The Importance Of Communicating Science Through The Media: Getting Your Work Out There 

Communicating scientific and research results is becoming increasingly relevant, especially for those results which have a significant impact on people’s lives. But to what extent are scientists aware of this importance? And how can they have the necessary tools to disseminate their work? To provide an answer to these questions, the international partnership programs Carnegie Mellon Portugal, Harvard Medical School - Portugal Program, MIT Portugal, UT Austin Portugal and the Fundação para a Ciência e Tecnologia (FCT) have combined efforts to organize a series of three one-day training workshops on media skills for researchers and Ph.D. students, which took place in the cities of Porto (October 11), Coimbra (November 25) and Lisbon (December 6). 

Funding bodies (including the European Union and FCT) are aware of the importance of communicating the outcomes of the public investment in science and technology. Equally relevant is discussing the implications that advances in science and technology have on the daily lives of citizens. These workshops tried to raise awareness among participating scientists for the importance of communicating their research with non-specialized audiences via the media, and to provide them with the basic skills and techniques for a successful interaction with the Media and different audiences. 

With the help of communication experts, the participants were shown how to identify a news piece and a press release, and given practical guidance on how to interact with the Media, so that they can understand what the journalists want and what actually makes it into the news (i.e., what are news values). The sessions included a hands-on task on how to write a press release and on how to prepare for an interview, be it for television or radio. Three Portuguese well-known reporters - Andreia Azevedo Soares, from P3 (session in Porto), Carolina Ferreira, from the TV Public channel RTP and from Antena 1 (session in Coimbra), and Vasco Trigo, one of the most famous science reporter in Portugal (session in Lisbon), shared how an editorial office works and explained the procedures followed by a reporter. 

After the sessions, the participants’ feedback was extremely positive. According to all the researchers and Ph.D. students attending these workshops, they now feel more encouraged to disseminate their work, and they feel more confident doing so as they have been provided with useful concepts, tips and tools to help them get their message across. 

The team that organized these workshops feels that it is important to enable and reinforce the link between science and society, in particular if the science is funded by public funds. Communicating science to the public and keeping the citizens well informed and motivated to actively participate in the scientific breakthroughs, can be beneficial to all the stakeholders. These workshops make a contribution to this end. 

February 2014