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A primer on media, policy and outreach

One of the constant frustrations I encounter in science is my own naiveté about how to best get the message out.  I, like many scientists, was leery of entering the potential minefield of dealing with the press.  While my experiences with this project so far have been relatively benign I am aware that this is not always the case. In fact, I’m feeling pretty lucky so far.

 

Recently I finished reading “Escape From the Ivory Tower” by Nancy Baron and I can’t speak highly enough about it.  This book is exactly what I need as a scientist who is interested in outreach.  The book covers three major topics 1) How to deal with the press, 2) How to help use your science to inform policy and 3) How to deal with backlash from your publications.  All of these are important topics and ones that I feel as if I was unprepared to handle in a synthetic fashion.

The aspect of this book that I found most useful is the presentation of the information. The book is laden with tools and techniques. It is not a philosophical treatise, rather its approach is more “how to” with ample real world advice focused specifically for scientists.

While the book is a single authored piece, Baron shares a wealth of advice from her coauthors.  Using a combinations of quotes, text boxes and worked examples, journalists from The Economist, NPR, and The New York Times all share their advice on how to take science out of the lab and onto the broadsheets (or the airwaves, or hell even the blogosphere).

While the book is specifically aimed for marine biologists, the lesions and techniques are broadly applicable to any natural scientists.  Like other primers, the book paints a broad picture, but its ample use of hot links, and supplemental resources provide a thorough assortment of additional information should researchers want to delve further.

This book provides a clear pathway for researchers who are interested in seeing their science move outside the lab.  The most consistent point the books make is to not be afraid of your science, but be realistic and don’t speak outside of what your data has to say.  While some researchers might be reticent to engage the media, remember if people are going to be talking about your research, wouldn’t you want to be the person helping direct the conversation?

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