Career Inspiration: Science Communication

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, 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:


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



Meeting employers; using your skills; interesting careers

These three things are among the main topics of conversation I have with PhDs and post-docs.

Why not help yourself with all these areas by coming along next Wednesday to the Career Spotlight on Writing Careers?

You’ll get to meet two employers (Julia Coleman from Synergy Medical, and Una-Frances Clarke from the BBC Proms), both using their knowledge and skills developed during their degrees; who are both doing what they think are interesting careers.

One’s a scientist, ones a humanities person.  Both write for a living (in print and digitally).

The sessions are really informal: they are here for you to be asking the questions you’ve been turning around in your head for ages:

  • what’s it like outside academia?
  • how did you make the switch?
  • who values a PhD?
  • what is it like to make a career out of writing?
  • what experience do I need?

and so on.

  • Weds 12th Feb, 5-6pm
  • FWB 1.70
  • No need to book.

See you there: armed with the information you gain, then we really can have an interesting conversation about your career.

Do you want to put science in the headlines?

If you do then the British Science AssociationMedia Fellowshipsare for you.

Experience first-hand how science is reported by spending 3-6 weeks on a summer placement with a press, broadcast or online journalist such as the Guardian, The Times or BBC.
You will work with them to produce well informed, newsworthy pieces about developments in science.
Come away better equipped to communicate your research to the media, public and your colleagues.
You will develop communication skills that could help you produce concise and engaging articles and funding applications.
For details about the scheme, including eligibility and online application form, visit our webpage.
Application deadline: 16 March 2014

Another science writing opportunity….

For PhDs

European Graphene Flagship Science Writer and Communications Officer

A position exists for an experienced Science Writer/Communications Officer with a strong scientific background to run the communications activities of the European Graphene Flagship. The EU flagship is a 10-year, 1 billion euro research initiative comprising 126 research groups in 75 universities, companies and research centres across Europe. A further 20-30 groups/institutions will join in 2014 following an Open Call published in November 2013.  Read on for more, and check JobOnline regularly for other jobs that I don’t to post on this blog.

Freelance science journal editing possibilities

Drop-in Session with Edanz

10th December 2013, 1.30-4pm, FWB Library Pod

The Edanz Group is a worldwide author-centric English editing company. Edanz edits manuscripts for publication in international scientific and academic journals for a growing number of manuscripts from authors of non-native English-speaking backgrounds. The team of Edanz editors, who are native English-speakers and experts in their scientific or academic field, increases these chances for publication success. Editors across all scientific and academic fields are needed to join the Edanz worldwide team of editors. Freelance editing positions are available for applicants who are experts in their scientific or academic field and are also native English-speakers.  Drop by for a quick chat with one of own editors about joining our team. Just provide your name, your area of expertise, e-mail address, and time you would like to drop by upon registration to