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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.

Get in touch 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 biomarkers for CFS/ME

A paper published in the journal Science Advances has reported the presence of a specific biomarker signature in patients early in the course of CFS/ME, which was not seen in patients with a longer duration of the illness or in healthy individuals. The biomarkers relate to immune signalling messengers. read more

expert encounter: Prof Mike Stephenson, Director of Science and Technology at the British Geological Survey

A new book by Prof. Mike Stephenson, Shale Gas and Fracking: The Science Behind the Controversy, will be published in early March. It attempts to cut through the misinformation on both sides of this emotionally charged debate and clearly present the unbiased scientific evidence to help policy makers and the public decide for themselves about shale gas and fracking. Prof. Stephenson came to the SMC to talk to journalists ahead of publication. read more

expert reaction to study on dietary emulsifying agents and inflammation in mice

Researchers publishing in the journal Nature have examined the possibility of emulsifying agents, which are present in a range of food, contributing to adverse health effects. The authors report that in mice, the addition of two emulsifiers to their diet led to changes in the bacterial makeup of the gut as well as inflammation and related metabolic disorders, which they suggest is due to a reduction in the protective mucus barrier which lines the gut. read more

expert reaction to violence and depression

Writing in the Lancet Psychiatry, researchers have published their results of an analysis of a possible link between depression and violent crime in Sweden. They report that people with depressive symptoms were three times more likely to commit violent offences than those who had not been diagnosed with depression, and suggest that their results should be taken into account in clinical guidelines. read more

depression and violence

There has been a lot of focus on how suffering from depression can lead to self-harm and suicide. In contrast, there has been little investigation of any link between depression and violent behaviour. Experts have heard anecdotal reports, but there has been no rigorous study until now. Researchers have investigated whether there is a link between suffering from depression and perpetrating violent crime. They have used data from Sweden, comparing patients with depression to members of the general population and, further, assessed risk of violent crime in twin studies. read more

is NICE approval of new drugs doing more harm than good?

Research at the University of York has estimated the effects of changes in NHS expenditure on the health of all NHS patients.* The researchers have asked whether the threshold NICE uses to judge whether the health benefits of a new drug are sufficient to justify the costs are correct. The findings, published in the Health Technology Assessment Journal, suggest that the NHS is currently paying too much for new drugs. The authors also revealed their estimates of the true costs of the Cancer Drugs Fund on other areas of health spending. read more

evidence on standardised packing of tobacco products

The English government intends to put regulations on standardised packaging of tobacco products to a vote before the general election in May 2015. If the vote is passed, England will be the second country in the world to mandate standardised packaging, following Australia’s example. The evidence base for standardised packaging is growing, and the scientific journal Addiction has played a key role in that growth. In the lead-up to the vote, Addiction is publishing a collection of peer-reviewed research papers and commentaries from 2008 to 2015 that bring together key parts of the evidence base for standardised packaging. read more

expert reaction to two studies on genes, obesity and fat distribution

Two papers published in the journal Nature have reported the importance of several regions in the human genome as being important in the distribution of fat in the body, as well as for obesity. These include genes involved in metabolism and the nervous system, and the researchers suggest that these might be useful in the future as a focus for targeting disease. read more

expert reaction to unemployment linked with deaths by suicide

A study published in the The Lancet Psychiatry journal has looked at trends in suicide around the world, and a unemployment rates. The research team analysed data from 2000-2011 and report that overall suicide rates fell, and that suicides associated with unemployment generally were higher than for those associated with the recent economic downturn. read more

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