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Handbook for Science Public Information Officers

Whether sharing a spectacular shot from a deep-space probe, announcing a development in genetic engineering, or crafting an easy-to-reference list of cancer risk factors, science public information officers, or PIOs, serve as scientific liaisons, connecting academic, nonprofit, government, and other research organizations with the public. And as traditional media outlets cut back on their science coverage, PIOs are becoming a vital source for science news.
W. Matthew Shipman’s Handbook for Science Public Information Officers covers all aspects of communication strategy and tactics for members of this growing specialty. It includes how to pitch a story, how to train researchers to navigate interviews, how to use social media effectively, and how to respond to a crisis. The handbook offers a wealth of practical advice while teaching science PIOs how to think critically about what they do and how they do it, so that they will be prepared to take advantage of any situation, rather than being overwhelmed by it.
For all science communicators—whether they’re starting their careers, crossing over from journalism or the research community, or professional communicators looking to hone their PIO skills—Shipman’s Handbook for Science Public Information Officers will become their go-to reference.

176 pages | 1 table | 5 1/2 x 8 1/2 | © 2015

Chicago Guides to Writing, Editing, and Publishing

Biological Sciences: Ecology

Earth Sciences: General Earth Sciences

Reference and Bibliography


“Shipman’s Handbook for Science Public Information Officers is so smart and so insightful about communicating science that it would be a useful guide for anyone who cares about illuminating research and improving science literacy. It’s also so good at exploring the challenges and opportunities from a public information standpoint that it should be essential reading for anyone in the business.”

Deborah Blum, director, Knight Science Journalism at MIT

“Shipman has produced a much-needed resource for communications officers. Although intended for science communications, many of the strategies he describes, and much of the advice he imparts, would be valuable to any communications professional. It’s an engaging, accessibly written work that could easily become a standard reference guide in the field, as well as a teaching tool for students in communications studies. I would, without hesitation, recommend that any communications professional read this book.”

Tom Breen, deputy spokesperson at University of Connecticut

"Matt Shipman has long been a thought leader among PIOs, and now we have a book that demonstrates why. Being a PIO can be a tough job, as it often means pleasing a number of masters at once. Shipman deftly guides readers through the minefields, unafraid to recommend the more difficult path if it's more ethical and likely to be effective. His specific advice on subjects from crisis communications to social media, and everything in between, makes this a book I hope all PIOs and public relations students will read."

Ivan Oransky, faculty at New York University and vice president and global editorial director of MedPage Today

"This guide is well-timed and much needed. Shipman’s tone is informal and efficient, his emphasis practical, his intent for his readers to develop literacy in the tools and processes of science communication."

Science and Public Policy

Table of Contents


Why Science PIOs Matter (and Communication 101) 

1 Finding Stories and Deciding What to Write About

2 Writing Stories 

3 Pitching Stories

4 Illustrating Stories with Multimedia

5 Getting Scientists to Tell Their Stories

6 Telling the Story Yourself: Social Media and Blogs

7 Measuring Your Story’s Success: Metrics

8 Stories You Don’t Want: Crisis Communications

Conclusion: The Science PIO Commandments


Appendix A: Useful Links for Multimedia
Appendix B: Sample Research News Release
Appendix C: Sample Grant Announcement
Appendix D: Sample Media Advisory
Appendix E: Sample News Tip
Appendix F: Sample Communication Plan


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