These are some of my perceptions of the overlapping spheres of science communication and health communication, in the context of working in a health charity which funds research. I suspect this is one that I’ll come back to a few times and edit as things pop into my head. I’d love to give the impression that this arrived fully formed 😉
It seems to have happened quite recently – and I’ve been looking out for it – but charity science communication might now be on the radar of the scicomm (science communication) world in a way that it didn’t seem to be before.
When I ‘entered the world’ of science communication I wasn’t quite sure where I fitted in as I didn’t work in a museum or a science centre and I didn’t do science shows or even talk to people face-to-face. I wasn’t even sure that people working in charities doing science communication activities considered themselves to be science communicators, or at least ‘health information’ communicators.
In case anyone is reading, and is looking for a rich seam of science communication opportunities may I suggest the (AMRC) Association of Medical Research Charities members’ list* which has the contact websites of around 100 charities, all of which fund medical research and most of which will employ people to (1) raise money for research into the relevant condition, (2) answer questions from the public about the condition, (3) answer questions from the media and (4) explain / promote the research that they fund to a non-scientist audience. Of course these overlap considerably.
(1) Fundraisers need to be able to put the research (for which the charity needs to raise sponsorship) into a context that highlights its importance and relevance to the person or group who might donate funds, as well as its importance to people who have the target condition. In a sense it might be a little like a live grant application in some cases!
(2) Some charities may have an information line for the public (including non-scientists, healthcare professionals and students) and people who work in that capacity (me!) get to learn a great deal about the condition and get to flex their (email and letter) writing skills in synthesising a response to send out explaining something in straightforward languge, taking into consideration the level of knowledge of the audience. It also improves your telephone listening skills no end – you might have to ask a few questions of your caller to find out exactly what they want to know and what they need the information for (this can make a big difference to the response).
(3) Most charities have a press officer or even a press team to liaise with the press (or be interviewed themselves), providing journalists with comments from charity staff or briefing staff for interviews. Researchers funded by the charity might liaise with the press through their own university press team but the chances are there will be a coordinated effort between both press teams.
(4) To do this people will go out and give talks, write articles for magazines, write letters and emails in answer to people’s questions, write / edit / proofread information for the website(s), supply information for journalists (typically via a press team) as well as sharing information with colleagues to make sure that they’re up to date too.
I think that’ll do for now…
* Look for link in blue box to download full list of AMRC members.
Disclaimer – all posts are my opinion and not necessarily those of my employer.