On November 21, 2013, Joe Palca, science correspondent for NPR, delivered the 2013 Ullyot Public Affairs Lecture at the Chemical Heritage Foundation in Philadelphia. The lecture was entitled “Covering Complex Science, or How I Explained a Frank-Kasper σ Phase in Sphere-Forming Block Copolymer Melts to a Radio Audience.”

Since joining NPR in 1992, Palca has reported on a range of science topics—everything from biomedical research to astronomy. In addition to his science reporting Palca is a backup host for Talk of the Nation Science Friday. For more information on the event, visit chemheritage.org/visit/events/awards/ullyot-public-affairs-lecture.aspx

00:04 Opening by Michael Christman, president and CEO of Coriell Institute for Medical Research

2:15 Introduction by Ivan Imato, Journalist in Residence at Kavli Institute for Theoretical Physics

8:35 Joe Palca begins "Presentation by Powerpoint"

9:30 Why does certain science news get covered?

13:10 On getting no respect for Nobel Prize in Chemistry coverage

20:12 Writing story intros that keep audiences listening

23:40 Copolymer Melts as Marshmallows

30:00 The Illusion of Knowledge

31:55 The Neutrino Experiment in 30 seconds

34:04 Joe's Big Idea

35:48 Finding ideas for stories

38:00 Audience Q&A

38:21 Getting kids interested in science

39:58 Role of social media

43:06 Telling untold stories

45:38 Role of Science Journalism

49:47 Helping scientists understand the importance of good communication

51:27 Presentation of the Philadelphia Bowl to Joe Palca

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The Chemical Heritage Foundation fosters an understanding of chemistry’s impact on society through ongoing live events that feature thought leaders in the science community. An independent, nonprofit organization, CHF maintains major collections of instruments, fine art, photographs, papers, and books. We host conferences and lectures, support research, offer fellowships, and produce educational materials. Our museum and public


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The Chemical Heritage Foundation fosters an understanding of chemistry’s impact on society through ongoing live events that feature thought leaders in the science community. An independent, nonprofit organization, CHF maintains major collections of instruments, fine art, photographs, papers, and books. We host conferences and lectures, support research, offer fellowships, and produce educational materials. Our museum and public programs explore subjects ranging from alchemy to nanotechnology.

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