These days, amid ongoing media controversies about the safety of antibiotics, climate change, artificial intelligence and many other science topics, the physics postgraduate cohort has been asking itself some pretty big questions: should we be doing more to communicate our science through the media? How do we do it? With radical reforms to GCSEs and A-levels, cuts to teacher’s salaries and a national shortage of scientists in schools, it is our responsibility to be heard: science will change the world.
Presenting our research through the media is a brilliant way to communicate quickly with large audiences. The Women in Physics PG community were lucky enough to receive graduate school funding to send young researchers to the BBC in central London, where they received a day of Media Training for Radio and TV. The event was hosted by Caroline Lefevre, an award winning radio and TV producer, and Sheila McLennon, a BBC broadcaster.
The group began with a brief introduction to the media (with a lot of awesome examples/ anecdotes) and a timeline of key transition points for the media that have happened during our lifetimes. As lasting impressions are made within the first few seconds of meetings or interviews, being concise and clear about your key message is super important. The group discussed how to prepare for an interview, to think about what they wanted to get across and how they’d do it. By trying to summarise their research topic for ‘an intelligent twelve year old’, the group learnt quickly how best to package their science. Try summarising your thesis or latest conference abstract in English your parents would understand: tough gig.
Next it was on to radio interviews, with a difference- how to use the interview to say what you want and making your own agenda. The examples and stories that Caroline and Sheila came armed with made this a really exciting day- they really know everything there is to know about the media. We practised ‘making an entrance’ when you give a presentation or chair a meeting, and how to use silence to your advantage.
Over lunch the group of scientists networked with other Imperial physicists, and scientists from across the capital- Rolls Royce, the Carbon Trust and HS2 were all represented. A lot of business cards were exchanged! The afternoon was preparing for television: what to wear, how to smile, how to hold yourself. We learnt how to report a ‘bad news’ story, and how to cope when it all gets a bit overwhelming.
We all really loved the experience, and it really worked to bring students together from across the physics department- from solid state to organic electronics, plasmonics, cosmology and space physics. We are hugely grateful to the graduate school for such an opportunity, and encourage the other Imperial postgraduates to apply for similar training in the future.