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Session 2A: Helping scientists 'do' outreach (part II)

Karen James and Matt Shipman
Thurs, Jan 31, Noon-1:00 pm, Room 3

Session hashtag: #sciout

Storify of this session by @talksciencetome: Storify from this session

Storify of both #sciout sessions plus before-and-after discussion by @kejames: Storify: Scientists and Outreach

NOTE: Full notes from the session are available below! Also see/edit/add the spreadsheet of outreach resources!

Twitter-friendly questions that the session will address:
  • We all know blogging and being interviewed by science journalists are great ways to 'do' outreach. Are there other ways? Spoiler: YES.
  • What are the many and varied ways of outreach and who in the #scio13 community are experts in those ways?

Description: This is the second session of a two-session track aiming to create a take-home resource to facilitate not only more but also better and more varied outreach by scientists. (The first is Session 1B: Why should scientists 'do' outreach?) In this session, we will focus on how to do outreach, or to help scientists do it. We will brainstorm a list of the wide variety of different kinds of outreach out there, including both well established outreach channels (blogging, press releases, interviews, lectures, teaching, school visits, etc.), and also emerging and overlooked outreach channels (two-way engagement, collaborations with sci comm professionals, integrating outreach with research, e.g. citizen science, ad hoc 1:1 interactions with family, friends and strangers, 'on the street' activities, etc.). We will develop a community resource containing a list of the different genres of outreach, the types of outreach within those genres, and a list of experts within our community who have knowledge of and experience with those types of outreach.

Background Reading:
Matt Shipman (@ShipLives) here. I wanted to include links to some posts I've written about what is needed to foster outreach in the science community. For the most part, they simply ask questions, but I hope this will help get people thinking about this and prompt some discussion. Both pieces (particularly the first one) include links to a number of other posts (by SciCurious, Jeanne Garbarino, et al.) that are also well worth reading.
Science Outreach: What Do You Need?, The Abstract
Some Thoughts on Facilitating Science Communication by Scientists, Communication Breakdown

Here is a flowchart that I made that may be helpful - Miriam (@MiriamGoldste)
So You Want to Communicate Science Online: The Flowchart

Notes from session

Brainstorm: What are the different forms of outreach and who are our #scio13 community experts?
Please see the #sciout List of Awesome spreadsheet, and edit away, particularly if something was lost in translation. Please also add other projects! We would like this to be a frequently updated reference.

Q&A: Ask the freshly minted experts!

Group 1: Traditional media, such as reporters and Public Information Officers (PIOs)

Q: How do you tell a good story while remaining critical?
A from John Timmer @j_timmer: Retractions can be the story, such as Ivan Oransky’s Retraction Blog. It’s not too hard to find these stories, and not a problem to avoid cheerleading.

Q: Is there a good balance in science journalism today?
A from James Hryrnnshyn @hrynyshyn: I actually got a degree in science. It takes a lot of effort to balance facts and interest. “I’m now convinced that hte general assignment reporter is a ridiculous concept.” Organizations should be finding experts & turning them into journalists.

Q: How do you present how science works to elected officials? The human based behind the science?
A: Katy O’Connell @kvoDE: You need to find out what is affecting people in their district - also throwing in the economy/job creation.

Q: How do you connect working scientists with traditional media?
A Matt Shipman @ShipLives and Tracey Peake: Find your PIO! Their job is to talk to graduate students on up, but they are usually not scientists. They will talk to you, you will explain your paper to them, they will write a release & run it by you, then they release the press release. It’s an ongoing process! PIOs can also apply news judgement, and have a sense if something is newsworthy.

Q: What is the single best source to monitor where journalists are hanging out & looking for experts?
A from the entire group: Twitter. The answer is Twitter. Also, have an up to date website. Peter Edmonds @peterdedmonds suggests Google News.

Group 2: New media - blogs, Twitter, webcams

Q: For bloggers: how much research do you put in vs your own opinion?
Brian Switek @laelaps: Depends on the story. Ranges from little (shark poop) to lots (controversial subjects). Maybe talk to the experts to create a more “journalistic” article. Blogs are a tool - you can experiment with different proportions.
Chad Orzel @orzelc: My own take from being in physics is added-value onto existing journalism. So most of write I write is my own opinion. But blogging isn’t one thing, it’s multiple things.
Judy Stone @drjudystone: I do a lot of research, especially if my post is on unfamiliar area or a controversial one.

Q: How to get scientists who are against blogging or lukewarm on blogging to come do a guest post for you?
Matt Shipman @ShipLives: I edit them so they won’t look silly.
Hannah Waters @hjwaters: I try to target them. I corner them after a talk at a conference, and say they can write as much as they want. Then I edit them down.
Karen James @kejames: Find a mentor.
Roy Meijer @RoyMeijer: Keep the word blog out of it.

Group 3: Formal outreach - structured content in an educational context, often in a classroom

Q: How to scale small-scale programs up to online content? (e.g., scale up from 30 to 30,000?) Mark Mahar @markgenome\
David Shiffman @WhySharksMatter: There are teachers/educators actively looking for this. Go to conference & hand out flyers. His lab has done this with “tremendous success.”
Matt Shipman @ShipLives: Example of Science House at NC State.
Katharine @genegeek: I have done this. It’s very important to tie concepts (e.g., genomics) into curriculum. Go to teachers’ conference & show them how to bring your program into the classroom. Also use streaming/video tools.
Michelle Sipics @michellesipics. My project is History of Vaccines. Immediately spell out which of the curriculum standards your project meets.

Q: How much do you focus on getting young people to become scientists vs scientific literacy? What is the goal of your educational outreach?
Lisa Willemse @WillemseLA: Start with an initial meeting. If students are interested, there are more extensive programs they can apply for.
Anthony Williams @ChemConnector - I do both online courses and I go into schools. Trying to get little kids excited is the best.

Group 4: Informal outreach - including one-on-one, on the street, in a pub, etc.

Q: How do you avoid just getting the audiences who are already engaged, and reach new people?
Doug Johnson @scilegis: Collaborations. Low broadcast radio - short 90-second programs.
Olivia Koski @oliviakoski Guerrilla science. Go to music festivals & other unexpected places.
@Bug_Girl: Science fiction conventions. Ask A Scientist Anything panels are really successful.