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27 May 2015

The sounds and songs of climate data

Have you heard the statement, “any geophysical time series can be represented by music.” Look no further than this blog post to listen to the sounds of climate data over time.

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27 April 2015

Things you learn doing outreach

A short, light post this time. I’ll be doing an outreach event as a USGS rep in a couple of weeks, and having done the demo once already at AAAS’s 2015 Family Science Days, I was thinking about the things I learned last time. Some of these have also applied to other outreach I’ve done (I love doing video chats with students and science clubs, especially if I can get people excited about geology!)

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1 April 2015

“Reaffirming the Social Contract Between Science and Society” on Eos.org

In a recent opinion story for AGU’s Eos magazine, Associate Executive Director and Senior Policy Fellow at the American Meteorological Society William Hooke reflects on the current status of the relationship between science and society: “Stresses over the past decade or so have frayed the fabric of the social contract between scientists and society. The complexity and costs of science have been growing … Society has asked scientists for more help, even as research budgets have remained relatively constant. Relations have been strained on both sides.”

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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

The clothes don’t make the scientist

Those of you who saw my somewhat exasperated tweets last week know that I was reacting to this story on the Scientific American Voices Blog about how female scientists are portrayed in media coverage. (Answer: Superficially and with far too much attention to appearances).

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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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16 March 2015

Q&A with journalist-turned-geologist Rex Buchanan (Part 1): From journalist to geologist

When Rex Buchanan became interim director of the Kansas Geological Survey in 2010, earthquakes there were practically unheard of. Only a handful had occurred in the previous ten years, and none at all since 2008. But beginning in 2013, at least one tremor large enough for people to feel rattles Kansas every few days—an uptick in seismic activity that researchers have tied to the state’s oil and gas industry. Reporters have been quick to jump on the link. Many mistakenly blame the quakes on hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, in which geologists crack open subsurface rock formations using high-pressure fluid to extract oil and gas buried underground. A frequent source for media interviews, Buchanan finds himself setting the record straight.

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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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2 February 2015

The Funny Side of A Missed Forecast

I made an appearance on our local talk show Delmarva Life last Friday with Mike Lichniak our weekend meteorologist, and we talked about the funny side of a missed forecast. Our morning meteorologist Brian Keane also chimed in with some of the messages from social media. I also talked about how we forecasters can communicate a difficult forecast in a better way. Note: Skip to about 20 secs into the …

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22 December 2014

Guest Post – Natural Hazards Education and Communications

Welcome to the first-ever guest post on the GeoEd Trek blog, focusing on the teaching of landslides and earthquake dynamics in the Himalayas and the EGU 2015 session on Natural Hazards Education and Communications

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21 December 2014

AGU Fall Meeting: Day 4

Thursday was a really exciting day. In the morning I sat in on a session about the hydrology of landslides, and especially how water storage in pore space affects landslide dynamics and discharge.

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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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