Sense About Science media workshops for IPEM members

SENSE About Science is a charity which challenges the misrepresentation of science and evidence in public life.

It helps early career scientists to do this by running a series of media workshops throughout the year as part of its Voice of Young Science network.

These workshops help young, early career scientists to make their voice heard in public debates about science, and are also a chance to meet with respected science journalists about how the media works.

As a supporter of Sense About Science, the Institute of Physics and Engineering in Medicine is able to offer free places to IPEM members on the media workshops. Two IPEM members have shared their views on what they gained from attending the most recent workshops in Glasgow and London.

Rhiannon Grant is a final year PhD student at the Institute for Bioengineering at the University of Edinburgh.

‘I signed up for the workshop at the University of Glasgow because I work in a field that generates a lot of media attention; tissue engineering. With research funding becoming more and more competitive, I was hoping for some insight on how to publicise my research in a beneficial way.

‘The workshop started with a very open and friendly panel discussion on the changing image and role of science and scientists in the public domain. Dr Sinead Rhodes discussed her experiences with us, providing some excellent pointers on how to deal with ‘sticky’ subject matter; as can often be the case in life science research. She also introduced us to Research the Headlines, a blog which provides a positive way of tackling inaccuracy about science in the media. Professor Miles Padgett gave some excellent examples of his interactions with the media, and reassured us all that ‘the media’ weren’t anything to be afraid of!

‘We took part in a panel discussion with three journalists; Helen McArdle, of the Herald, Lizzy Buchan, of the Scotsman, and freelancer Peter Ranscombe  I found this session very helpful. I have never had the opportunity to view science from a journalist’s point of view; considering what makes a good story and how to captivate a very large audience with my research.

‘Overall I found the day very informative and came away with more of an idea of how to publicise research results.’

Matthieu Ruthven completed the Scientist Training Programme in September 2016 and now works as a medical physicist at Barts Health NHS Trust in London.

‘How can scientists increase the likelihood that their research is accurately reported by the media? Being an early career medical physicist involved in research, this question intrigued me and a desire to find answers to it led me to attend the media workshop in London.

‘There were three panel discussions each followed by a question and answer session. The panellists included a press officer, journalists from the BBC and the Times, and scientists working in hospitals, universities and research centres. It was very informative and I would highly recommend it to other early career researchers. It was fascinating to learn how journalists choose which scientific studies to report on, and how they get the information.

‘In summary, the workshop provided me with a better understanding of how science journalism works and encouraged me to talk to journalists about my research when the opportunity arises. It also provided answers to my initial question: scientists can increase the likelihood that their research is accurately reported by:

  • Being available to talk about their research. Scientists are most likely to be contacted by journalists immediately after publishing new research, so should be easily contactable during this period.
  • Communicating in a way that is understandable to everyone. This usually requires scientists to describe the most important aspects of their research simply, clearly and without using jargon. Scientists should also explain how their research could benefit others.
  • Using their press office as they can help scientists to prepare for media interviews and give useful advice about how to talk to journalists.

‘For me, the most important take-home message from the workshop was that communication between scientists and journalists is usually beneficial to both so should be encouraged.’

The next media workshop takes place on Friday 7 April at the University of Manchester and you can find out more and apply here. The closing date to apply is Tuesday 21 March.

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Posted: Feb 9, 2017,
Categories: IPEM News,
Comments: 0,
Author: Sean Edmunds
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