February 25, 2016, by Lindsay Brooke

British Science Association Media Fellowship Scheme – entries for 2016 are open

British Science Association Media Fellowship Scheme – entries open for three University funded fellowships. Applications for these placements need to be made via the University of Nottingham entry form and close at midnight Wednesday 16 March.

Would you like 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 from two to six weeks embedded with a national news organisation or programme making team? Here’s a video about the scheme from the BSA with a few words from one of last year’s University of Nottingham’s  Media Fellows – Dr Philip Oldfield.

This year, The University of Nottingham is funding three places for academics to participate in the British Science Association (BSA) Media Fellowship scheme.  The Media Relations team is working  across all Faculties to put together a shortlist of applications. The three successful applicants will be chosen by the BSA.

Entry form for University of Nottingham funded placements can be found here.

This year the University is offering a unique opportunity for practising scientists, clinicians, engineers and social sciences and arts academics to spend two 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. They learn how the media operates and reports on science, how to communicate with the media and engage the wider public with science through the media.

Last year Dr Philip Oldfield from the Department of Architecture and Built Environment in the Faculty of Engineering and Dr Jon Henderson from the Department of Archaeology in the Faculty of Arts became the University’s first funded BSA Media Fellows. Here’s what they had to say about the experience.

In 2012 Jonathan Ball, Professor of Molecular Virology, became a Media Fellow.  Since then he has been interviewed by media organisations across the world and is a regular contributor to the BBC World Service. He has been interviewed and quoted extensively on the Ebola crisis. Recently he spoke at a media workshop for fellow academics on his journey from ‘Media sceptic to Believer’.

Unique opportunity

The BSA 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 the BSA’s 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 need to demonstrate an enthusiasm for science communication and a willingness to support the University in its media engagement activities in the future. They will be asked what they hope to learn through the Fellowship scheme and how they might disseminate that new knowledge and understanding of how the media works across the institution

What the future would hold

The Media Relations team will introduce the successful applicant to the breadth of University media activities undertaken across the Communications Department, support them through their placement and work closely with them in future media engagement projects.

As a fully trained Media Fellow it is hoped that they will provide support for in-house media training and encourage other researchers at the University to get involved with the media

It is hoped they will act as a media ambassador for the University, by signing up to the media guide to expertise, making themselves available for quotes, media interviews and expert comment, 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 experts say

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 BSA Media Fellowship 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, BSA 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 it 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 academics lucky enough to get a place on this scheme will return to influence and change attitudes of fellow academics as so many Fellows have before.”

How it works

Midnight Wednesday 16 March 2016: Deadline for internal applications. Please send your request for an application form Lindsay Brooke, Media Relations Manager, lindsay.brooke@nottingham.ac.uk.

Tuesday 22  March 2016: Shortlisted candidates forwarded to BSA for selection

May: All applicants are notified about the outcome of their application
Tuesday 17th May: Training day, London
July – September: Fellows complete a two- to six-week placement, booked according to the mutual availability of the media host and the Fellow
September: British Science Festival media launch, London
6-9th September: Fellows attend the British Science Festival, in Swansea, as a representative of their media host organisation
Tuesday 4th October: Leadership day, London

Financial basis of scheme 

The BSA will reimburse any reasonable out-of-pocket accommodation costs up to £250 per week for myself only. I will follow the expenses guidance from the BSA and seek confirmation before spending on any item over £75. The maximum support for my placement costs covered by the BSA will be £1000. See their website for more information.


To be eligible, you must fulfil the following criteria:

  • Must be a practicing academic in one of the eligible topic areas listed above and have a minimum of 2 years’ experience in your field following your highest degree.
  • Must be a member of staff in the Research and Teaching Family. Applicants should normally hold a permanent post but fixed-term employees may be eligible provided that there is no conflict of interest between the University of Nottingham and any other organisation or employer. The term of employment of a fixed-term employee must extend 12 months beyond the end date of the fellowships programme (i.e. October 2016 +12 months).
  • Have your Head of School’s consent to be releasedon full pay for the period of the Fellowship. Annual leave may be used for part of the placement.
  • Agree to all the terms and conditions of the fellowship, including mandatory attendance of the training / leadership days and the financial support provided.

More information

For more information on the scheme, visit the BSA website: http://www.britishscienceassociation.org/media-fellows

Entry form and more information can be found here.

For more information on how the scheme operates at the University of Nottingham, please contact Lindsay Brooke, Media Relations manager, on 01159515751 or email Lindsay.brooke@nottingham.ac.uk






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