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24 July 2015

Scientists must woo the public to get past the awkward “blind date” stage

Steady eye contact. Open body language. Warm, conversational tones. These are phrases not used often enough to describe scientists. Alan Alda wants to change that. Alda, an award-winning actor best known for his portrayal of Hawkeye Pierce on the T.V. show “M.A.S.H.,” has always been attracted to science. On July 15 Alda spoke at The National Academy of Sciences in Washington, D.C., about his experiences hosting the PBS “Scientific American Frontiers” T.V. series and his work with the Alan Alda Center for Communicating Science at Stony Brook University.

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29 June 2015

FAQ – Working with the Media: Part III – Avoiding missteps and pitfalls

This is the third in a three-part series answering scientists’ frequently-asked questions about working with the media. This FAQ series accompanies the Working with the Media webinar, offered by AGU’s Sharing Science program on May 29. Read part one and part two.

1. What are some common pitfalls when working with the media and how can I avoid them?

Common Pitfall #1: Getting into the weeds. Focus on the bigger picture. Prepare your top three key messages ahead of time and practice delivering them to a mirror, to a friend, over the phone, etc. During the interview, bring the conversation back to your key messages. Then, keep coming back to them. Communicating in simple, repeated messages is not a natural skill for many scientists, but it is a critical skill for any speaker. Often, audiences need to hear ideas repeated before they will remember them. For more on this, read “How much detail should I go into when talking with reporters” in Part II of the FAQ.

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19 June 2015

FAQ – Working with the Media: Part II – Interviews and relationships with reporters

This is the second in a three-part series answering scientists’ frequently-asked questions about working with the media. This FAQ series accompanies the Working with the Media webinar, offered by AGU’s Sharing Science program on May 29. 1. How should I prepare for an interview? When a reporter contacts you to schedule an interview, find out what the format will be. Is it an in-person, phone, radio or TV interview? Who is the person doing the interview? About how long will it be? If it’s for TV or radio, is the interview being taped or is it live? Then, write and rehearse your key messages – the main thoughts you want to share during the interview. Practice repeating them until you can rattle off the essentials but don’t memorize them word-for-word.

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10 June 2015

FAQ – Working with the Media: Part I – The Media

This is the first in a three-part series answering scientists’ frequently-asked questions about working with the media. 1. What should I expect when working with the media? Journalists may or may not have a science background, and may or may not have covered the topic before. So, it is best to talk to journalists as if they are new to the subject and don’t have a science background. They will ask for more detail if they need it.

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4 June 2015

AGU’s 2015 Mass Media Fellow to report for National Geographic

Geologist and environmental chemist Maya Wei-Haas defended her thesis last month on flame retardants in lakes and streams of Arctic Alaska. Rather than set off on new studies with her Ph.D., though, Wei-Hass will spend her summer on a different kind of adventure: working as a science reporter at National Geographic in Washington, D. C.

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28 May 2015

Scientists should speak simply to other scientists, too

By Ilissa Ocko The canonical rule of thumb for scientists speaking to nonscientists is to talk as if you were speaking to eighth graders, because a lay audience often has a basic, and certainly not specialized, understanding of science – about the same level as an eighth grader. If you want the information to resonate with the non-scientist audience, you have to strip down to the essentials, craft a story, …

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16 April 2015

Climate scientists and faith-based groups come together this Earth Day for GreenFaith Day 2015

A wide range of climate science experts, including researchers, state climatologists, and Fulbright students, will volunteer their time to meet with churches, synagogues, mosques, and other faith groups in more than 20 U.S. states to speak on climate change and explore solutions on a local level.

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30 March 2015

Q&A with journalist-turned-geologist Rex Buchanan (Part 3): A reporter on the other side of the media

I always thought I’d be one of those guys that got along with reporters really well. Well, maybe I wouldn’t. I had another television reporter just this week that I basically said, “Don’t call me again because I ain’t talking to you.” I went home and my wife said, “You know, you’re picking ‘em off one by one; sooner or later you’re not going to talk to any of them.”

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23 March 2015

Q&A with journalist-turned-geologist Rex Buchanan (Part 2): Walking a political tightrope

About the first of October, we had a … I think it was a 4.2 [magnitude earthquake]. We had to go down to where the earthquake was and meet with the county commission. It was open to the public. All the Wichita television stations were there. [Many of us] had lunch together, and I said, “I know when I walk in that room, everybody’s going to say, ‘well I’m sure glad I’m not that guy.’” And everyone at the table pretty much agreed with me.

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11 March 2015

Fukushima Daiichi disaster in the news is a teachable moment for scientists

Today marks the fourth anniversary of the 2011 Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster. On March 11, 2011, a magnitude-9.0 earthquake occurred offshore of Japan and kicked off a tsunami. At the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power station, the natural disasters knocked out backup power systems used to cool reactors. Consequently, three reactors underwent fuel melting, hydrogen explosions, and radioactivereleases. Although it happened four years ago, the disaster, and possible consequences, still generates questions from reporters, scientists, nuclear plant operators and the public, says Ken Buessler, a marine radiochemist at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution. He says he uses the disaster’s news focus to try to educate the general public about the science of radiation, including how at-risk people really are.

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2 March 2015

You can hide under your desk … as long as you still answer the phone

“Well, if you need me I’ll be hiding under my desk,” I told my adviser on Friday afternoon. I’d just finished a 20-minute phone call with PRI (Public Radio International)’s The World.

Responding to press inquiries is hard, and a morning of staring intently though the clutter on my desk wracking my brain for simple, concise answers to unexpected questions had left me feeling ragged. It had been just over 24 hours since the University of Arizona’s public information office had co-issued a press release with AGU about my recent paper on Icelandic glacial rebound, which was published in Geophysical Research Letters, and I’d spent all day Thursday and all of Friday morning answering emails and phone calls from reporters.

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19 February 2015

Four Ways Scientists Can Give Good Answers to Bad Questions

One of the reasons I love working with scientists is that they tend to be very direct. Ask a question: get an answer. Sometimes the answer is a little long and makes me revisit basic physics I haven’t thought about since middle school, but I definitely get an answer. Thankfully, most of the questions journalists, policymakers and citizens ask scientists are straightforward. But many are off-base and sometimes even badly framed. If a scientist provides a direct answer to a bad question, they can inadvertently leave audiences with an inaccurate impression of their work.

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17 February 2015

Science communication as a “responsibility”

“I am a scientist, first and foremost, but I feel it is my responsibility to answer questions from the public when I am asked,” Diffenbaugh said during a panel on communications Feb. 12 at the American Association for the Advancement of Science annual meeting in San Jose, California.

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13 February 2015

Video in Education and Outreach

Video is an excellent tool for conveying emotion and generating excitement. It’s got beautiful moving images, ambient sound, and music (if you dare). It’s got human connection if you talk with people on camera or see them active on screen. It’s the most visceral way to capture an audience and tell a story. It’s not the best at communicating the details of a story however. Text, well written, still does a good job at that. But if your audience is prepped and excited about a topic or in my current case, a research expedition (because they watched an interesting or compelling video), they may be more inclined to sit down and read more about it.

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8 December 2014

Geoscientist and singer-songwriter shares her creative side at AGU’s Open Mic Night – and you can, too

Science is about discovering universal truths. Music, they say, is a universal language. So what better way to communicate science than through music?

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3 December 2014

“Yes, And …”: How Improvisational Acting Improves Your Communication Skills

The idea is not new – doing improv does improve your ability to communicate. While the specific vehicle – improvisational acting – may seem foreign from the scientific process, the concept connects the realities of life (improvised, after all) with the vagaries of doing science (experiments don’t always go according to plan, right?).

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11 November 2014

Scientists Engage With the Public During Lava Flow Threat

On 27 June, lava from Kīlauea, an active volcano on the island of Hawai`i, began flowing to the northeast, threatening the residents in Pāhoa. Eos recently spoke with Michael Poland, a geophysicist at the U.S. Geological Survey’s Hawaiian Volcano Observatory (HVO) and a member of the Eos Editorial Advisory Board, to discuss how he and his colleagues communicated this threat to the public.

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3 November 2014

Doodling in Science Class: Using Stick Figure Animations to Explain Complex Science at Stanford University (Videos)

Emma Hutchinson discusses how climate change might impact the strongest wind system on Earth, and what that means for ocean circulation patterns in this Stanford University video. Traer partnered with Hutchinson to animate her story with white board drawings in the hopes of making it easier for the public to understand her complex research. Video courtesy of Stanford School of Earth Sciences. By Miles Traer From my time as an …

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16 October 2014

And now for the fun part: choosing your outreach activities!

The wonderful thing about science communication and outreach is that there are an almost infinite number of ways to share your science. We’ve made a quick list of some of the kinds of activities you can be involved in to share your science.

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8 October 2014

Scientists and Reporters Just Want to Get to the Bottom of It All

After just a few short months, my desk at the Los Angeles Times had succumbed to the same peculiar malady as my desk at Oregon State University, where I did my Ph.D. in paleoclimatology: It seemed to have sprouted a thin coat of fluorescent sticky notes. Each tiny square bore a fact that merited remembering or a question that demanded answering, and, every day, they multiplied.

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