Science & The Media

8 11 2009

The last couple of weeks seem to have turned into a media fortnight, providing me with a tentative insight into science and the media. I’ve also heard from several talented experts actively involved in public engagement and science communication. So I thought I might get blogging.

This week I’ve been zipping up and down the country attending two workshops. The first was a course run by the BBSRC, the research council who fund my PhD, aimed at equipping scientists with the skills needed when we interact with the media. The second was a workshop run by Sense About Science, discussing a while host of issues that early career researchers come across when standing up for science.

Photo: Norrie RussellLast week (and yes, this is a shameless plug of my very first first-author paper!), myself and my supervisor Ross Fitzgerald were lucky enough to get some media interest in our scientific discoveries. Our paper came out in Proceedings of The National Academy of Sciences, and was picked up by a few newspaper and radio journalists. I was also delighted to find that Ed Yong wrote a piece on his Not Exactly Rocket Science blog. My Mum even read his blog entry and now finally understands what I’ve been doing for the past 3 years – proof of his skills in Science Communication, I’m sure you’ll agree.

Photo credit: Norrie Russell

I thought I might put together a list of top tips, summing up the recurring themes that have emerged over the last two weeks.

  • Find your hook. Whether you’re talking about your research to a journalist or communicating science to a lay audience, package it as a complete story, starting with an engaging sentence or two summarising the results.
  • Remember that journalists are under completely different pressures and schedules to those in the world of research. They think in hours and days, not weeks and months.
  • Pay attention to your Press Release. This should contain everything that media folk need to know. Make the most of your Press Office as they have exactly the skills needed to get this right.
  • Be proactive. Approach your Press Office if you have an interesting paper coming out. Alternatively, offer journalists your services as an expert happy to comment on developments in your field. If you are passionate about a scientific issue, get out there and take part in the debate

Useful links

Science & The Media:

Sense About Science

BBSRC Media, News & Events

The Science Media Centre

The British Science Assocation – Why work with the media?

The Royal Society – Scientists & The Media

University of Edinburgh Press Office

To find out more about my research:

News on the University of Edinburgh Website

BBC News

The Times

Ed Yong ‘Not Exactly Rocket Science’

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