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Communicating Science

   
   
   
   

 



Communicating Science to the Media


 

Working with the Media: Basic Information & Guidelines
 

Working with the Media - General Guidelines:

 

National Association of Science Writers (NASW): “Communicating Science News: A Guide for Public Information Officers, Scientists and Physicians” –NASW drafted this guide to help scientists, physicians and Press Officers understand the needs, strengths and weaknesses of the different types of media sources that they will encounter when attempting to communicate about science to the general public.

Sense About Science: “Standing Up for Science: A Guide to the Media for Early Career Scientists” (PDF) – This online resource serves as a useful and informal guide that explains the inner workings of the media, and provides practical tips and ideas for easy ways that early career scientists can get involved. The guide is produced by Sense About Science, an independent UK charitable trust that promotes the use of accurate and unbiased scientific evidence in public debates.

  • Biologist: “Science Needs Your Voice!” (Oct. 2006) (PDF) – This article describes the importance of clearly and accurately communicating with the media about scientific research discoveries; particularly in light of the fact that, “The public get over 80% of scientific information from the press, [and] lapses in communication lead to public confusion.”

  • “‘I Don’t Know What to Believe’: Making Sense of Science Stories” (PDF) –This leaflet explains how scientists present and judge research, and how the public understands and questions the scientific information that is presented to them.

Sound Science Initiative (SSI): “Communicating with the Media” – The SSI Web site features a series of tips, tools and other educational materials to help researchers “bridge the gap” when communicating about science with the media, and to ensure that rigorous scientific analysis is covered effectively in the press. The following resources offer particularly helpful explanations of media relations basics for scientists:

Social Issues Resource Centre (SIRC): “Guidelines on Science and Health Communication” – This resource from SIRC, a non-profit organization based in the U.K., contains detailed guidelines and preparation checklists to help scientists and journalists understand how to effectively communicate research results in interviews, and how to report this complex scientific information to the general public.

American Psychological Association (APA): “How to Work with the Media” – Although this guide was created as an educational tool for psychologists, it features a wealth of general information on working with the media that is relevant to all scientists, researchers and clinicians. The APA guide provides a brief tip sheet on media relations basics; as well as information about being a spokesperson, the media interview process, and where to find further media training resources.

American Geophysical Union (AGU): “You and the Media: A Researcher’s Guide for Dealing Successfully with the News Media” (PDF) – The AGU Public Information Committee drafted this comprehensive guide to inform scientists about the basics of media relations and the media interview process. The guide also features several “practical application” sections to help scientists understand the basic communication skills that they must use when discussing research results and other scientific information with reporters.

Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting (FAIR): “How to Communicate with Journalists” – The FAIR Web site features simple tips for individuals who have had little or no experience dealing with the media. The information featured in this resource is intended to help the media relations novice learn how to clearly communicate with journalists to prevent biased or inaccurate news coverage.

Center for Community Change (CCC): “How to Tell and Sell Your Story” – Although this resource was intended to be a guide to the media for community and non-profit groups, it contains a wealth of information that scientists will find helpful and relevant to them, including a detailed section with “lessons about media and communications.”

South African Agency for Science and Technology Advancement (SAASTA): “Science Communication” – SAASTA strategically develops and implements new science communication initiatives in response to national challenges and needs relevant to the field. The SAASTA Web site includes a portfolio of existing science communication initiatives and their corresponding resources of interest to scientists.

  • “About Science Communication” – This resource answers the questions, “What is science communication?” and, “What does it try to achieve?”

  • “How Do I Become ‘Media Savvy’?” (PDF) – The mass media has become the only source of scientific information for the majority of the population. Thus, this resource explains why it is necessary for scientists to communicate with the media about their research, and it also provides strategies for dealing with the media.

  • “Media Skills for Scientists” (PDF) – The only form of communication which reaches every part of society is the general media, and a well-planned communication strategy must take this into account.



Working with the Media - Tactical Skills Tips & Tools:
 

ESRC Society Today: “Communications Toolkit” – The media relations section of the ESRC’s Toolkit covers a wide range of aspects related to reactive and proactive media relations - from handling a press inquiry, to placing feature stories and undertaking a media campaign. This section also includes practical tips on building relationships with national, trade and broadcast journalists.

  • “Top Ten Media Relations Tips”

  • Pocket Guide (PDF): “Top Tips: Always Be Prepared” / “Handling a Media Inquiry: Questions to Ask the Journalist”

Fenton Communications: “Tips & Tactics” Fact Sheet Series – This series of three fact sheets (see below) provides tips on how to conduct a successful media interview with news, TV and radio reporters.

  • Print Interview Tips (PDF)

  • TV Interview Tips (PDF)

  • Radio Interview Tips (PDF)

The University of Arizona: “Media Interview Guide” (PDF) – This guide offers tips to assist the novice media spokesperson in developing and presenting an accurate, informative message to the public. It also features simple tips on how to make every media interview a professional, productive encounter for both you and the reporter.

Green Media Toolshed: “Messages for the Media” – This resource provides the necessary information, tips and tools to help scientists and advocates learn how to develop effective messages for the media.

Econnect – This group seeks to change the way people think and act about science communication. The “Econnect Quick Tips” offers tips for message design, difficult interviews, presentations, etc.
 



Working with the Media - Communicating about Science:

 

Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology (FASEB): “Communicating Science” – FASEB’s Web site includes links to online resources for scientists that offer tips and advice on how to effectively communicate about science to the media, the general public, politicians and teachers/students.

U.K. Science Media Centre: “How Science Works” Leaflets – This series of printable information sheets lists effective ways of talking about scientific research information within the context of a media interview.

  • “Top Tips for Media Work” (PDF) – This leaflet is designed to serve as a useful guide for scientists embarking on media work for the first time.

  • “Communicating Risk in a Soundbite” (PDF) – This leaflet serves as a guide for scientists, doctors and researchers who are preparing for a broadcast interview. It gives examples of effective ways to accurately explain (and answer questions about) safety and risk information in media interviews.

National Association of Science Writers (NASW): “Communicating Science News: Some Pitfalls in Reporting Science News” – In their guide to “Communicating Science News,” the NASW outlined some of the challenges that scientists and reporters will encounter when attempting to communicate about science to the general public. The guide addresses the following issues that sometimes generate misunderstanding and tension:

Advancing Science, Serving Society (AAAS): “Communicating Science: Tools for Scientists and Engineers” – This comprehensive resource provides a wealth of information for scientists on a range of related topics, which have been organized into the following five sections: “Communication Basics,” “Working with Reporters,” “Public Outreach,” “Using Multimedia,” and a list of links to “Other Resources.”

SciDevNet: “e-Guide to Science Communication” – SciDevNet's online guide to science communication provides an invaluable 'one-stop shop' for helpful information for scientists and science writers. This organization’s Web site also provides a series of tip sheets for scientists and the media on how to effectively communicate about science topics and issues:

  • Tips for SCIENTISTS – This section provides guidance to scientists on how to handle the media, both in terms of providing news stories and responding to requests from journalists; this section also includes a helpful guide with practical advice on “Becoming Media Savvy.

U.K. Social Issues Research Centre (SIRC) & the Amsterdam School of Communications Research (SCoR): “Guidelines for Scientists Communicating with the Media” – The SIRC and SCoR developed this guide as part of the EU-funded MESSENGER project, an initiative that aims to encourage effective public engagement and dialogue on science and research. This resource provides a clear set of guidelines (written in an informal Q&A format) for scientists to follow when communicating research and scientific advice through the mass media.

 

European Commission (EC): “Science Communication: A Scientists’ Survival Kit” (PDF) – This guide by scholar and independent science writer Giovanni Carrada provides in-depth information for researchers on communicating science to the media.
 



Journal Articles on Genetics Coverage in the Media:
 

How Geneticists Can Help Reporters Get Their Story Right
Nature Review Genetics - Oct 2007
This article by Communications scholar Celeste Condit describes the role of the media and scientists in communicating information about scientific advances in genetics to the general public; Condit also provides strategies for minimizing inaccurate and inappropriate coverage of scientific research results and/or basic concepts in human genetics (such as genetic determinism).

Do the Print Media “Hype” Genetic Research?
Canadian Medical Association Journal (CMAJ) - Apr 27, 2004

Science Reporting to the Public: Does the Message Get Twisted?
Canadian Medical Association Journal (CMAJ) - Apr 27, 2004

Uses of Expertise: Sources, Quotes, and Voice in the Reporting of Genetics in the News
Public Understanding of Science - 1999

Genome Studies: Genetics by Numbers
Nature - Jan 31, 2008
Genomewide association studies are starting to turn up increasingly reliable disease markers. Monya Baker investigates where we are now and what comes next, and she describes how scientists and the media are communicating information about this research to the public.

Bias in Reporting of Genetic Association Studies
PLoS Medicine - Dec 2005
 


 

Media Training Resources for Scientists:

 

Nature EMBO Reports: “It's Good to Talk” (2002) – This article from EMBO Reports stresses the importance of media training workshops for scientists; the authors claim that basic training in media relations skills is essential because it helps break down the barriers between scientists and journalists.

T.J. Walker: “Media Training and Presentation Skills Development Online Resource Center” – The T.J. Walker media training Web site features Real Player audio clips to help speakers become better prepared for a live media interview.

Natural Sciences & Engineering Resource Council of Canada (NSERC): “Communicating Science to the Public: A Handbook for Researchers” – The NSERC drafted a useful guide for researchers that is designed to help scientists learn basic information about media relations and interviews. It includes explanations of the fundamental principles of effective communication, as well as a list of “Practical Activities You Can Try” to help you practice and improve your communication skills.

Council of Science Editors: “Teaching Key Groups to Communicate Science to Nonspecialists” (1997) – This article from the Council’s CBE Views publication explains various ways that scientists and journalists can increase their science communication skills when reporting complex information to the general public. This guide also provides suggestions for a number of different tools and approaches that can be applied in learning and/or teaching science writing skills.

The Cochrane Collaboration: “Tips for Creating and Using Effective PowerPoint Presentations” – This resource provides simple tips for creating a successful PowerPoint presentation, including guidelines for text and graphics, and recommendations for proper organization and order of slides.
 


 

Op-Ed & Editorial Writing Resources for Scientists:
 

The Communications Consortium Media Center (CCMC): “Op-Eds: Framing the Debate” – The CCMC, a public interest media center dedicated to helping nonprofit groups use media and new technologies as tools for change, created this PDF guide for organizations and individuals who want to get their opinion or point of view on an issue published in local or national newspapers.

  • “How to Write an Op-Ed or Editorial” – The CCMC Web site provides additional advice about these two types of media tactics, and tips for steps that you can take to increase the odds of getting your viewpoint published.

Sound Science Initiative (SSI): “Communicating with the Media” – The SSI Web site features a series of tip sheets to help scientists learn simple and effective ways that they can “leverage the media” to get their messages across to the general public, politicians, research advocacy groups and other key stakeholders. The following resources offer particularly helpful examples and step-by-step explanations of three basic strategies scientists can use to leverage the media’s powerful reach:

 

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