Sense about Science ? equipping people to make sense of science and evidence
VoYS Workshop at The University of Manchester, 27th March 2015
Our first UK ‘Standing up for Science’ workshop of 2015 was held at the University of Manchester on Friday 27th March, and was open to early career researchers in all sciences, engineering and medicine.
A panel of three scientists started the day off by describing their personal experiences of working with journalists and the media, discussing where and why it had gone right or wrong. Matthew Cobb suggested preparing for interviews by writing down three basic points in clear, simple language and recommended that scientists should be proactive about contacting journalists when they have a story to tell. Susanne Shultz advised that patronising your audience was a big mistake, but that scientists should ‘keep it simple and keep it correct’. Gary Moss described how some areas of science are more likely to hit the news, and advised scientists to respond where they can, but to stay within their expertise.
After lunch, participants heard from two journalists, who described the deadline pressures they face, how they choose stories and what they are looking for from scientists. A lively discussion followed, with Victoria Gill advising scientists to always question journalists if they get it wrong, and Kevin Fitzpatrick recommending that scientists always think about the audience and highlight the most interesting bits of their research.
In the final session, the three panellists described the diverse opportunities for early career scientists to stand up for science. Jamie Brown described his role as a university press officer, and how scientists should use this great resource for advice and support. Joanne Thomas presented the Ask for Evidence campaign, which encourages scientists and members of the public to be critical and question the evidence behind claims. Claire Marriott, a scientist and VoYS member concluded the session by describing her involvement with VoYS projects, and how the VoYS network can be a great tool for networking.
Missed out on this event? Want to attend the next workshop? Does your organisation want to partner a workshop? Email Victoria.
Comments from participants:
- "Really great and very engaging. Probably the best training I’ve done since the beginning of my PhD"
- "I now feel more confident in my ability to discuss my research"
- "Great insight into what makes a story successful and how to engage with journalists"
- "It has helped me to understand what is out there and that it’s not me against the world"
- "It has definitely made me think about ways of getting involved and the importance of public engagement"
Fiona Tennant, a second year PhD student in physical chemistry at the University of Nottingham shared her thoughts about the workshop in a blog. Her blog aims to give people an insight into her thoughts and feeling on life as a PhD student, for both people involved in science and people who have no experience of academia at all.
Hannah Black, a PhD student in Cell Biology at the University of Glasgow (based at The University of York ) has described her experience of the workshop on the Biochemical Society's blog. Hannah's research focusses on protein trafficking - the events that control where and when molecules are moved around the cell.
Jack Goode, a final year PhD student at the University of Leeds has discussed his thoughts on the workshop. Jack is looking at ways to improve next generation diagnostics for affordable point of care devices for a range of diseases and illnesses. He has a background in physics and nanotechnology and is interested in science communication and evidence based policy.
Fabiana Luise is a third year PhD student in Stem Cell Biology at the University of Manchester. Since 2015, she has attended a High Specialization Training Course in Science Journalism and New Media with European Telematic Academy. In addition to collaborating with some online Italian magazines, Fabiana writes a blog about science and science-related events, where she has discussed this workshop.
Lisa Heaney is a neuroscientist at The University of Manchester investigating new treatments for schizophrenia. If she were to have some spare time, she would definitely do something interesting in it. Lisa has written up her experience of the media workshop on the University of Manchester STEPS blog.
With thanks to all our workshop partners:
Association for Clinical Biochemistry and Laboratory Medicine
Edge Hill University
Institute of Physics and Engineering in Medicine
Royal Pharmaceutical Society
Society for Applied Microbiology
Society for Endocrinology
Society for Experimental Biology
University of Cambridge, Graduate School of Life Sciences
University of Manchester
Top tip 1: Ask for Evidence. If you’re being sold a product or asked to believe a claim then you deserve to know whether it’s based on evidence – or imagination.
Top tip 2: Detox. It’s a marketing myth – our body does it without pricey potions and detox diets.
Top tip 3: Superfood. There is no such thing, just foods that are high in some nutrients.
Top tip 4: Cleansing. You shouldn’t be trying to cleanse anything other than your skin or hair.
Top tip 5: If it sounds too good to be true… it probably is.