March 1, 2008
Evolution, climate change, stem cell research—scientists are frequently called upon to provide expert information on hot-button issues that pervade the daily news headlines, yet most find themselves woefully unprepared for the bright lights of the television studio or leading questions from a newspaper journalist. A new publication from AIBS, Communicating Science: A Primer for Working with the Media, by Holly Menninger and Robert Gropp of the Public Policy Office, will prepare scientists for successful and effective media interviews.
Communicating Science outlines compelling reasons for scientists to interact with the media and describes key differences between journalism and science that may not be apparent to practicing scientists. Step-by-step, Menninger and Gropp walk scientists through the entire interview process, from appropriate questions to ask a reporter to practical advice for on-air or on-camera interviews.
The information and advice in Communicating Science is presented in eight easy-to-read chapters that provide vital information for scientists new to media outreach and even for seasoned experts, and it's an ideal text for a graduate course on science communication or a professional development course for students and faculty. The primer's authors speak from their own experiences as PhD scientists in the biological sciences with years of experience in media outreach.
Setting Communicating Science apart from other such guides are the first-person interviews with nearly a dozen scientists who have successfully navigated print, radio, and television interviews. The scientists—including "Island Snake Lady" Kristin Stanford, recently featured on the Discovery Channel show Dirty Jobs—share advice and experiences on a number of topics, including safely speaking on behalf of an organization, avoiding trouble when discussing socially or politically controversial topics, and reflections on first interviews.
Communicating Science also provides worksheets for building a message framework with talking points, developing analogies, and using props to assist readers with interview preparation. The contact pages at the end of the book help readers organize journalists' contact information and keep track of potential contacts for future story pitches.