At the recent International Association for the Study of Pain’s 17th World Congress on Pain, fifteen researchers, science communication professionals, and journalists met to discuss science communication. The Media Roundtable event was the first of its kind at the World Congress and sought to break down barriers between researchers and the press by engaging participants to discuss their motivations, experiences, and challenges in science communication. Through this conversation, participants garnered a better understanding of how research is currently communicated, found areas of improvement, and further cultivated the valuable connections between scientists and the media for the public good.
The two-hour discussion was marked by moments of understanding and revelations, such as a realization that the lack of incentives for researchers to engage with the media has a significant impact on research translation.
It became clear by the end of the session that researchers and journalists share a common goal: to better the world. Fueled by this conversation, we’ve pulled out a few ways that societies can help their members to connect with the media, better share their discoveries, and inform the public.
Education = Empowerment
Speaking to the press can be intimidating. Researchers want to be sure that they speak clearly about their work, get their points across, and ensure that a reader will understand. Some institutions have public relations offices that will assist in getting the word out about new research, offer training, and even attend meetings with the press, but not all researchers have access to this kind of support. Societies can help to close this gap by offering media training sessions for members, either at conferences, during regional events, or online. Learning how to best explain their research and serve as experts will help your members speak with the press and the public more confidently.
How do we know who’s the right person to contact? This sentiment was echoed by researchers throughout the roundtable session. Members of the press are happy to be contacted directly, and welcome this kind of connection. Participants agreed that if they had a resource to go to when they wanted to find a journalist, they would be more likely to regularly reach out to share their research. Societies can achieve a quick win by creating and maintaining a list of media contacts relevant to your field for members to access.
Attendees who were members of the press said they have built many strong relationships with researchers, and that these relationships are key to their work. However, participants unanimously agreed that the opportunity for in-person interaction between journalists and researchers is rare. Offering activities such as press receptions, “meet the press” networking events, or roundtables at conferences and regional meetings, gives members the chance to meet and talk with journalists in person.
What are other ways societies can support better science communication? Let us know in the comments below.
Image credit:Emma Brink