The hidden side of clinical trials

Watch the AllTrials TEDx talk on YouTube

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Evidence matters to the public

Join us on 1st November at Parliament to make the case

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Plant Science Panel

Insecticides, biofuels, GMOs …

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'The Ugly Truth'

by Tracey Brown, director of Sense About Science

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VoYS Standing up for Science workshop, University of Cologne

On Friday 19th February 2016, Sense About Science ran a Standing up for Science workshop at the Crossroads in Biology Conference at the University of Cologne. 

Read about other past workshops.

Cologne workshop

The day began with three scientists sharing their experiences of talking to the public and the media about their research. Miriam Peters described attending a conference for both patients and researchers on spinal muscular atrophy, where she spoke directly to patients about her research as well as reporting on the research discussed for a patient newsletter. She described the challenges she faced making the research accessible, but also how beneficial it was to speak directly with patients and to hear their ideas, and how it really reminded her of why she went into science. Janine Milbradt then recounted a time her research was covered widely in the press with various degrees of inaccuracy and errors. From this, she learnt just how important it is for journalists to speak to the scientists involved in the day-day research, not just the senior scientist in the lab. Dr Dennis Fink then shared his positive experiences of talking about his research through the public engagement initiatives, FameLab and Science Slams. He also described when his research was misrepresented in a TV documentary, and emphasised how important it is for scientists to be involved in the process of making science accessible. He shared tips on how to get involved in social media as well as his key message: to take any opportunity to talk about your research, even talking to your family - it’s all good practice.

Cologne workshop

In a short break, participants discussed what is good and bad about the way the media report science. This discussion led into an engaging second session where three journalists described exactly what it is they are looking for. Joachim Müller-Jung from the national newspaper Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung presented a snapshot into a day in the life of a journalist: the pressures and deadlines they face, and how digital media has changed the media landscape. Henrike Wiemker, a freelance journalist then described the benefits and challenges of writing for a monthly magazine like Natur, how she finds stories and the differences between print and broadcast media. Sarah Brasack an editor at the local Cologne paper, the Kölner Stadt-Anzeiger, described why and how she selects stories, the scientific topics a local paper might be particularly interested in, and why scientists shouldn’t be afraid of proactively approaching journalists with their story.

Cologne workshop

In a second short break, attendees discussed the particular obstacles that early career researchers face when speaking about their research. Time, inexperience and a lack of platforms to do so were all mentioned as issues preventing these scientists from speaking out. To address these, Joanne Thomas and Chris Peters from Sense About Science described several ways that early career researchers can get involved in standing up for science straight away: through joining the VoYS network, taking part in VoYS campaigns and Sense About Science projects, and getting involved in the Ask for Evidence campaign. The overall message from the workshop was not to wait until later in your career to stand up for science.

More photos from the day are available on Facebook.


If you want to attend a future workshop, or are part of an organisation that would like to partner a Standing up for Science event, please email Joanne at jthomas[at]

VoYS pinboard

  • 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.

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