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 in the Public Policy Office, will prepare scientists for successful and effective media interviews.

Recognizing that many scientists are reluctant to engage in media outreach, “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 when a reporter calls to practical advice for looking and sounding one’s best on-air or on-camera.

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, as well as a quick refresher for seasoned experts - 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.

The concise, user-friendly volume has several unique features that set it apart from other media guides for scientists. “Communicating Science” includes first-person interviews with nearly a dozen scientists who have successfully navigated print, radio, and television interviews. The scientists-including the “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 to assist readers with interview preparation: building a message framework with talking points and transition phrases, developing analogies, and using illustrative props or images. It includes pages for readers to organize contact information of journalists with whom they have worked directly and those who have reported on stories related to their own research to keep as potential contacts for future story pitches.

“Communicating Science: A Primer for Working with the Media” is available now in the AIBS Webstore.


In the February 2010 issue of BioScience, Julie Palakovich Carr reviews the impact of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act on American science and considers the implications for 2011, when the stimulus funding has been allocated. An excerpt from the article follows, but the complete article (along with prior Washington Watch columns) may be viewed for free at http://www.aibs.org/washington-watch/.

A year ago, as the US economy was on the brink of meltdown, Congress and President Obama enacted the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (ARRA; PL 111-5). The $787-billion economic stimulus promised a new future for America, a future that not only brought economic growth and jobs but also addressed society’s most pressing issues: education, human health, infrastructure, and clean energy. The act included more than $24 billion for federal science programs, much of which was designated for research and development (R&D). These funds were intended to create or save jobs by directly supporting researchers and student fellows and spurring the manufacturing of scientific instrumentation and equipment, as well as initiating the repair and construction of research facilities. One year later, stimulus funds have been used to address a backlog of scientific needs and to usher in a new age of science. The question now, however, is what will happen to our scientific enterprise in 2011, when the ARRA funds have been spent?

To continue reading this article for free, visit http://www.aibs.org/washington-watch/washingtonwatch2010_02.html


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