24 July 2015

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

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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21 July 2015

Sharing Science with the ten hundred most common English-language words

Sharing Science at UCAR

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.

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17 July 2015

Falling in love with science all over again as a PhD-turned-journalist

Maya Wei-Haas

“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.

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29 June 2015

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

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

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

Radio Reporter

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

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

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

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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1 April 2015

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

"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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