Gina Maffey is a PhD student in Applied Ecology at the University of Aberdeen. Among other things she talks about deer a lot. If you like deer, and other things, you can find her @ginazoo on twitter. She who has recently completed a Media Fellowship with the British Science Association and this post she tells us about the similarities she discovered between science and the media.
“Why are you applying for a British Science Association media fellowship?”
This was one of the questions that was on the media fellowship application form, and the one that I felt most prepared to answer. “Science communication is a vital part of the research process.” “It will help further my own PhD.” “I want to get a true understanding of how ‘the other side’ works.” I still stand by the first two of these statements. However, ‘the other side’, may not be a phrase that I continue to use in the future.
For six weeks this summer I spent my time at the BBC in Birmingham with Countryfile, Costing the Earth and Farming Today. It was an eye-opening experience and one that I would happily repeat. The fellowships are designed to help bridge the communication gap between journalists and scientists facilitating a better relationship between the two disciplines. There are a lot of things that have already been said of the differences between science and the media, and there has been much work done by the Science Media Centre to improve links and dialogue across the two. For me it was the three similarities that I found in both science and the media that were more surprising.
Money, time and audience. Research and filming are both restricted by money. If you haven’t got the funding a research project can’t go ahead and a film can’t be recorded, no matter how interesting you think it is. Time is also a major limiting factor. The time required to put a project together, the time to get the right people involved. Science and the media just work on slightly different scales. And finally, audience. If you’re not making pieces that engage with people, if you’re not conducting research that research councils are interested in it’s difficult to be sustainable. In short, it’s difficult to do anything if no one is listening.
If, however, the media do start listening it’s important to remember that the media is made up of people too. Yes, some can be intimidating and a minor few might be out to trip you up, but the majority are friendly, polite and inquisitive people (just maybe a little time pressured). At the end of the day it’s a conversation that one of you is going to learn something from. And, I’d ask, how is that any different from Science?