MedComms careers event – January 2016

‘I’m delighted we will once again be running our annual lunchtime MedComms careers event in Oxford on 14 January, supported by Oxford University. Please help spread the word and encourage all relevant others to join us.

We have now completed the line-up of agencies as follows: 7.4 Limited, Ashfield Healthcare Communications, BioScience Communications Darwin Healthcare Communications, Fishawack Group, Highfield Communications, McCann Complete Medical Group, Oxford PharmaGenesis, Porterhouse Medical and The Prime Medical Group. That means the opportunity for attendees to meet at least 30-40 MedComms specialists who are happy to chat about the business and career opportunities.

This will be the tenth such event we have run in Oxford and we have more than proven the value now of gathering together the leading agencies to talk about opportunities in the business. If you’re wondering whether the events are worthwhile, earlier this year I published a host of comments from individuals who had successfully made the transition into MedComms following our events and I know many more have since followed them in.

The event is entirely free of charge and anyone is welcome to attend no matter how many times they have done so before. My advice to jobseekers is always very simple; “Grab as many opportunities as you can to talk to as many people as you can. Whether you are looking to start now or in three years’ time, the more you understand MedComms and the related businesses the more likely you will get the job that best suits you.”

Please do help spread the word. Anyone wanting to learn more about a career in MedComms is very welcome. The more the merrier!

If anyone wants to sign up, they simply send me an email providing details of their current position.

What we need now is as many delegates as possible!


Please help spread the word and encourage all relevant others to join us. Everyone is welcome. It’s entirely free of charge and a great opportunity to meet and chat with lots of specialists about MedComms itself but also about related businesses if people are unsure which direction to take. As always, anyone can come along even if they have been before. The more people someone talks to in MedComms the more they will understand the business and the more likely they will find their entry level opportunity.

Don’t forget we’ve a useful number of entry level job ads over at the NextMedCommsJob service.

Meanwhile all the various resources at remain entirely free to access for everyone.’


Career Inspiration: Patent Attorney

Could you describe a pencil in fewer than 100 words?

Interested in using your scientific knowledge in a very precise way?

Join us to hear from the following speakers, who can probably do both those things…..!
Eleanor MacIver – Trainee Patent Atorney at Mewburn Ellis, PhD in Organic Chemistry

John Fisher – Senior Associate at Carpmaels & Ransford LLP, PhD in Organic Chemistry

Nick Noble –  Patent Attorney at Kilburn & Strode, PhD in Medical Image Analysis

Weds 25th March 5-6pm
FWB 1.70, Waterloo

Use the Patent Attorney tag from the list on the RH side to read about previous Career Spotlights in this field.

Med Comms – useful info, vacancies, and events

The 7th edition of our annual Careers guide is now freely available online at our Starting Out page at and once again we have updated the core text to include new Personal Profiles and up-to-date contact details for many leading MedComms agencies who are keen to hear from people looking for an entry level job in MedComms. My favourite page this year is page 23 – quotes from named individuals who are now working in MedComms having attended our careers events last year. The events really do work! Please share details of this guide with anyone interested in learning more about MedComms.

Note paper copies are available if you want some, they are free of charge while stocks last.

Note also that alongside our three larger, open days each year, we also run a small, intensive workshop in Oxford, which has proven very beneficial for many attendees. The idea of the open events is anyone can come along at whatever stage they are at and find out more about MedComms. The idea of the smaller workshop is that attendees have a genuine interest in pursuing a career in MedComms, and specifically in medical writing which is what we focus on at this event and we provide them with in-depth insight in to the business and the roles available.

The dates this year are 18-19 May. Registration is now open. Places are strictly limited.

Note individuals need to apply via Oxford University – but check out details here first.

Applicants from within University of Oxford and Oxford NHS may attend free of charge. For external applicants there is a fee of 200 pounds to attend.

Finally, don’t forget we’ve a useful number of entry level job ads over at the NextMedCommsJob service so do check these out. There are 32 listed today. In particular note that these new ones went up in the past week; Account Coordinator – London from Inspired Science and Associate Medical Writer – Macclesfield from Windhorse MedComms Services. Please help spread the word.

Meanwhile the various resources at remain entirely free to access.

Career Inspiration: Careers in Scientific Publishing

We welcomed the following four people currently working in scientific publishing to come and talk to students about their industry and careers.

**Ruth Francis – Head of Communications at BioMed Central (previous includes Head of Press Nature Publishing Group and Press Officer King’s College London and Cancer Research UK)

**Luke Fleet – Associate Editor at Nature Publishing Group (previous includes Assistant Editor Nature Communications and a PhD Physics, Quantum Nanoelectronics)

**Michael Osuch – Publishing Director for Neuroscience and Psychology journals at Elsevier (previous posts were at Nature, Informa and Wiley Publishing)

**Francesca Lake – Managing Editor, Future Science Group

The following are some of the suggestions they had for those who are seriously considering choosing scientific publishing.

  • Think carefully about what kind of organization you’d like to work in. There has been a lot of consolidation in the industry recently, meaning it is dominated by a small number of big players. These big firms may have very different organizational cultures: Elsevier for example has a conservative reputation, while NPG is considered by many to be more innovative.
  • The speakers said they look for candidates who are well-prepared and can talk about the company. Candidates who ask lots of questions and can build rapport will have an advantage.
  • Qualities that you should be able to demonstrate include motivation, interpersonal skills, and being organized. A PhD may provide useful evidence of this, but is not a pre-requisite.
  • Luke recommends postdocs not to remain in a single niche. Having diverse subject matter expertise can be an advantage both in academia and outside of it.

Our speakers said that scientific publishing can be an alternative to academia, that allows you to stay in touch, and make use of, your subject matter expertise. You may want to consider whether you prefer the journal development aspect of the work, or management, as with experience you may need to choose a track.

Exploring Careers Outside Academia: Arts & Hums

Wednesday 2nd April, 6PM – FS01 (Strand Campus)

Please join us at the AHRS’ final event of the Spring term. We have three speakers confirmed, each discussing their own history of negotiating employment during and after the PhD. As well as speaking from personal experience, Dr Fiona Denney will be able to provide advice on the practical support offered by King’s Careers Service.

More information:



Chris Penfold (PhD: Film) Editorial Assistant at Palgrave Macmillan.

Gareth Mottram (PhD: Geography). Sales Manager for an outdoors company.

Fiona Denney (PhD: Marketing). Head of Graduate Development at KCL.

Free, confidential one-to-one advice sessions on your writing

Would you like help in:

  • Improving your written work
  • Polishing your prose style
  • Planning large writing projects
  • Revising written work

If so, our Royal Literary Fund Fellows will be on hand to guide you.

The King’s Graduate School hosts two Royal Literary Fund (RLF) Fellows – Jennifer Potter and Hilary Davies – who are able to offer one-to-one tutorials of between 1 and 1 ½ hours on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday every week during term time. They are an excellent resource for postgraduate research students and postdoctoral researchers who wish to improve and refine their writing skills.

Sessions for this term are currently still available so, to make the most of their expertise, arrange a meeting with one of them now.

More information on our RLF Fellows can be found at:

If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to get in touch with the Graduate School’s Researcher Development Unit at

Oxbridge Biotech Roundtable’s Annual Science Writing Competition NOW OPEN

**This event has now passed but the post retained for your further inspiration**

We have been sent this through: enter, maybe win some cash, and have some writing experience!

‘Enter OBR’s Science Writing Competition to win £500/$750, have your work judged by Nature Biotechnology editors Dr Lisa Melton and Dr Laura DeFrancesco, and be published on the Roundtable Review.
We are looking for talented writers who can write clearly and succinctly about a topic relating to the life sciences in 500-1000 words. Anyone from high school students to professional entrepreneurs is welcome to participate. The article must not have been previously published (professionally). No more than one article per person will be considered.
It is not easy to take a complicated story and make it intelligible to people from all walks of life. So we’re looking for those crafty writers who can explain the meaning and sheer cleverness of a particular scientific story to anyone and everyone.
Choose from one of the following topics:
1. A major scientific breakthrough
2. Major issues facing scientists today
3. Commercialising research
Check out last year’s winner here for a bit of inspiration.
Send your articles to with “WRITING COMPETITION” in the subject header between now and March 31st. The 10 finalists will have their articles posted on the Roundtable Review. A ‘People’s Choice’ Award will be decided by popular vote, and the overall winner will be chosen by Nature Biotechnology editors Dr Lisa Melton and Dr Laura DeFrancesco. The prize for the overall winner is £500/$US750!’

Career Options: Science Publishing

Dr Paul Taylor, staff editor at Portland Press, is perhaps typical of many scientists who are keen to ‘stay in science’ but don’t want to continue in an academic career. 

How did he get into science publishing?

After a PhD and a four-year post-doc in the US, Paul worked in sofware development for a time.  Neither the academic projects, nor the software role, seemed to him to be fulfilling.  But he still loved science, and liked reading about it, and realised that he would be interested in how he could influence the way that science is reported.  Redundancy money from the software role allowed him time to become a freelance copy editor.  Six months of this freelance work allowed him to apply speculatively with more confidence, to a variety of scientific publishers.

What does his role involve?

Initial tasks include copy-editing and proof-reading.  Now in a more senior role, he has to do a quick review of the 3000 papers that are submitted, pass them on to appropriate referees or editors to arrange peer reviews.  In addition, journal development aspects of his role include promoting the journal, choosing the editorial panel, using social media to promote the journal and going to conferences.

A part of his role that Paul particularly enjoys is working with new technologies to make the Journal articles more accessible to students.  For example, glossaries are added, data tables made searchable and diagrams viewed 3-D. The Portland Press is owned by the Biochemical Society and therefore has an educational remit.

What skills do you need?

  • Analytical ability
  • Writing – the ability to construct good English grammar, spot errors and write a good flowing sentence
  • Attention to detail, spotting errors
  • Be self-driven
  • Be able to sustain a project, ie project management skillls
  • Be able to manage small budgets
  • Technical knowledge may be helpful but you do not always work on subjects that you know about, so the ability to be able to learn different subjects quickly is helpful

Other roles in publishing?

Book commissioning editors: where you are researching topics/authors.  Getting a book to press can take up to 18 months whereas journal articles can take just two months.  You have to be very good at networking!

Marketing: one of their team has a PhD

Production: working with suppliers, type-setters, website design

Move into the Society itself: conferences, membership, education (the Head of Education is a PhD)

Freelance: copy-editing, proof-reading.  Use LinkedIn to get leads

How to get into the role

There is no set route.  To get experience you could ask your supervisor if you could review articles for them.  You can send in speculative CVs to companies.  Some firms take on inexperienced people and some firms have a training scheme.  Recruitment agencies such as Attwood Tate help find roles.  Talk to the publisher at any conference that you go to.

There is likely to be a proof-reading test at any interview you go to.  You may start on around £25k and an executive editor may earn around £40k.

Career options: medical writing

One of the most visited blog posts here is the ‘Downloadable Medical Writing Guide’, so it came as no surprise that there were plenty of interested researchers at last week’s Careers Spotlight talk from Dr Julia Coleman of Synergy Medical.

How did Julia get into Medical Writing?

After 11 years working at KCL Breast Cancer Unit, Julia decided it was time for a change.  Talking to her supervisor inspired her to look at medical writing; she followed that up with a conversation with Terry Jones in his past capacity as Grad School careers consultant.  She joined LinkedIn and initiated conversational threads about getting work experience (which did result in getting work experience!) and spent a lot of time researching the sector online, getting to know who she needed to know, including KCL alumni.  Persistence and grit paid off, and around seven months after her first application, she got a job.

She says of making a career decision that sometimes there comes a point when you just have to choose one career and go for it.

What does a medical writer do?

It will depend on the kind of agency you work for.  Writing up clinical trials, opinion pieces, congress materials, patient leaflets, GP information.  Posters for conferences, abstracts or articles.    One definition is ‘communicating a high quality clinical and scientific data and information to a range of audiences and formats’.  You have to work within scientific protocols and regulations.  Often deadlines might seem a bit falsely early but they are set like that because the clients need time to check the detailed information.

There are basically three different roles in the sorts of agencies Julia works for: firstly where you sit and write (and you could specialise in the kind of writing you do, eg just doing regulatory writing); secondly where you might edit; and finally where you get to project manage work and liaise more with clients.  Ultimately, you might aim to be ‘Head of Scientific Services’ within an agency where your role would be more business-getting as well as signing off work.  It is also possible to work in-house within client companies.

How do you get in?

You need to have prior experience of writing in some capacity or other (other than just your PhD thesis!).  Ask if you can contribute to a department’s web page; write some article precis; be bold about contributing to any kind of additional writing.  They will be looking for (obviously!) a good standard of English; the ability to analyse and pick out data; coping under deadlines; knowing how to data search; knowing how to present data; being accountable and responsible.

Some agencies may ask for a portfolio at interview.  At interviews, it may be an informal conversation where you get the sense they are checking to see if they can work with you.  At other places, you are likely to have to write a sample piece, or spot mistakes in an abstract or possibly write a patient leaflet based on resources given you in the interviw.

Your subject knowledge doesn’t necessarily help you – you would need to be prepared to write about whatever the client needs.

Some firms deliberately take on graduates with no experience.

Julia wrote 20 or 30 speculative letters; signed up with four or five agencies; had three interviews and three writing tests before she got her first role.

For more sector information go to and use the tag ‘medical writer’.