Stuff that occurs to me

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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 gmx DOT com

Science in London: The 2016 scientific society talks in London blog post

Sunday, 9 October 2011

Shall we have a charity science communication session at the Science Communication Conference #scicommconf

I have a vague notion that I, or someone, should ‘do something’ on the topic of science communication within medical research charities at the next Science Communication Conference 2012 (hashtag has been #scicommconf or #SCC[year] so possibly #scc12). To be honest I’ve been threatening to do something for a number of years now but I’ve never really come up with what it should be. 

So… it seems like a good idea to see what others think ;) 

My first #scicommconf (we didn’t have hashtags back in the day) was probably in 2004 and I’d recently started working as a Science Information Officer in the charity sector. I noticed that there were only a few other people at the conference from the medical charity / patient group sector and wondered why – at the time I had the impression that such charities didn’t necessarily seem to think of themselves as “science communicators”. They were all getting on with the business of communicating science without (seemingly) labelling themselves that way – in the manner of the chap who didn’t realise he’d been speaking prose all his life. 

At the moment I believe there are around 127 members of the Association of Medical Research Charities (AMRC) and many other medical research charities too, most of whom are probably communicating science in one form or another. For a number of years the AMRC has had a science communication award for charity publications. 

What I’m interested in is being in touch with ‘people like me’ as well as people who do different types of scicomm in all the other medical research charities and I created a group on LinkedIn for us and a few have joined. It’s open to everyone so we also have people who are scientists who are funded by charities and who are interested in communicating their science and research area. That’s a little different from what I was originally looking for but I’m delighted that we have a nice mix of people (about 50 at the moment). 

I think I’m proposing a sort of ‘unconference’ for science communicators in medical research charities to meet up / network / chat about resources and to get a sense of what we’re all doing and in what spheres. 

There are many different (and really quite distinct) kinds of charity science communication and I tried to put a list together for the LinkedIn group, reproduced below.
Medical research charities and patient groups employ several different types of science communicators (although they might not necessarily use that term in the job title).

Depending on the size and needs of the charity, science communicators will do any or all of the following (and I'm sure I've forgotten stuff!):
• write and edit content for websites and magazines (for members of the public as well as professional audiences)
• work in press teams
• manage research portfolios and give talks about the work that is funded
• provide a science enquiry service to people affected by a condition or to healthcare professionals
• develop policies on animal or stem cell research (or other controversial issues)
• respond to external consultations
• fact-check statistics and provide evidence-based information to colleagues and critically appraise literature etc.
Different roles and teams communicate science / research / health information in different ways and I can’t help thinking it should be possible to clarify this a bit more than I have done. Smaller charities will rely on a few people to do more than one role whereas larger charities will divide this up into different teams or departments.
I’m not just talking about the research that the charity funds – in my case I only rarely allude to this in my role which involves answering more general questions. 

There are a number of professional groups that people working in these various roles might be a member of for example the Patient Information Forum (PiF), Stempra as well as AMRC (for which membership is at the charity level not individual) and there are other networks too – psci-com’s an obvious one although charity scicomm isn’t a huge feature there. It is pleasing to be seeing more and more jobs advertised there. This might be a good point to plug my other blog for jobs in science communication which does have a particular fondness for those in medical research charities.
So is anyone interested in looking at this further, or is it not really something that requires a session at a conference? I’d certainly like to encourage more people to join the LinkedIn group but also to hear of any other networks that others have created that I’ve not yet heard of. Thanks!

1 comment:

  1. Just spotted in my 'blogs I read' that Simon Denegri (former CEO of AMRC and now of Ovarian Cancer Action) has written a blog post on 'Promoting clinical trial participation' - this is certainly one function that charity science communicators might be involved in


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