Innovative Science Programming

National Public Radio programs captivate and inform millions of listeners every day through a combination of rigorous journalism and riveting stories. With support from the Rita Allen Foundation, NPR is seeking to engage larger and younger audiences by expanding the reach and multimedia content of two popular science programs: Joe’s Big Idea (JBI) and Skunk Bear. JBI is a series produced by science correspondent Joe Palca, which provides a behind-the-scenes view of the people and processes involved in scientific research and innovation. JBI is developing its social media presence by recruiting a diverse cadre of young scientists to share their personal backgrounds and scientific interests with the JBI audience. JBI is also experimenting with new multimedia content, building on the success of its recent “Live Lab” videos on Facebook Live. Skunk Bear, NPR’s multimedia science blog founded in 2014, has attracted sizeable fan bases on Tumblr and YouTube. Now, Skunk Bear is building greater engagement and enhanced content by producing two seasons of videos responding to audience questions or topics in the news—with a focus on making content relevant and accessible for science classrooms. Recent episodes have tackled such questions as, “how old is your body really?” and “how is pencil lead made?”