What we do
The Science Media Centre is first and foremost a press office for science when science hits the headlines. We provide journalists with what they need in the form and time-frame they need it when science is in the news - whether this be accurate information, a scientist to interview or a feature article.
In between these big stories, we are busy building up our database of contacts on the areas of science most likely to feature in the news. This allows us to be pro-active and puts us in a position to facilitate more scientists to engage with the media when their subjects hit the headlines.
We also run a series of longer term activities to improve the interaction between science and media, such as advice guides for scientists talking to the media, background briefings for journalists and 'Science in a Nutshell' cheat sheets for newsdesks.
Our aim is to ensure that when a major science story breaks, we can quickly offer news desks a list of scientists available to comment, a summary of the main scientific points involved and details of which press officers or web sites to go to for further information. The feedback from journalists has been very positive.
The centres hold regular media briefings on a wide variety of subjects. The broad aim of these briefings is to improve the coverage of science in the media by providing journalists with access to leading scientists and scientific information. All the topics for briefings emerge from discussions with both the scientific community and journalists. Many are based on issues which scientists fear may be subjects of sensational or inaccurate reporting.
Support for Scientists
As well as general advice and support to scientists willing to do media work, the centres runs formal media training with a focus on particular subjects which we know will hit the headlines.
The Centre has also worked with scientists and journalists to produce a series of Good Practice Guides aimed at providing advice on how to explain more about the way science works in the course of a brief news interview. These guides cover topics including risk, animal research, peer review and uncertainty in science.
Support to Newsdesks
Aside from being a first port of call for newsdesks when science hits the headlines, the Science Media Centre is also looking at ways to support non-specialists news reporters who are called on to cover complex science stories. We are publishing a series of guides specifically for news journalists to provide simple definitions of some of the complicated scientific terms frequently used by scientists. They will also direct journalists to the best places to go for further information when this subject hits the headlines. Our first Guide, Genetics in a Nutshell, is now available and has received endorsement from a wide range of journalists from The Sun to a number of regional papers.
Our ultimate goal is to facilitate more scientists to engage with the media, in the hope that the public will have improved access to accurate, evidence-based scientific information about the stories of the day.