Speaking Up and Out for Science

Apr 03 2016 Published by under EB2016

The American Physiological Society Communications Committee sponsors a workshop at Experimental Biology every year to aid members on getting our messages out to the lay public. On Saturday, April 2, a panel discussed writing for local and national news outlets.

From the program:

Be a Champion for Science in the Media—The Communications Committee Symposium Will Show You How

We’ve all seen examples of science misrepresented in the media. Scientifically inaccurate news can quickly go viral, turning misunderstood concepts into widely accepted beliefs that can influence public support for and trust in research. The Communications Committee symposium “Setting the Record Straight for Science: How to Write to Local and National News Outlets” addresses the why, when and how of responding to scientific inaccuracies in the media. We’ll look at examples of scientific misinterpretation and discuss how researchers can be champions for science by crafting media-ready materials such as op-eds and letters to the editor. Join us on Saturday, April 2, from 3 to 5 p.m. in SDCC Room 25C.

The panel discussion started with Bill Yates, a professor otolaryngology and neuroscience at the University of Pittsburgh. He discussed his advocacy for Class B animal use in research over several years. His congressional representative, Mike Doyle, sponsored the legislation in question and wrote an inflammatory and inaccurate editorial for The Hill, a congressional news outlet. He wrote a piece demonstrating the inaccuracies that was published a week later. Over many subsequent contacts with Representative Doyle,Yates managed to delay the dissolution of class B animal dealers until an NIH approved alternative became available.

The following speaker, Bruce Lieberman, writes and edits science as a freelancer. He spoke to the contraction of the media in recent years, along with the demise of dedicated science writers and editors. Mario Aguilera is Interim Director of Communications at Scripps Institution of Oceanography. He provides the bridge between scientists and journalists for his institution. Both of these speakers emphasized the importance of knowing who you talk to in the press. Your biggest help will be your institutional communication and publicity office. They can tell you about local media outlets and who can help spread your story.

Things to remember, whether you are talking about your own science or something covered poorly:

  • What is your message? Should be short, sweet, and meaningful
  • What scientists consider significant may not be newsworthy for the general public
  • Provide contact information
  • Images and video can make or break a story, but make sure they are high resolution
  • Is there a “wow factor”?
  • Nothing is ever off the record - even if it happens in casual conversation before the "official" interview

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