Earlier this year (March 16 & 17) I attended the Royal Society’s two day Communications and Media Skills workshop at the Kavli International Centre. Chichley Hall is beautiful. It’s a Grade 1 listed country house in Buckinghamshire, just outside Milton Keynes.
The workshop was great and I met some really cool people. The course is designed for scientists at any stage of their careers, and is run by leading journalists and communications professionals, Judith Hann and John Exelby. John was news editor at the BBC for five years and then moved into production, being in charge of the BBC's main news programmes. Judith was senior presenter of Tomorrow's World for 20 years, has had her own series on health, food and medicine and has written eight books. She also knows an awful lot about gardening and growing herbs. Being a bit of a foodie we had a great conversation about growing herbs and raising chickens at dinner.
There were about ten of us on the course, most of us were STFC postdocs or Royal Society Fellows (course costs and accommodation expenses are waived), but there were a few tenure track lecturers and professors. The first day was spent working on out writing and editing skills for specific audiences, particularly the press. The second day focussed on broadcasting science, from local radio to news interviews, discussions on funding and delivering science education programs. This was really tough for me. I didn’t handle the filmed interviews well, but I definitely learned a lot from it. Judith and John were fantastic tutors. They were very patient and understanding, but at the same time encouraged us to do things that were perhaps outside our comfort zone.
All postdocs researchers should do this course. At the very least you get to stay in a lovely country house for two days. In addition to the writing and public speaking workshops you learn a lot about the media, and how they view science. It also made me more aware of the importance of getting your science out to the public, to politicians and private funding agencies. We were also given a lot of very useful pointers about ‘new media‘, for example starting science blogs, establishing relationships with reputable science journalists and working with University Press Officers.
Since the course I’ve been approached by one science journalist (via one of the postdocs on the course) to comment on the recently launched RadioAstron, a space-based Russian radio interferometer designed to operate in conjunction with a global ground-based radio telescope network. It will obtain images, coordinates, motions and evolution of angular structure of different radio emitting objects in the Universe with the extraordinary high angular resolution.
For more information about the Royal Society courses click here