Stuff that occurs to me

All of my 'how to' posts are tagged here. The most popular posts are about blocking and private accounts on Twitter, also the science communication jobs list. None of the science or medical information I might post to this blog should be taken as medical advice (I'm not medically trained).

Think of this blog as a sort of nursery for my half-baked ideas hence 'stuff that occurs to me'.

Contact: @JoBrodie Email: jo DOT brodie AT gmail DOT com

Science in London: The 2017 scientific society talks in London blog post

Saturday, 21 August 2010

Someone on the internet wants advice on getting into medical writing / science journalism

Someone's contacted me via the ABSW directory asking for advice on getting into medical writing / science journalism. Despite working in a medical research charity I've no personal experience of either but boy can I google. And some of my best friends / closest complete strangers on the internet are science journalists / medical writers.

I've assumed that medical writing typically means agency work writing copy for pharmaceutical organisations or medical journalism, as opposed to what I actually do (explaining the science and statistics behind diabetes, including medical information and occasionally writing or proof-reading articles, which I've not done for a while to be honest).

I've made a start here - writing what I hope are some reasonable suggestions on my blog, on the assumption that if you write anything wrong on the internet knowledgeable people will turn up and help you fix it.

Background reading
Science writing
ABSW: 'So you want to be a science writer'
http://www.absw.org.uk/reading-room/so-you-want-to-be-a-science-writer

Jump to PDF: http://www.absw.org.uk/images/stories/pdf/so-you-want-to-be-a-science-writer.pdf
This is a fantastic document (considered to be a little out of date, but good) on the ABSW website; the wiki version is being updated but is members only. There are lots of other useful bits and bobs on the ABSW site that are only available to members and I would strongly recommend finding the £40 per year to become a member. If you never visit the website the mailing list alone contains a wealth of experience and advice, networking and job opportunities - it's also good fun. Even without membership it's still worth having a wander round the site (clearly the person who contacted me has already been there).

NERS: 'On the origin of science writers'
http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/notrocketscience/2010/07/29/on-the-origin-of-science-writers/
Science writer Ed Yong asked the science-writer readers of his blog 'Not Exactly Rocket Science' why and how they became science writers. Lots of interesting stuff there.

SciDev.net: Science Communication practical guides / e-guides
http://www.scidev.net/en/science-communication/practical-guides/

Covers a range of topics such as stem cell research, forestry, AIDS/HIV, evolution, pandemics etc.

Medical writing
MedcommsNetworking: 'From academic to medical writer: a guide to getting started in medical communications'
http://www.medcommsnetworking.co.uk/startingout
Jump to PDF: http://www.medcommsnetworking.co.uk/careersguide.pdf
This looks pretty good to me but I'm no expert. Lots of advice and case studies, with contact details of potential agencies.

Mailing lists and alerts
ABSW / ABSW-L - the organisation and mailing list of the Association of British Science Writers - http://www.absw.org.uk/
MJA - Medical Journalists Association - http://www.mja-uk.org/
MedComms networking (from the same people who produced the medical writer doc above
"From time to time we send out information relevant to people who are interested in a career in Medical Communications (MedComms) in the UK."
http://www.medcommsnetworking.co.uk/startingout/signup.html

psci-com - free mailing list run by the Wellcome Trust, hosted at JISCmail - general science communication list, includes jobs postings - https://www.jiscmail.ac.uk/cgi-bin/webadmin?A0=psci-com
Stempra - the mailing list of the Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths (Medicine?) PR Agencies organisation which covers general science communication and has some great events - http://www.stempra.org.uk/. Costs £15 per year to be a member.

Courses
I think I could do with a little help on this - I know about some of the science communication and journalism courses but don't know of too many medical writing courses.

Science Communication (includes City's MA in science journalism) Courses
http://www.britishscienceassociation.org/web/ScienceinSociety/Courses_and_Training/Science_Communication_Courses.htm

Medical Communications PGCert
http://www.worcester.ac.uk/courses/13964.html via @MarkEnglish

I suppose you want to think also if you have any preference for what audience you want to write for... non-specialist, other scientists, healthcare professionals etc.

Finding a job
The mailing lists mentioned above carry suitable jobs information. I'll also add a plug for my own science communication vacancies pages, Posterous blog and Twitter feed - but these are more scicomm stuff than journalism or medical writing to be honest.

Something I've missed?
What?

4 comments:

  1. Oh yes, plenty that you've missed: pretty much the whole of regulatory medical writing: clinical study reports, protocols, and all the other things that go into regulated clinical trials (and, if successful, to drug licensing applications).

    However, that's a completely different career to science journalism, so possibly isn't what your friend is interested in. Asking about careers in medical writing / science journalism sounds slightly akin to asking about careers in bricklaying / social work. Medical writing (at least regulatory medical writing) and science journalism have very little in common.

    The Wikipedia article on medical writing (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Medical_writing) has some useful information on medical writing. There's also some useful info at www.emwa.org.

    As for courses, my company runs an introductory course in medical writing. The next one is coming up soon and we don't run them very often, so if your friend is interested, he or she should book soon. Details at http://dianthus.co.uk/our-services/medical-writing-training/introduction-to-medical-writing-course

    ReplyDelete
  2. Thanks Adam! I'm hoping my disclaimer as to general ignorance in this area means I needn't feel too shamefaced for having completely ignored this important section of writing :)

    Possibly they meant something different in their email to me, but if they weren't already aware of regulatory medical writing then this might be a good opportunity to find out about it.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Cough cough cough cough

    COURSES!!

    Um City's all ok apparently but Science Communication INCLUDES science writing but gives you chance to broaden your scope (as several people on the NERS thread said, this is very useful). Plus we are at Imperial so our library has subscriptions to the major sci and medical journals (many of which City doesn't). And we're cheaper. And better established.

    Goes back to spluttering. Cough cough cough cough...

    ReplyDelete
  4. There is a fairly big orange heading called Courses there which points to the BSA (nee BA's) metalist of same ;-)

    I found the social science / philosophy stuff on my scicomm course to be an absolute eye-opener, as well as occasionally jaw-dropping (Steve Fuller and Kitzmiller/Dover ID).

    ReplyDelete

Comment policy: I enthusiastically welcome corrections and I entertain polite disagreement ;) Because of the nature of this blog it attracts a LOT - 5 a day at the moment - of spam comments (I write about spam practices,misleading marketing and unevidenced quackery) and so I'm more likely to post a pasted version of your comment, removing any hyperlinks.

Comments written in ALL CAPS LOCK will be deleted and I won't publish any pro-homeopathy comments, that ship has sailed I'm afraid (it's nonsense).