In collaboration with journalists, scientists and press officers, the SMC produces a number of publications designed to equip journalists with what they need to know. Having in-depth knowledge of issues across the sciences is a challenge for specialist journalists, let alone generalists, editors and broadcasters who may have to cover a great number of unrelated topics in a single day.
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, are designed to be an overview rather than a comprehensive account of a topic, 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 controversial topics in science which give a snapshot of the basics and a run-down of points of controversy from the scientific perspective. Briefing notes are produced in consultation with top scientists in the field, as well as specialist media professionals. Aimed at broadcasters and news desks, briefing notes are designed to be rapidly read and fit on two sides of A4 which can be kept around a studio or newsroom.
Following Fiona Fox’s written and oral evidence to the Leveson Inquiry, the Science Media Centre was challenged to act on the assertion that “if you put the best scientists, science communicators and science journalists in a room it would not take long for them to agree a tick list of the basic ingredients of good science reporting.”
The guidelines were therefore drawn up in consultation with scientists, science reporters, editors and sub editors and are designed to be used by newsrooms and as advice for non-specialist reporters.
In his report, Lord Justice Leveson described remarked on the guidelines as being “in my view commendable for their utility as well as their succinctness. Any new regulator should bear them closely in mind.”