Our Career Spotlight last week was turned on the world of Science Communications. We listened to two speakers talk about different ends of the SciComms spectrum, sharing their enthusiasm and energy around their chosen careers.
Eleanor Roberts has founded her own medical writing business, Beeline Communcations. Following a PhD at the then IoP, Eleanor took some time off the science treadmill before going onto a post-doc in the US. Writing was always what she enjoyed doing, perhaps more so than the science parts of these research posts.
How did she get in?
Whilst doing her post-doc, she was able to do some copy-editing, copy-writing and grammar courses, which gave her formal qualifications in these areas. The first medical writing agency that took her in was particularly interested in her post-doc experience, as the sorts of skills she had as a post-doc (slide-deck writing, poster-writing, chapter-writing) are exactly what you do as a medical writer.
What does she now do?
As a medical writer, you are at the junction of the drug companies and the medical professionals. You need to be making the companies’ products look good, by writing in the references and writing it so the audience will understand.
Now, as a freelance, she is on a substantial contract with one particular global pharmaceutical company, but before that, she worked with King’s, writing the impact case studies for the recent REF submission. This, Eleanor says, was really interesting. It involved a different kind of writing, and research impact that professors didn’t necessarily know existed!
Eleanor’s Top Tips
- Look out for small-scale projects, such as writing for health websites such as LiveStrong.com, Healthday and so on.
- Look out for the MedComms events.
- Slowly build up a portfolio of different styles of writing.
Toby Shannon is the UK Co-ordinator of the International year of Light at the Institute of Physics, one of the learned societies associated with science in the UK. This is a public engagement role, where ‘science communication’ blurs with ‘public engagement’.
How did he get in?
Toby took an MSc in Science Communications at UWE (there are others, including at Imperial College); and then found a paid internship with the British Science Association. Then he was able to apply for a Science in Society role – helping researchers do public engagement.
How could you do public engagement?
- There are many science festivals and events such as I’m a Scientist, Get me out of Here!; Pint of Science , Big Bang and so on.
- Could you help at a university Open Day?
- Create a short film or podcast?
- Figure out an under-served audience and specifically aim an event at them?
- Can you measure and evaluate it properly?
- Be an Explainer at the Wellcome Trust? (Equivalents at other museums!)
Toby’s Top Tips:
I think the two major things I’d recommend for aspiring science communicators are:
- Join the psci-com list (because that’s where all the jobs are posted!) – https://www.jiscmail.ac.uk/cgi-bin/webadmin?A0=psci-com
- Have a really good look at the NCCPE website to help you think about good public engagement and the sorts of things you might consider as a professional science communicator: http://www.publicengagement.ac.uk/
My other recommendations to make yourself more noticeable to potential employers are:
- Volunteer – have a go at lots of different volunteering opportunities to see what you enjoy and are good at
- Organise – once you’ve found what you enjoy, try organising something yourself to show that you’re not just a willing volunteer
- Go beyond – think about expanding your skills by working with under-served audiences or treating your projects in a professional way to help you stand out