What does Britain’s Science Media Centre (SMC) think of social media for science communication?

smcMost people working with science communication will probably have heard about Britain’s Science Media Centre (SMC) and perhaps also about its front woman Fiona Fox. In case you’ve never heard of it or can’t really remember what it is about the scientific journal ‘Nature’ recently published a news feature on SMC and Fiona Fox which gives a good overview of the centre, its concept and the critic it faces.

Science Media Centre (SMC) is an independent press office that works to get scientific voices into media coverage and policy debates. By doing so the aim is to improve the accuracy with which science is presented to the public. The Centre works with:

  • journalists by providing them with information about science and its related disciplines; and putting them in contact with relevant scientists
  • scientists, engineers and other experts by supporting them in engaging with the media and by creating more opportunities for them to get their voices.
  • Press officers by supporting them when they are working on complex science, health and environment stories.

In addition, the SMC provides expert advice and evidence on issues relating to science in the media.

I won’t repeat the background or work of SMC further on this blog but instead refer to the Nature article or their Science Media Centre website. 

Social media and SMC?

Reading the Nature article with the interview with Fiona Fox and looking at SMC’s website it strikes me how reflections on the use of social media for science communication seems completely absent. It is not mentioned once in the article and on the website they link to their own Twitter account and Fiona Fox’s blog, but other than that there is no reference to social media as a tool or as medium for science communication.

Even in their Top tips for media work to help scientists to work with the media social media is not mentioned with a word, despite the fact that social media provides an excellent opportunity for scientists to communicate their research. Neither is it mentioned in their 10 best practice guidelines for reporting science & health stories. Of course these two guidelines are meant to be a tool on how to prepare for meeting the scientist/journalist and interpret correctly what information they are looking for or sit with, but none the less social media is only growing in influence also among scientists, so advice on checking out if the researcher is blogging about his or her field or using other social media could be worth including. As could advice to scientists on using social media to communicate themselves and use this communication channel as a resource to guide journalists too.

In the Nature article, Fiona Fox says that the part of her job in which she takes the most pride, is convincing once-timid scientists to join the SMC database and speak out. “A real triumph for us is getting a scientist who has worked for 30 years on a really controversial issue and has never spoken to the media,” she says. I wonder if she also encourages them to take communication into their own hands and start communicating through social media as well or if she mainly thinks of them talking to journalists who then do the communication or sign up on the SMC scientist roster….. All in all, I guess I’m quite unclear about what SMC and Fiona Fox thinks of social media for science communication.


Exploring science communication in… Heidelberg, Germany

When I moved to Bonn, Germany six months ago it was with great ambitions of exploring the German (Public Health) science communication community. Somehow time flew by and different job opportunities, unexpected travels, practicalities and even sickness kept me from getting started on my exploring.

But last week, into my inbox dropped an email with an update from one of the LinkedIn groups I follow (it’s called Science Communication). The headline was Career Day in Heidelberg: Science Communication and Journalism. After orienting myself on a map and finding Heidelberg to be only two hours train ride from Bonn, I decided to sign up for the day.

heidelbergposterThe Career day is organised by Heidelberg University Graduate School (HBIGS) and German Cancer Research Center (DKFZ). It’s a one-day event organised as a seminar with presentations and panel discussions and then an opportunity to have a round table lunch with one of the speakers for a more informal chat. I have signed up for lunch with Dr. Monika Mölders, who is working for the medical company Roche.

As I understand it, the presenters are mainly scientists whom have gone on to become professional communicators. Some work at Press and Public Relations Offices others work with Corporate Communication at companies and others are science journalists.

Practically all the names on programme are new to me, so I look forward to meeting them and hopefully get into the German Science Communication community. Coming to science communication from a public health perspective it is also great to see that there is a good representation of people from health related organisations (perhaps not so surprising now that one of organisers is the German Cancer Research Center (DKFZ)).

Should you want to join, but is not at as easy distance to Heidelberg as I happen to be then they give you the option of “receiving information without attending”. Am not sure what that means, but if you go to the registration page you can check this option at the bottom of the page and see what happens.