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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


neuraminidase inhibitors in influenza

Pandemic influenza tops the UK’s National Risk Register due to the social and economic disruption that could result from a particularly virulent strain. Questions have been raised for some years about the efficacy and effectiveness of neuraminidase inhibitors (NAIs)Tamiflu and Relenza, the principal antiviral drugs used in treating flu, and whether this justifies their being part of the UK government’s response to influenza. In response to a request from the UK Department of Health, a small, independent steering group was established by the Academy of Medical Sciences and the Wellcome Trust to review the recent evidence about the use of NAIs, consider the pipeline for new treatments for influenza, and identify research priorities. read more

wildlife populations in the Chernobyl exclusion zone

The first large scale study of mammal populations in the 4,200 square kilometre human exclusion zone around Chernobyl has been completed by scientists. The zone was exposed to chronic radiation following the 1986 accident; nearly 30 years later, researchers have accurate data on the dual impacts on mammal populations of a radioactive environment and the exclusion of humans. read more

the future of UK renewable electricity

New onshore wind farms will be excluded from a subsidy scheme from April 2016; together with planning and other changes, some say this could halt onshore wind in its tracks despite it being the cheapest source of clean electricity in the UK. Early closure of the renewable obligation subsidy and a review of feed-in tariffs will affect the future of solar. The ‘climate change levy’ now also applies to renewable energy sources, despite the fact they emit no net carbon. Scientists and engineers agree that the electricity sector needs to be decarbonised to meet UK climate targets. So where does this leave the technologies; and what future for renewable electricity in the UK? How will these policy shifts affect the UK energy mix, emissions and climate targets? And what messages does it send to investors and to climate negotiators in Paris? read more

the Spending Review – science makes the case

In the run up to the 2015 election, David Cameron stated: “You can be assured that a Conservative government will be committed to investing in science and engineering because we want to see our strong and worldwide reputation in this hugely important area continue to go from strength to strength.” With further cuts in overall government spending heralded in the Spending Review and departments such as Business, Innovation and Skills being asked to model 25% and 40% cuts, what might this mean for UK science and engineering and, ultimately, the Government’s long-term economic plan to deliver sustainable growth, create more jobs and help secure a better future? read more

expert reaction to announcement of start of trial investigating safety and efficacy of potential new embryonic stem cell-derived treatment for wet age-related macular degeneration (AMD), at Moorfields Eye Hospital, as part of the ‘London Project to Cure Blindness’ project

A patient at Moorfields Eye Hospital in London has become the first to receive an experimental stem cell therapy for wet age-related macular degeneration (AMD), as part of an 18 month clinical trial to find a cure for wet AMD. read more

what is a biosimilar?

Biological medicines have revolutionised patient treatment by offering new and effective medicines for acute and chronic conditions including a wide range of inflammatory and autoimmune diseases, neutropenia, cancers, and enzyme or hormone deficiencies. A biosimilar medicine is a biological medicine which is highly similar to another biological medicine already licensed for use and, as originator biological medicines come off patent, more biosimilar medicines will become available. read more

six steps to tackle mental health

The financial, social and long-term health impacts of poor mental health are only just being recognised with the latest research suggesting that in the UK mental and behavioural disorders cause at least 12% of all disability. However, despite now being on the political agenda progress is slow. Over 1,000 scientists have looked at the latest evidence, investigated the impact of the most recent technological advances and come up with six steps that will have the biggest effect on tackling mental health. The report, part of the ROAMER programme (roadmap for mental health research in Europe), is being published in The Lancet Psychiatry, leads for politicians and policy makers to commit to targeted research, sharing of data and matching of funds. read more

the impacts of neonicotinoids on bees

Since December 2013, the use of three neonicotinoid pesticides as seed coating in crops attractive to bees has been restricted across the European Union. Calls for a large scale field-based experiment to determine the real-world impacts of these pesticides on foraging honeybees and wild bees in agricultural landscapes have been growing. A team of scientists from the Centre for Ecology & Hydrology is undertaking an independent pan-European, large-scale field trial to quantify the impact on honeybees (and wild bees) of two commercial neonicotinoids seed treatments in commercially grown crops of oilseed rape (‘Clothianidin’ Bayer CropScience and ‘Thiamethoxam’ Syngenta). read more

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