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Making evidence make news

Posted by on December 4, 2013

In advance of the Society of Biology’s Introduction to the media course, press officer Rebecca Nesbit looks at the role of scientists in the media.

‘Making evidence make news’ is the tagline of the new Education Media Centre, which opened in London this week. This struck me as exactly what the scientific community as a whole would like to achieve with their media relations, and I am pleased the education community is also being proactive about achieving this.

The Education Media Centre (EMC) connects researchers with national journalists in response to media enquiries, and invites journalists to media briefings with researchers on topical issues. It is based on the successful model of the Science Media Centre.

The Science Media Centre was founded in 2002 with the philosophy: “The media will DO science better when scientists DO the media better.”

Indeed, when science is mis-communicated the media often get the blame, and this could be a discouragement for scientists who might otherwise consider speaking out. But do the media get too much criticism? This topic is explored in the latest podcast from our Member Organisation the Society for Applied Microbiology. Nancy Mendoza, who worked for the Science Media Centre when concern about the MMR vaccine was at its height, asks how the research community could have acted differently. It’s well worth a listen.

Recent measles outbreaks linked to low MMR vaccine rates are one demonstration of why scientists should engage with the media. This can be daunting, but help is available and contacting your organisation’s press officer can be a good first step.

If you are a scientist of any description interested in communicating your research, training courses offered by the Society of Biology include ‘Introduction to the media’ and ‘Writing for a non-technical audience’. I’m also very happy to hear from scientists who have ideas for guest posts on this blog and Tom Ireland, managing editor of The Biologist and a tutor on the courses, is happy to hear from people with article ideas. For researchers, I can also recommend contacting the EMC or SMC.

One Response to Making evidence make news

  1. Kevin Shi

    A major issue is that the skills that often make a great scientist don’t always make a great communicator, especially to people who are unfamiliar with the topic. I think this opens up many jobs for science communicators (scientists with exceptional communication skills) to bring science to a wider audience in an accessible, engaging and interesting manner. However, that’s only one side of the coin. I worry about the media injecting their private agendas into their reporting of science stories. Perhaps what the scientific community needs are more non-profit, publicly funded media outlets.