scientific discovery can not only change lives, but save them. “The Philadelphia Chromosome,” by first-time author Jessica Wapner, is an example of great medical writing. The book involves dozens of researchers, more than a century of complex... Read more

Wise Words (From Other People) on Science Writing and Social Media

Posted 30 April 2013 by Matt Shipman

Science communication covers a lot of ground, but two of the issues that people seem most interested in are science writing and how to make the most of social media. Here’s some good news: a whole lot of people have spent some time recently explaining how you can getter better at both. Science Writing Science writing garners attention because it gets to the very heart of communication – finding ways to express ideas so that other people can understand and... 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