Evidence matters to the public

Join us on 1st November at Parliament to make the case

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What Works Global Summit. Register now.

Putting evidence at the heart of policy and practice. 26th - 28th September.

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Plant Science Panel

Insecticides, biofuels, GMOs …

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'The Ugly Truth'

by Tracey Brown, director of Sense About Science

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Past workshops

On Friday 16th September 2016, we ran a Standing up for Science workshop hosted by the Francis Crick Institute. We were joined by fantastic panellists and over 60 enthusiastic early career researchers (ECRs) representing different organisations and fields for a day of dynamic discussion.

Read about other past workshops.

Panel

The workshop opened with a panel of scientists sharing their experiences of interacting with the media about their controversial research topics. Dr Gia Aradottir from Rothamsted Research talked about the difficulties she faced from a media hostile to GM crops. She was part of the ‘Don’t destroy research’ campaign, which encouraged the public to discuss, not destroy a GM wheat trial at Rothamsted Research. Gia advised the attendees about the importance of participating with the media, as journalists will run the article with or without your scientific input. Professor Stephen Keevil discussed his role in campaigning to prevent a European Union Directive that threatened to impede clinical and research applications of MRI. Stephen talked about the importance tailoring your message for the general public, while avoiding oversimplification which you will regret later. Dr Robin Lovell-Badge shared his thoughts on the best way to combat the misrepresentation of science in the media, using his experiences in working with embryonic stem cells. Robin advocated talking to the media as much as possible, but being careful not to be pushed into speculative claims, or commenting on unpublished research.

Group Work

Over the lunch break, participants discussed the positives and negatives of the way the media cover science. These thoughtful group discussions fed into the second session of the day, where attendees had the opportunity to put their questions and concerns directly to a panel of journalists. Tom Whipple shared his daily routine in writing as science editor for The Times, highlighting his time constraints. He discussed the role of embargos and how they are used in science journalism, and emphasized the importance of researchers being available for comment when journalists call, not one week later!  James Gallagher talked through his experiences as a health reporter for the BBC, particularly the different requirements to make articles suitable for print, radio and television. He talked about the responsibility of journalists to accurately report science to their readers and explained how he decides if an article should be covered, and how much input the newspaper editor has in this decision. Claire Coleman discussed her role as a freelance journalist, explaining the importance of scientists being available for comment. She reassured ECRs that you don’t have to be a world expert in the field to engage with the media, pointing out that that scientists can't complain about misrepresentation if they don't stand up and speak out.  All panelists discussed mistakes they have made and how they are corrected, agreeing that this is much easier with online articles than those in print.

 The final session of the day was the nuts and bolts of standing up for science. Participants shared their thoughts on what obstacles ECRs face when doing so, including a lack of confidence and time, and opposition from senior scientists. The three panellists gave advice on how to combat these issues. Hermione Lawson, Senior Press Officer at the MRC, talked about the support that press offices at funding bodies, universities and institutions can give to ECRs when they first start to interact with the media, including interview practice. Hermione emphasized the importance of not feeling that you have to answer every question a journalist might ask you in an interview. Chris Peters from Sense about Science spoke about the Ask for Evidence campaign, and how ECRs can and should get involved to hold organisations to account for the claims they make. Chris talked about the successes of the campaign, and explained that the public are interested in the evidence behind claims made in politics and the media. David Robert Grimes, a postdoctoral researcher from the University of Oxford, discussed his experiences at debunking pseudoscientific claims in the media. David was insistent that you do not need to be an expert in the field to set the record straight, anyone with a scientific background has a duty to combat misinformation. He encouraged ECRs to become more vocal in their criticisms of bad science, stating that it is the role of scientific researchers to share the scientific consensus on important issues around science and evidence with the public.

AFE

The clear message of the day was to actively engage with the media and public to stand up for science.

If you want to attend a future workshop, or are part of an organisation that would like to partner a Standing up for Science event, please email Joanne at jthomas@senseaboutscience.org

With thanks to all our workshop partners:


 

Association for Clinical Biochemistry and Laboratory Medicine

Biochemical Society

Birmingham City University

The British Institute of Radiology

Elsevier

The Francis Crick Institute

The Institution of Engineering and Technology

Institute of Physics and Engineering in Medicine

Medical Research Council

Royal Meteorological Society

Royal Pharmaceutical Society

Society for Applied Microbiology

Society for Experimental Biology

University of Glasgow

University of Leeds

University of Manchester

University of Reading

University of St Andrews

University of Stirling

University of Warwick


 

Previous workshops

Standing up for Science workshop at the University of Warwick, 24th June 2016

Standing up for Science workshop at the University of Manchester, 8th April 2016

Standing up for Science workshop at the Francis Crick Institute, 25th September 2015

Standing up for Science workshop at the University of Glasgow, 16th September 2015

Standing up for Science workshop at the University of Warwick, 26th June 2015

Standing up for Science workshop at the University of Manchester, 27th March 2015

Standing up for Science workshop at the University of Glasgow, 20th November 2014

Standing up for Science workshop at the Society of Chemical Industry, London, 3rd October 2014

Standing up for Science workshop at The Physiological Society, London, 13th June 2014

Standing up for Science workshop at the University of Manchester, 14th March 2014

Standing up for Science workshop at the University of Glasgow, 26th November 2013

Standing up for Science workshop at the Physiological Society, London, 20th September 2013

Standing up for Science workshop at the Society of Biology, London, 14th June 2013

Standing up for Science workshop at University of Manchester, 15th March 2013

Standing up for Science workshop at Newcastle University, 22nd February 2013

Standing up for Science workshop at University of Glasgow, 16th November 2012

Standing up for Science workshop at the Society of Biology, 15th June 2012

Standing up for Science workshop at the Society of Chemical Industry, 25th May 2012

Standing up for Science workshop at University of Manchester, 23rd March 2012

Standing up for Science workshop at University of Glasgow, 18th November 2011

Standing up for Science workshop for Biosciences at Linnean Society London, 17th June 2011

VoYS pinboard

  • Top tip 1: Ask for Evidence. If you’re being sold a product or asked to believe a claim then you deserve to know whether it’s based on evidence – or imagination.

  • Top tip 2: Detox. It’s a marketing myth – our body does it without pricey potions and detox diets.

  • Top tip 3: Superfood. There is no such thing, just foods that are high in some nutrients.

  • Top tip 4: Cleansing. You shouldn’t be trying to cleanse anything other than your skin or hair.

  • Top tip 5: If it sounds too good to be true… it probably is.

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