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Director, Science and Technology Communications

Columbia University, New York, NY USA

Work at Columbia University

Duration: Full-Time


Reporting to the Executive Director of Public Affairs in the Office of Communications and Public Affairs, the Director of Science and Technology Communications promotes Columbia University’s academic initiatives, research breakthroughs, intellectual expertise, breaking news, and special events related to science and technology to internal audiences, outside influencers, and the news media based on strategic communications priorities at the university level. This includes working with the Executive Director of Public Affairs and the Office of Research Initiatives to understand and execute communications strategies to expand public awareness of the university's major initiatives in such areas as climate science, quantum science, neuroscience, precision medicine, AI, and research faculty in the natural sciences as well as engineering.

To accomplish this, the director will identify, produce, and promote content to internal and external audiences, including journalists and influencers, to advance Columbia’s strategic priorities. This content will be disseminated via EurekAlert and on Columbia’s news pages, e-newsletters, and social media platforms. The director will also help the Executive Director of Public Affairs, the Office of Research Initiatives, and the School of Engineering and Applied Science supervise a Science Communications Manager working on the Columbia Quantum Initiative. The director will work with communications colleagues across Columbia to identify strategic priorities in their schools/departments so that they can develop a communications plan and goals. The director will also provide editing and guidance when needed to elevate content originating outside of the office

Responsibilities

  • Writes, produces, and promotes science and technology stories for Columbia News, and promotes it via social media.
  • Develops and maintains a university-wide Columbia Research & Discovery news site, curating stories from around the university in science and engineering; collaborates with the Sites team to streamline Columbia-related science and research content, works with the Executive Director of Public Affairs to identify priority areas, content development ideas, and promotional strategies.
  • Edits and supervises a Science Communications Manager working on the Columbia Quantum Initiative.
  • Serves as a frontline media contact, fields incoming media requests, and helps facilitate faculty and staff interviews. Coordinates videography and photography by news outlets and by in-house teams.
  • Develops public relations initiatives and communication plans on behalf of Columbia’s schools, centers, departments, and programs consistent with the university’s/school and department’s strategic priorities.
  • Collaborates with public affairs colleagues from across the university as well as deans, department chairs, administrators, and faculty members to proactively develop strategic long­term communications plans.
  • Organizes supporting materials such as social media kits, background memos, talking points, and Q&As. Develops and updates media lists and performs related tasks as required.
  • Attends selected university events, conducts media check-in, and monitors media as needed. Occasionally, these events take place in the evenings and on weekends.
  • Contributes ideas and engages with colleagues to improve and strengthen the office’s professional environment. Works closely with public affairs teammates to support media outreach campaigns that enhance the university’s visibility.
  • Helps produce and execute social media strategy in support of science and technology initiatives.

Minimum Qualifications

Bachelor's degree is required and at least seven years of journalism and/or progressive public relations experience. A knowledge of science is a must, as are strong verbal, writing, and editing skills and computer skills (Word, email, Internet, social media, etc.).

Successful Directors of Science and Technology Communications are fast writers with a careful attention to detail. To thrive the individual possesses the ability to accurately translate specialized, technical, and academic jargon into lay language for general audiences. Other helpful attributes include an organized work ethic, a sense of calm under pressure, a belief in team spirit, respect for deadlines, and ability to multitask. Successful directors have excellent phone, interpersonal, and social media skills.

An advanced degree and foreign language abilities are welcomed. Experience with video and media-related services and software – Drupal, EurekAlert, Meltwater, SalesForce, Sprout, Muck Rack, Excel, Photoshop – is a plus.

Other Requirements

  • Demonstrated ability to master complex scientific concepts and put them in context for lay readers.
  • Skilled translator of technical jargon into language suitable for the general public.
  • Sophisticated judgment about the relative newsworthiness of scientific developments and sensitivity to the broad political context framing science news.
  • Collaborative, energetic, supportive, and enthusiastic work style.
  • Strong writing and verbal communications skills.