March 19, 2015, by Lindsay Brooke
Want to experience life as a science journalist?
Would you like to discover, first hand, what it’s like to work as a science journalist on a national newspaper, a television news desk or Nature News? How you like to send up to six weeks embedded with a national news organisation or programme making team?
This year, for the first time, The University of Nottingham is funding a place for one of the institution’s practising scientists to participate in the British Science Association (BSA) Science Media Fellowship scheme. The Media Relations team will put together a shortlist of applications and the successful application will be chosen by the BSA.
Every year the British Science Association (BSA) Media Fellowships provide a unique opportunity for practising scientists, clinicians and engineers to spend four to six weeks working at the heart of a media outlet such as the Guardian, the BBC or the Times. Fellows are mentored by professional journalists and learn how the media operates and reports on science, how to communicate with the media and to engage the wider public with science through the media.
In 2012 Jonathan Ball, Professor of Molecular Virology at The University of Nottingham, participated in the Media Fellowship scheme, since then he has been interviewed by media organisations across the world – over the last few months he has been interviewed and quoted extensively as the Ebola crisis developed. Recently he spoke at a media workshop for fellow academics on his journey from ‘Media sceptic to Believer’.
Interested? Be quick – applications close on the 3 April.
The Media Fellowship scheme is the only one of its kind in the UK and aims to give academics the confidence and willingness to engage with the media and tackle issues of mistrust and misrepresentation and to give journalists access to new scientific expertise.
The scheme, which has been run by the BSA since 1987, reflects the association’s commitment to increasing the accessibility of the sciences and providing opportunities for discussion and debate.
After their media placement Fellows attend the British Science Festival in September, which provides an opportunity to gain valuable experience working alongside a range of media organisations from all over the UK in our dedicated Press Centre. The Festival also offers opportunities to learn from a wide range of public engagement activities and network with academics, journalists and science communicators.
The selection criteria
Applicants require an enthusiasm for science communication and willingness to experiment with their communication style and try new things. They will be asked what they hope want to learn through the Fellowship scheme and how they would disseminate what they learn across the institution.
What the future would hold
The Media Relations team will help the successful applicant to learn more about the breadth of University media activities before the media placement.
As a fully trained Media Fellow it is hoped that they will provide support for in-house media training and support other researchers at the University to get involved with the media
It is hoped they will act as a media ambassador for the University, making themselves available for quotes, media interviews and expert comment and get involved in University public engagement activities and promotion of the University’s new media hub which is equipped with a broadcast standard TV camera and ISDN Line.
What the Science Media Centre thinks
Fiona Fox, Chief Executive at the Science Media Centre said: “This scheme is one of those brilliant ideas that just makes sense and works. One of the biggest challenges for science in the media is the culture clash between these two disciplines. Scientists spend months, maybe years, on one research study. They then wait further months for the research to be peer reviewed and published before they finally announce it to the world. Journalists on the other hand write three or four science stories per day and once written it becomes old news almost instantly. Scientists go to ridiculous lengths to check that their findings are accurate and true whereas most journalists will freely admit that if they have the choice between getting a story 100% accurate or getting it out first they will always choose the latter. This culture clash has often dogged the relationship between science and the media with too many academics steering clear of any contact out of fear or outright hostility. The BA Fellows scheme has done huge amounts over the years to overcome this culture clash. By placing working scientists slap bang into the middle of the busy news rooms of national news media the Fellows learn everything there is to know about the kind of demands and pressures on working journalists. Rather than resenting them for getting the odd fact wrong, BA fellows usually emerge from their three weeks with a new respect for journalists who manage to get their head around a wide and complex range of science under tight deadlines and communicate them to a mass audience every day. The beauty of this scheme is that it is not trying to ‘turn’ scientists into journalists. But instead is trying and succeeding in sending a group of researchers back into their labs as champions for the importance of media engagement.
“I am delighted that Nottingham is supporting this scheme and have no doubt that the academic that is lucky enough to get a place will return to influence and change attitudes of fellow academics as so many Fellows have before.”
How it works
Friday April 3rd: applications close.
May: all applicants are notified about the outcome of their application
Thursday 28th May: briefing/ training day, London
July – September: Fellows complete a three- to six-week placement, booked according to the media host and the Fellow availability
September: British Science Festival media launch, London
September: Fellows attend the British Science Festival, in Bradford, as a representative of their media host organisation
Thursday 29th October: debriefing day, London
For more information contact Lindsay Brooke, Media Relations Manager on 0115 9515751 or email firstname.lastname@example.org