Last week was my first opportunity to wade into the murky depths of science communication in the media. I was all excited as I boarded my train to Manchester, where the workshop ‘Standing up for Science’ was being hosted by the University. I knew it was billed for early career researchers, but to be honest I didn’t really know what to expect from the day.
The ‘workshop’ was run as a panel and Q&A, allowing the 40 or so participants to ask anything an everything to the varied panelists.
Following my vast experience of communicating science (does explaining to my dad count?…) I felt a little out of place when we began. I needn’t have worried.
There were three sessions on related topics that really seemed to engage the participants – myself included. Questions included anything and everything from how do you speak to religious belief and communicate your own views, to what to do if a journalist twists your words. I think the panel on ‘What are journalists looking for?’ was perhaps the most interesting; I’ve never considered this before, but David Derbyshire (Freelance) and Victoria Gill (BBC) made the topic very accessible.
Though there were obviously hours of chat, some key points came up over and over again;
- Use twitter. It may only be accessed by 18-35 year olds, but it is still massively important and arguably essential to your visibility.
- ‘We don’t know’: the mantra of every scientists. Don’t be ashamed to admit it.
- You can really make a difference by contacting the paper/author/journalist/blogger. You may think you’re only one person, but that’s how it starts!
So having spent the the day ‘networking’, listening, avidly note-taking (and drinking) I left the workshop with a thousand ideas running round my head. The speakers and organisers were all insightful, enthusiastic professionals with an incredible resource of experience that they couldn’t wait to share with us. Having had a few days to look back on the experience, I can truly say that I’m very glad I went.
Watch this space; hopefully I’ll be able to put all those hints, tricks and tips into practice soon.Voice of Young Science (part of Sense about Science) is an organisation that is fighting to give members of the public, researchers, government bodies the skills to engage with science in the media.