Top tips for honest science messages in the media

13-kate-elliottScience is often misrepresented in the media. The BIR supports the charity Sense about Science in their call for all research to be openly and honestly reported. This year we supported one of their Voice of Young Science workshops called “Standing up for Science” held on 16 September 2016 in London.

Here, Kate Elliott, Medical Physicist at  Mount Vernon Cancer Centre was one of three lucky BIR members to attend the workshop which gave young researchers top tips and advice on how to get their scientific messages across as clearly and accurately as possible.

 

I hate speaking in public and even the thought of writing this article terrified me. Why then, you might ask, did I apply to go on the Standing up for Science media workshop?

I often get annoyed at the coverage of science in the media and the misuse of statistics and results. Recently, the Brexit “debate” has left me ranting at friends, and I often find myself defending junior doctors on social media. When I received the email from BIR advertising the media workshop, it struck me as an opportunity to learn what I could do to positively influence the public perception of science, and to hear first-hand from journalists about their involvement.

The first session consisted of a panel of three scientists who told us of personal experiences with the press and offered advice based on this. An example which stood out to me as a healthcare scientist was Professor Stephen Keevil’s use of the media to highlight a problem with a new EU directive on physical agents[1], which could  have caused problems for MRI. Politicians took heed of his criticism, and effected a change to the directive in Brussels. This was a great example of how the media can be used effectively to influence policy – something that is likely to become increasingly important in the next few years.

The second session was a panel of three journalists, who explained their daily process for13-standing-up-for-science-workshop-sept-2016selecting and pitching stories. Science stories are selected based on interest, accessibility, and importance. These are pitched to the editors, who decide which ones to take further. The journalists pointed out that their duty is to their audience, not to science. Unfortunately, science has to compete with news on David Beckham’s haircut. Time constraints are also a problem. They write multiple articles a day (I’m three weeks and counting on this one…), so it’s important for scientists to be available to discuss their research on the day it’s published.

The third panel was about the nuts and bolts of how to interact with the media, and recommended campaigns such as Sense about Science’s “Ask for Evidence” campaign.

I left the event with the following advice to keep in mind:

  • If you disagree with something: speak out. If the public only hears one side of the story, that’s the side they’ll believe.
  • Stick to a few key points. Get those across, even if it means having to ignore questions or turn them around in an infuriatingly politician-like way!
  • Be available. If you’ve put out a press release, you need to be able to respond quickly. Journalists work to very stringent time scales, so being available in a week’s time is going to be too late.
  • Talk to the public. Attend events such as Pint of Science, or become a STEM ambassador, because that will really help you learn to speak in layman’s terms and get you used to answering obscure questions.
  • Get training. If not full media training, a workshop like this is a really good way to be slightly more prepared – and you get to hear about all the interesting science other people are involved in!

Image: BIR members  Jim Zhong, Kate Elliott and Maureen Obioha Agwanihu who attended the workshop

[1] https://www.myesr.org/html/img/pool/MRI-Report-Stephen-Keevil.pdf

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Powerful partnerships

Sophia Anderton, Head of Publishing, BIR

Sophia Anderton, Head of Publishing, BIR

Sophia Anderton, BIR’s Head of Publishing reflects on a week of diversity and partnership at RSNA 2013 in Chicago.

They say Chicago’s the windy city, but last week it was more like the freezing metropolis!

Fresh back from RSNA, one of the world’s largest medical conferences, boasting 20131205_150111more than 30,000 delegates, I’m reflecting on not only the scale but also the diversity within radiology and its allied sciences. The sheer size of the event—so many people gathered together all for the sake of radiology—but also the variety of different disciplines represented were inspiring to say the least. I wonder what Wilhelm Röntgen would have thought of it all?!

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BIR stand on Publishers’ Row

The BIR had a stand in a prime location on Publishers’ row so I was lucky enough to meet with a vast array of different people from around the world, working in diverse disciplines across the field (consultant radiologists, trainees/residents, radiographers, physicists, students and representatives from manufacturers). Everyone had a different story to tell.

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Professor Andrew Jones (left) with the Indian Radiology and Imaging Association President Elect, Bhavin Jankharia

There was great interest in both the BIR and BJR; we were giving away free copies of Best of BJR, highlighting some of the best articles from the last year (they’re all free to download to all until the end of the year at http://bit.ly/1f7GT0c). What really caught people’s attention was our interdisciplinary ethos. As a society and journal uniquely covering all disciplines relating to radiology, there really is something for everybody. We now offer an international membership package and it was a real joy seeing people realise that the BIR could really be for them, and we look forward to working with lots of new people in the future.

With so many people, societies and companies represented, the BIR took the opportunity to make contact with as many of them as possible. For some it was the start of a new relationship, but for others it was an opportunity to reacquaint themselves with long-standing connections. One of the BIR’s newest partnerships is with Health Management (http://healthmanagement.org/) which will be available free of charge to all BIR members from 2014. Look out for the interview with our President, Andrew Jones, early in the new year.

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Grant Witheridge from corporate subscriber AGFA meets up with Professor Andrew Jones

RSNA’s key theme this year was The Power of Partnership and I think that really sums up what I was hearing last week. Working together with energy, vigour and strength to have an influence on the radiological sciences is an important message. In distributing over 1,400 copies of Best of BJR and talking to even more people about publishing, education, events and membership, the BIR is doing its part in promoting the influence and diversity of radiology.

I’m now looking forward to next year and the centenary meeting of the RSNA.

Happy belated 65th birthday

Neil Mesher, Managing Director, Philips Healthcare

Neil Mesher

It is rare for a day to pass when the healthcare system in the UK is not in the media spotlight, and it’s not very often that good news sells newspapers. Indeed, as I write this blog, I notice that the “crisis” in A&E is back on the home page of the BBC, with fears over how prepared the system is for the onslaught of winter, while it’s still 30 °C outside!

 

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Of course, it’s worth remembering that for every newspaper headline, millions of people are cared for and successfully treated by the health service in all its guises, each day.  However, as the NHS turned 65 last month we have to acknowledge that the system does have structural, long-term challenges. Those born in the years before the NHS, the over 65s, currently make up 17% of the population. In the next 50 years that percentage will rise to 27%, with the over 85s set to be the fastest growing part of the population. These statistics are in part a measure of the past success of the NHS, but an ageing demographic, living with multiple long-term conditions, will be a key factor in how its future is shaped.

1948-NHS-leafletThere are many debates in the public arena about how to address these challenges in the coming years. The quality, innovation, productivity and prevention (QIPP) agenda undoubtedly has a significant role to play as a framework for the NHS. The rapid adoption and spread of innovation, supporting better quality care and improvements in productivity are all objectives that the whole of the healthcare “industry” can sign up to. Putting the patient at the centre of this process, supported by appropriate technology and resources, will positively impact patient outcomes.

Radiology has a pivotal role here in delivering accurate and timely diagnosis, enabling clinicians and patients to make informed choices about the direction of treatment and care. There was a fascinating debate on the radio last week about the notion of “too much healthcare”, and it concerned a patient who had been successfully diagnosed and treated for cancer. However, the aggressive approach to his treatment had left him with a number of serious long-term issues which could have been avoided. I was left with a sense that better diagnosis and information could have led to a better patient outcome, and significantly reduced the initial and ongoing treatment costs.

As a manufacturer and provider of healthcare services, at Philips we are working to understand how the QIPP agenda is being implemented at local levels, so that we can deliver tailored solutions. By combining the capabilities of the NHS with the technical expertise and infrastructure of a large multinational company, we believe that we can achieve more together. We are on a quest to develop more innovative solutions that will enable you to collaborate freely, diagnose more confidently and provide care passionately.

Here’s to the next 65 years!

Neil Mesher, Managing Director, Philips Healthcare