Where do you go for information about the practice of science communication? I’m asking not only because I’m always looking to improve my own science communication efforts, but for a personal, selfish reason.
In fact, I’m not sure how to write about this without simultaneously confessing my own ignorance AND sounding self-congratulatory (a singularly off-putting combination). I really do want to know where I can learn more from other science communication practitioners and I really do have selfish reasons for asking. Both things are true.
So, let me explain why I’m asking, and hopefully I won’t come across as a navel-gazing jackass.
To be clear, I’m not talking here about science communication research (which I find fascinating). I’m talking about actually conveying scientific concepts and findings to specific audiences – the work done by reporters, bloggers, museum curators, public information officers (PIOs, like me), etc.
I recently realized that, with the exception of The Open Notebook and Paige Brown’s From The Lab Bench blog, I don’t have any specific go-to sources for this kind of thing. In fact, most of what I pick up about the practical process of science communication stems from conversations (online and offline) with friends and colleagues in the field.
This point was driven home by a question I was asked by the University of Chicago Press.
Here’s the deal: I wrote a handbook for PIOs at research institutions (basically, how to do what I do for a living), which is being published by UChicago Press and is scheduled to come out next summer. (I’m very excited about this, but also feel weird writing about it here because it seems self-congratulatory. I’m happy promoting other people’s work, but feel odd promoting my own, if that makes sense.)
Last week, the press’s promotions office asked me to send them a list of any reporters, bloggers, or editors who would be interested in interviewing me or reviewing the book. And I realized that there were no obvious answers. I listed The Open Notebook (even though it focuses on science journalism, not PIOs, and I have no contacts there) and From The Lab Bench (which is part of the SciLogs network), and then came up short.
There are a lot of places that periodically cover science communication issues, but it’s not a core issue for any of them. How many of these outlets would be interested in covering something for science PIOs? Or books at all, for that matter? Maybe the careers section of Science or Nature? (I think that would make sense, but I don’t know.)
Here’s the thing: I hate sending off-topic pitches to reporters. If I pitch a story to a reporter, I want to be at least 95 percent sure that the reporter will find the story interesting, even if they choose not to cover it. I don’t want them to read my pitch and wonder what the hell I was thinking when I decided to send them this.
As a result, I’m hesitant to send UChicago Press the names of reporters or bloggers unless I’m really sure they’d be interested. And that list of names is very (very) short.
So, I’ll reiterate my first question and add a new one: Where do you go to read about the practice of science communication? And do you think anyone there might want to read a book about it?