Article: In the space between: Public information officers in science

This invited article in Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment clarifies the role that public information officers play in modern science communication. It is essential reading for scientists looking to share their science and for science-trained folks considering moving from research into scicomm. The full article is available for free here.

Excerpt: “To some, the word “promotion” smacks of hype and spin. It’s certainly true that PIOs choose the most interesting and important stories to share, but we’re also keenly aware that our efficacy is contingent upon the trust of the communities we represent, the media, and citizens.

Science PIOs fill a space between scientists and journalists – and increasingly, between scientists and public audiences more directly. Rather than focusing deeply on one area of science, we are constantly scanning the horizon, searching for stories that will catch the attention of our audiences and showcase the accomplishments of our employers or clients. As a result, scientists collaborating with PIOs gain considerably from the PIO’s skillset, experience, and contacts. By working with a good PIO, a researcher can position their work to have real societal impact, far beyond what they could achieve alone.”

Full citation: Invited. Merkle, B.G., M. Downs, and A. Hettinger. 2019. In the space between: Public information officers in science. Frontiers in Ecology and Evolution 17(8): 474-475. doi.org/10.1002/fee.2102.

Drawn to Science Communication: Art-Science Synergy as a Career and a Way of Life

I recently gave an invited career talk at the 2020 annual conference of the Ecological Society of America. In case others are interested, I thought I would share the video (with captions) here.

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There have also been a number of responses to this talk which have led me to consider doing some recorded Zoom/video conversations, to capture discussion, advice, and more. Stay tuned for more on that front, and feel free to submit questions, advice, and resources via the comments section!

I don’t usually post selfies, but that’s about to change. OR, some things #scientistswhoselfie and #sketchyourscience have in common.

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Me (left) teaching a #sketchingforscientists workshop in Laramie, Wyoming

I’ve been thinking a lot about the recent Science op-ed that was a personal attack against a well-known and successful science communicator and neuroscientist active on Instagram and other communication and engagement platforms. Among other things, I see this issue as relating to insecurities, negative social conditioning, and lack of support that folks often face when pursuing careers in the arts, or even considering trying out an art form.  Continue reading I don’t usually post selfies, but that’s about to change. OR, some things #scientistswhoselfie and #sketchyourscience have in common.

Gillette News Record picks up press release about grad students’ interpretations of local murals

Gillette news and record

In Autumn 2017, I led a co-taught graduate seminar course called “The Art of Science Communication.” The first project we assigned to the students, who were all PhD candidates in the sciences, was to select a mural in downtown Laramie. They each developed an audio script (which they then recorded) that interpreted their chosen mural in a way that connected the mural to their own research.

Their research ranged from super-massive black holes to birds that are inadvertent gardeners in tropical rain forests. We collaborated with the Laramie Public Art Coalition and the Laramie Mural Project to make the recordings available online. And, the University of Wyoming Press Office helped us distribute a press release about the project that was picked up by the Gillette News Record

Learn more about the course, other communication and engagement projects developed by the students, and more, at the course website they maintained: engagelaramiescience.weebly.com.

 

Sketchbook Snapshot: taking a closer look at winter vocabulary

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Though many a northerner might beg to differ with Robert Frost’s somewhat flippant statement – “You can’t get too much winter in the winter” – there is a truth to the poet’s words that became evident when I looked into winter vocabulary.

Wintry word origins

According to etymologyonline.com, the word winter likely derives from a combination of Proto-Germanic, Norse, Dutch, and Gaul words which meant “wet” or “white.” The word snow dates from circa 1300, shares linguistic roots with winter and was alternatively spelled “snew” until the 1700s. Continue reading Sketchbook Snapshot: taking a closer look at winter vocabulary