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roundups & rapid reactions
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 recreational drug use during pregnancy

A paper published in the journal PLOS One has analysed the use of recreational drugs in women with normal pregnancies and those with foetal abnormalities. In a small sample size, they reported an increased incidence of foetuses with gastroschisis born to younger mothers, and an increase in abnormalities of the central nervous system in foetuses born to mothers who used recreational drugs before conception. read more

expert reaction to genetic influence on Ebola outcome in mice

Researchers writing in the journal Science have published the characterisation of a mouse model which displays human-relevant disease phenotypes when infected with a mouse-adapted Ebola virus. A range of effects from resistance to severe symptoms and death were seen, and these depended on the genetic background of the mice. read more

expert reaction to milk consumption, fractures and mortality

A paper published in The BMJ has shown an association between higher intake of milk and higher mortality in cohorts of men and women. In the cohort of women, they also observed a higher incidence of fractures with higher milk intake. The researchers recommend cautious interpretation of the data due to it being an observational study, and possible confounding effects. read more

supercomputing, weather forecasting and climate science

Weather and climate predictions are inherently difficult because of the sheer amount of data which must be processed. If the science of prediction is to be ever more accurate it will need powerful computers backing it up. Scientists came to the SMC to discuss the future of forecasting, what high-powered computers can and can’t do, and how the extra information can be used in future. At this briefing, science minister Greg Clark announced the funding of a £97m computer dedicated to weather and climate science. read more

expert reaction to cocoa and cognition

Researchers have published their findings in the journal Nature Neuroscience that diets high in flavanols, such as those found in cocoa, have beneficial effects in terms of neurology. In a small trial, they found that participants on a high flavanol diet performed better in cognitive tests, and were observed to have improved hippocampi as measured by fMRI. read more

expert reaction to new study on Arctic sea ice and colder winters in Europe and Asia

A paper published in the journal Nature Geosciences has explored the link between declining sea-ice in the Arctic, and colder Eurasian winters. Loss of sea-ice can disrupt patterns of air flow of different temperatures at high altitudes leading to changes in weather, but the researchers’ models predicted that these colder winters were unlikely to continue with further increases in global temperatures. read more

expert reaction to study modelling Ebola virus transmission in Liberia

Researchers publishing in The Lancet Infectious Diseases journal have modelled the spread of Ebola in Montserrado, Liberia. They put forward the likely effects of different levels of intervention and at different time points, in terms of number of cases averted, in relation to the current healthcare efforts. read more

expert reaction to obesity, diabetes and UV light

A study in the journal Diabetes has looked at the effects of vitamin D supplements or exposure to UV light on metabolic phenotypes in mice, such as obesity and type 2 diabetes. The researchers suggest that while vitamin D supplements are often taken to combat deficiency, they do not reproduce the positive effects of exposure to UV radiation in sunlight in terms of these disorders. read more

bisphenol-A and till receipts

A study published in the journal PLOS ONE has investigated the levels of exposure to bisphenol-A through the handling of till receipts, eating, and use of hand sanitiser. read more

what can animals tell us about psychiatry?

Psychiatry has made huge leaps in recent years as it has become ever more scientific in nature. Our understanding of disorders, drugs and therapies has grown dramatically, much of it through research with animals. But are mice and rats good models for these complex diseases, can depression in dogs really equate with depression in people, and how much does that matter? read more

expert reaction to side-effects of Parkinson’s drug

Researchers investigating previously known side effects of pharmaceuticals used to treat neurological conditions such as Parkinson’s disease have suggested that more warning labels should be included in packaging of these medicines. read more

gain-of-function flu research – what is it for?

We’ve heard about lab experiments on influenza that mutate the virus to investigate how genetic changes could alter how infectious or deadly it is. But what are these gain-of-function experiments, how and where are they conducted, and what have we learned from them so far? read more

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