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before the headlines
Fiona fox's blog

for journalists

When science hits the news agenda, it’s our job to pass on to journalists as much accurate information as we can, as quickly as possible. In order to do this we send out quotes from experts, statistical analyses of scientific studies and Factsheets, in addition to running regular press briefings on the latest hot topic. Find our most recent Roundups and Rapid Reactions, briefings, Factsheets and ‘Before the Headlines’ analyses below, or use the icons on the right.

As well as working with experienced specialist reporters, we also provide support to new reporters, editors and generalists through a series of publications, including ‘Briefing Notes’ on controversial topics, and guidelines on science and health reporting, and by working with the National Coordinator for Science Training for Journalists.

see publications for journalists

Need an expert to interview? The SMC’s database is not quite like any other. Those on it are selected not just for their proven expertise, but also for their willingness and ability to engage with the media when their area of work hits the headlines. The quality of our experts is important to us. The SMC recruits scientists, engineers and others who work for respected institutions, publish in peer-reviewed journals and have a track record of quality research in their specialist field.

The SMC was established to provide assistance to the national news media when covering controversial science stories or breaking news. As such the SMC’s priority remains to support new reporters at UK national news media outlets. We prioritise working with science, health and environment specialists on controversial news pieces, but also provide support for journalists pursuing original and long-form pieces by advising on the best experts to approach and helping to set up visits to institutions.

You can get in touch with using the details below. Please be aware though, if your enquiry does not fit our remit we may not be able to help or may refer you on to external scientific institutions.


t: +44 (0)20 7611 8300


expert reaction to new study on vitamin D deficiency and MS

A possible link between vitamin D levels and risk of multiple sclerosis (MS) has been explored in a paper published in the journal PLOS Medicine, in which the authors report that gene variants which were associated with lower levels of vitamin D were associated with an increased risk for MS. read more

expert reaction to study on the effect of aspirin on Lynch Syndrome sufferers’ risk of cancer

Attempting to investigate the association between body mass index and cancer risk in patients with lynch syndrome, a team of researchers have published their work in the journal of Clinical Oncology. They report that obesity is associated with a substantial increase in risk of developing colorectal cancer in patients with lynch syndrome, but this risk is reduced in those taking aspirin. read more

geological disposal of radioactive waste – meet the experts

Every society generating electricity through nuclear power shares the same issue of how to safely manage and permanently dispose of those wastes which remain highly radioactive over a long period of time. Over the past 30 years there has been significant research and analysis across the world on how best to approach and resolve this issue. A common consensus has emerged in science that geological disposal is the safest known way to manage these wastes but the issue remains controversial and recent local government decisions suggest that the public remain unconvinced by reassurances about safety. In the UK, an independent committee of experts, the Committee on Radioactive Waste Management (CoRWM), reviewed the evidence and options and recommended in 2006 that the UK adopt geological disposal. Successive Governments of all Parties have re-affirmed the policy, and a new White Paper was published last summer setting out a revised process for selecting a site for a geological disposal facility (GDF) based on the continuing principle of ‘volunteerism’ – ie a GDF cannot be imposed on a community, but that the community hosting a GDF must be a willing partner. read more

expert reaction to survey on e-cigarette use among young people in the UK

The effects of e-cigarettes in terms of helping people quit smoking and (positive or negative) health impacts are the focus of strong debate, and a paper in the journal Public Health has published the results of a survey of 11-18 year olds in Great Britain. The article reports that the proportion of young people who have tried e-cigarettes rose between 2013-14 (though was rare in people who have never smoked), as did the proportion who thought that e-cigarettes are as harmful as conventional cigarettes. read more

food shocks: expert task force reports on threats to food stocks from extreme weather

An independent expert taskforce from the UK and USA have outlined key recommendations to safeguard against threats to food supplies in a new report for the Global Food Security programme today. The report highlights an increasing risk of global food supply disruptions and price spikes that could result from extreme weather events – such as heatwaves, droughts and floods – and offers new recommendations for mitigation. Although further work is needed to reduce uncertainty and better understand the way extreme weather may change, there is good evidence that extreme weather events, from intense storms to droughts and heatwaves, are increasing in frequency and severity. The report shows that severe ‘production shocks’ caused by extreme weather– whereby global food production is seriously disrupted – of a scale likely to occur once in a century under past conditions, may occur as frequently as once every 30 years as the world’s climate and global food supply systems change in the coming decades. read more

expert reaction to study comparing low-fat and low-carb diets and body fat loss

Publishing in the journal Cell Metabolism, a group of researchers has described their work into the differences between diets which are low in fat or those which are low in carbohydrates. They report that in the 19 obese people which they studied both diets resulted in loss of body fat, but that this loss was greater in the low fat diet. read more

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