On the 13th June 2014 I attended a Standing up for Science media workshop, run by Sense about Science/Voice of Young Science http://www.senseaboutscience.org/pages/upcoming-standing-up-for-science-media-workshops-.html. I had been to a Science Media Centre event previously and expected something similar, a collection of lectures from leading scientists and journalists heavy with helpful tips. However this was not what I encountered, Sense about Science generated a unique event through the use of a panel and a lot of audience led questions and group work. This setup worked well and allowed a more organic debate to develop.
The group of senior scientists (Dr Tom Crick, Prof Stephen Keevil and Dr Maria van Kerkhove) were engaging and got across their points about how to interact with the media through personal anecdotes. The overall message being have 3 key points that you want to get across and don’t get distracted from them. During the audience participation session the scientists were reassuring and encouraging about peoples worries about interacting with the media.
As despite all being young scientists it is still our responsibility to communicate our publicly funded research to the public and in some cases we are the better choice than our supervisors as we are pretty expert in our own areas and are less likely to use phrases heavy in jargon.
During the breaks in sessions group work was set which allowed the chance to network in a relaxed manner and talk about current issues in science reporting and the perceived barriers that prevent us from engaging with the media currently.
The next session was run by Science Journalists (Deborah Cohen, Claire Coleman and Richard Van Noorden). This showed the other side of the story and how journalists want to report correct but condensed science, however deadlines and headlines can be problematic.
The final session consisted of people involved in Sense about Science, Voice of Young Science and also had input from a press officer (Victoria Murphy, Rhys Phillips and Gail Wilson). This session hammered home the messages that had been given previously and demonstrated that it was possible to get involved! For example the Ask for Evidence Campaign http://www.senseaboutscience.org/pages/a4e.html is the perfect way to get started and stand up for science. Also the importance of letting your Press Office know when you are releasing a paper so that this research can find its way along to the media was emphasized. Additionally more modern ways of communicating research such as twitter and blogging were discussed.
It was a great day and nice to be around people that are passionate about communicating science, I would recommend PhD students attend any future workshops as even if you don’t plan to use the tips about communicating with the media now it may help in your future career.