This is a guest post by Kirsty Ratanji
The University of Manchester recently hosted a Standing up for Science media workshop, run by the charity Sense about Science. As part of their Voice of Young Science programme (VoYS), they run 4 workshops every year to encourage early career researchers (ECRs) to get involved in communicating science to the public and to challenge misconceptions about how the media report science. As an ECR in the life sciences I was interested in attending this workshop to understand the process of presenting science in the media, and how journalists work with scientists to report stories. The workshop also offered guidance on how to effectively communicate science and the various avenues that are available for ECRs to do this.
The day was split into three sessions, with panellists from both scientific and media backgrounds. In the first session – ‘Science and the media’ – a panel of scientists presented their experiences of communicating science in the media, and provided key tips on how to utilise media opportunities in the best way. Prof. Matthew Cobb from the University of Manchester spoke about various radio interviews (good and bad!) that he had been a part of, and Prof. Mark Lorch from the University of Hull shared how blogging can be used to engage the public with science in the written form.
I found the second session ‘What journalists are looking for’ particularly interesting. Here we heard from two journalists: Vic Gill -a science journalist from the BBC, and Akshat Rathi the science and health reporter from Quartz. This panel session provided an insight into how journalists pick a science story and make it suitable for public consumption. It emphasised the need for scientists to make themselves available to interact with journalists so that a science story can be reported as accurately as possible, and ensure that the published article is scientifically sound. It was also noted that journalists work to tight deadlines, so need a quick response if they request information from scientists, and that although journalists write the original article the editor can still alter it or change the headline.
The final session was focussed on standing up for science, and gave attendees the chance to discuss concerns and obstacles that might be faced by ECRs when communicating science. Chris Peters from Sense about Science touched upon the Ask for Evidence campaign, which encourages scientists and members of the public to request evidence behind scientific claims that appear in policies, adverts or on products. Hayley Gorton, a VoYS member encouraged ECRs to get involved with science communication and spoke about the opportunities to do this, such as Pint of Science, Famelab, speaking at conferences, science outreach events, and through membership of societies.