“Science communication keeps scientists grounded, the public informed and involved, and underpins evidence based policy making for the good of everyone.”
This is part of a series of interviews with science communicators about science communication. Today we are Speaking to… Nancy Mendoza
Where are you based?
Bedford, Cambridge, and Bristol
Who do you work for?
Society for Applied Microbiology, University of Cambridge, and freelance
What type of science communication do you do?
Everything from crisis communications through digital media, media relations, and public engagement, to knowledge exchange and social return on investment.
Who is your main audience?
Anyone who has a stake in a non-commercial scientific organisation – other scientists, general public, school kids, end users of research (e.g. manufacturers, farmers, doctors), and more.
How did you get into it?
I did a degree in Biochemistry and although I liked research and wasn’t bad at it, I didn’t want to specialise and I preferred talking about it!
Why do you do it?
I want science to play a role in our political, civic, social and cultural landscape. To do that, it’s important to uncover the workings of science as a social endeavour; show scientists as creative, fallible, playful, and inspiring people; and let people discover that science can be a creative and rewarding career. It’s vital to have dialogue with people about the hopes, fears, concerns and aspirations they hold for science and not to be scared to enter into conversation about controversial topics. I am in it to support scientists to step up and be heard and to ensure that science in practice is firmly embedded in its social context.
Why do you think science communication is important?
Without the support, cooperation, and collaboration of people outside a field of science, that field cannot exist. Science communication keeps scientists grounded, the public informed and involved, and underpins evidence based policy making for the good of everyone.
What do you love about science communication?
Selfishly, I’m a total intellectual magpie and I love getting to learn about all sorts of different research.
What has been your favourite project?
Hard to pick. I had some very exciting times during the two years I worked at the Science Media Centre. I’m particularly proud of a couple of stories I worked on there about mental health. One was about cannabis and psychosis and the other about the link between ethnicity and psychosis. Both had the potential to be horribly sensationalised, which would have been a disaster, but in the end the science was reported really well and it showed how doing excellent research around fundamental questions can inform good medical and care practices down the line and can help patients to understand better what is happening to them.
Do you have any new science communication projects coming up?
Yes, lots! For example, my colleague at the Society for Applied Microbiology (SfAM) is planning our exhibits at several science festivals over the next year, and we’re in the process of moving to an online first publication process for our news and features content, which will bring a lot of interesting stuff to our website. I’m also working on several press releases, so watch this space for those.
Any tips for those wanting to get into science communication?
There is no substitute for doing it. If you’re really interested in the theory behind it you can do what I did and study for an MSc in Science Communication but my best advise is to get plenty of work experience and volunteer part time while you can.