2008. By Holly Menninger and Robert Gropp, AIBS Public Policy Office

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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. This new publication from the American Institute of Biological Sciences (AIBS), Communicating Science: A Primer for Working with the Media, by Holly Menninger and Robert Gropp, will prepare scientists for successful and effective media interviews.

Recognizing that many scientists are reluctant to engage in media outreach, the Primer 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 the Primer 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. The Primer 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.

The Primer 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.

Table of Contents


Why Should You Talk to the Media?

Understanding Journalists

Engaging in Media Outreach

The 5 P's: Prior Preparation Prevents Poor Performance

And You're On!

Avoiding Trouble

Final Thoughts

Resource A: Suggested Reading and Web Resources

Resource B: Preparing for Your Interview

Resource C: Media Log

Resource D: Potential Media Contacts

Publication Data

Title: Communicating Science: A Primer for Working with the Media
Authors: Holly Menninger and Robert Gropp
Publisher: American Institute of Biological Sciences
ISBN: 978-0-936829-03-6
5.5x7.5 paperback, 54pp., $12.95


This document, a publication of the American Institute of Biological Sciences (AIBS) Public Policy Office, was made possible in part through generous financial contributions from AIBS member societies and organizations. AIBS gratefully acknowledges the contributions made by the following organizations:

American Ornithologists, Union
American Society of Ichthyologists and Herpetologists
American Society of Mammalogists
Association of Ecosystem Research Centers
Biological Sciences Curriculum Study
Botanical Society of America
Cornell Center for the Environment
Long Term Ecological Research Network
Mycological Society of America
National Association of Marine Laboratories
Natural Science Collections Alliance
Organization of Biological Field Stations
Society for Integrative and Comparative Biology
Society for the Study of Evolution
Society of Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry^North America
Society of Systematic Biologists
Society of Wetland Scientists

This material does not necessarily reflect the opinions or positions of these organizations.

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