Media Skills Training for Transformations to Sustainability Researchers

Knowledge dissemination is a crucial part of scientific research. Early career researchers get trained (formally or informally) during their research journey to publish their research finding in scientific journals.

In scientific publications, we have the luxury of using specific technical jargon, dry scientific language and even explaining each and every detail of our research methodology. However, communicating the same to mainstream media in a language which is appealing to wider population from a diverse background is a different ball game and can be a real challenge. Early career researchers face constant struggle to communicate their findings and scientific information to policy audience and general public. This becomes even more difficult when they try to tell the world, “see – how hard have I worked, care and cautions have I taken to get these reliable results.”

To get some useful tips and initial hand holding on how to address this challenge, IPACST postdoc researchers attended “Media Skills Training for Early Career Transformations to Sustainability Researchers” conducted by The International Science Council in partnership with SciDev.Net. on 24 Nov 2020. Objective of this training was to give early career researchers the skills and confidence to reach policy audiences and the wider public with their research findings through the media.

The training was structured in two parts: (1) an online short self-paced course to help researchers understand how to make scientific information interesting to readers, audience and viewers. (2) A condensed webinar to interactively discuss problems and challenges faced by early career researchers in communicating their research and to give them useful tips to solve them. The trainer, Dr Charles Wendo, shared some useful and crucial tips to make the scientific information interesting to mass media. Here are key take-away to help fellow researchers to capture key-points:

Is your scientific information newsworthy?

There are 6 principles to determine whether the scientific information is newsworthy or not for wider public:

  1. Impact: No. of people it is impacting
  2. Novelty: Something that is never heard/seen before
  3. Prominence: Related to a famous personality/institution./people
  4. Controversy: Disagreements between two school of thoughts/ideas
  5. Proximity: Related to a situation, place or person that audience is familiar with
  6. Topicality: Something which is in people’s mind during a given period of time.

Fulfilling these criteria is a first filter that will give you a hint that information is worth packing in an interesting form to deliver it to wider audience.

How to package your scientific information?

Now, there are three key points to take into account while packaging your scientific information in an interesting manner for wider audience:

  1. Humanise the science: Make it a human story. Talk about person, people or a community and how can they be affected by this information.
  2. Relate it to a trending topic: Try to relate your information (and package it as one of the possible solution) to any answered question of dominant topic in mainstream media.
  3. Relate it to people’s most pressing need: Identify key things that people care about and show the editors in 1-2 sentences how your research finding is interesting, important and urgent and addresses their pressing need.

Keeping these points in mind will give a structured approach and confidence to early career researchers to start communicating their research findings to wider audience and make it useful for the society.