9 November 2015
As a scientist-turned-journalist, I have approached scientific research from two different angles. When I was a researcher, I paid the most attention to papers that related to my specific areas of interest, and evaluated them based on how they furthered my community’s understanding of my field. As a reporter, however, I consume new research with a slightly different set of questions in mind. I still wonder, “what do these results tell us about how the world works?” but I also have to ask myself, “will my audience be interested?”
2 November 2015
Why did I decide to submit an abstract for the “Up-Goer Five Giving-It-a-Try” session at the 2015 AGU Fall Meeting, which challenges scientists to explain their work using only the 1,000 most common words in the English language? Well, I’m already presenting my research for the meeting, so I’ve got the talk outline and figures already queued up. That made my decision easier. But, what I really wanted was to see whether I could translate my work into simplified language. Scientists love jargon, but I think it’s equally as fun to discover just how common (or uncommon) even basic geology-related words are. All I can say is that it’s lucky “rock” is one of those words, or it would have been really hard to write my abstract in Up-Goer language!
27 October 2015
Scientists are increasingly encouraged to share the meaning and implications of their research with non-scientists. And, as many who have attempted this endeavor at a party or a Thanksgiving dinner table know, talking about scientific research with those outside your field is difficult. Yet, it can be fun and rewarding.
Being able to convey the details and importance of your work can help to boost public support for science, enhance your career prospects and improve your chances of finding funding. Communication is a skill not typically taught as part of scientific training, but training and practice can help you communicate more effectively.
Ignite@AGU is one such opportunity for researchers to hone their communication skills and become more comfortable talking about their work with diverse audiences. Similar to a TED talk, Ignite gives presenters just five minutes and 20 auto-advancing slides to make their point.
12 October 2015
“Is that it?” I ask the security guard at the desk.
“That’s it,” he says.
That moment marked the end of my roller coaster ride in a fellowship program with the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) in which scientists work summer stints as reporters in news outlets across the country.
24 July 2015
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.
21 July 2015
What if you were limited to using only the 1,000 most common words in the English language to explain your science? That’s what groups of scientists did this summer at several AGU Sharing Science communications skills-building workshops. This year, for the first time, AGU’s Sharing Science program is offering on-site workshops at universities and scientific institutions. During each of these workshops, we ask participants to break into small groups and use the 1,000 most common words in the English language to describe a scientific concept of their choosing. The exercise was inspired by an xkcd comic in which the artist, Randall Munroe, drew a diagram of the Saturn V rocket – the rocket that took astronauts to the moon – using only the “ten hundred” most common words in the English language.
17 July 2015
“Please, please, please,” repeats in my mind. At least five other ideas were turned down this week, and I am on my third round of explaining this story idea, receiving my third, “I don’t think so,” from Mark Strauss, one of the quirky and brilliant editors at National Geographic. It’s 6:00 p.m. on a Friday afternoon. The office is nearly empty, the lights mostly off. But then, he hesitates. “Well,” he says before caving to the pitch—or rather my re-pitch—about redefining the mass of a kilogram. “I can’t guarantee we’ll post it.” But that doesn’t matter to me at the moment. I had what I needed: A chance to write my next piece.
29 June 2015
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.
19 June 2015
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
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.