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factsheets and briefing notes

When a new topic in science hits the news, it can be frustrating for journalists when they don’t have access to all the relevant facts. The SMC’s Factsheets give brief, digestible summaries on new areas of emerging science when issues that have had little media attention are suddenly in the spotlight. Often Factsheets come as a supplement to a briefing or Roundup the SMC has put together, and have included topics like the chemical bisphenol-A, emerging livestock diseases, shale gas extraction and ‘legal’ highs.

Designed to be an overview rather than a comprehensive account of a topic, Factsheets are also a pointer towards sources of authoritative scientific information. While SMC Factsheets tend to go into detail on a narrow topic, we also produce ‘briefing notes’ on broader subject areas like climate change, stem cells or animal research. These briefing notes are written for broadcasters and non-specialists, giving a rapidly digestible summary of controversial topics.

see briefing notes

see archived factsheets

Lyme disease

Lyme disease (or Lyme borreliosis) is caused by the bite of a tick infected with certain Borrelia bacteria with cases generally restricted to Europe (including the UK) and North America. read more

Zika virus

Zika virus is spread by mosquitoes and is usually associated with mild symptoms lasting up to a week. Severe symptoms are uncommon but there are suggestions of an association between infection of pregnant women and birth defects and autoimmune disorders. This Factsheet has information on Zika infection, complications and prevention. read more

gene drive

The term “gene drive” refers to a process by which a genetic trait can spread within a population more quickly than would be expected through natural selection. This Factsheet contains key information about gene drive, including its use and controversy. read more

electronic cigarettes

Key information about e-cigarettes, including their prevalence, effects on health, and regulation. read more


Key information about Campylobacter, the most common source of food poisoning in the UK. read more

Ebola virus

Key information about the Ebola virus, including its transmission and treatment. read more


Key information about the symptoms, causes, prevalence and treatment of schizophrenia. read more


Key information about the symptoms, causes, prevalence and treatment of depression. read more

badger cull

Bovine TB is caused by the bacterium Mycobacterium bovis (M. bovis), which can also infect and cause TB in badgers, deer and other mammals. The government recently proposed a cull of badgers in two areas in England, Gloucestershire and West Somerset, in attempt to control the impact of bovine TB. read more

mitochondrial DNA

You can download this factsheet as a PDF.   Mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) is DNA contained in the mitochondria in our … read more

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