[ASC-media] RE: [ASC-list] RE: science communication jobs in UK!

Niall Byrne niall at scienceinpublic.com.au
Fri Mar 3 08:31:38 EST 2006

I'm with Fiona on this one. 

PR is like the irregular verbs - I'm a freedom fighter, he's a terrorist.

I'm in science communication, you're in pr, he's a liar.

Many of the subscribers to this list are in PR - we just don't like to admit
it - largely because we do honest PR about things we think are true and

PR is tarnished by all those other people telling us that Telstra is
wonderful, and Qantas is Australian, that junk food adverts don't target
children, and that black is white. 

So we don't like using the words PR. 

I use different descriptions to different audiences - sometimes I'm a
science writer, sometimes a science communicator, sometimes science
publicist (I quite like that one), sometimes "I do PR - but for science

I like the honesty of the "Proof" boys. I met them in London last year and
it's great to see them applying the full force of PR to their work in
science communication. It's also good that they are continuing their
interest in recruiting Aussie writers. 


No, good science journalists do not need science training. I think they need
a passion for the science in addition to their journalism skills. 

Nor do political journalists need degrees in political science, nor health
reporters a medical degree (though there are some very good reporters who do
have these skills).

Nor do sports commentators have to be athletes. Though there is a worrying
precedent that suggests that football commentators need to own a club.

Many of Australia's best science journalists have no tertiary science

Leigh Dayton for example is well qualified in anthropology but those are
arts degrees. 

I have a rusty degree in botany, but it doesn't stop me writing for the
Institute of Physics. 

And 90% of science stories are written in the mainstream media by people
with no feeling for science culture. That's not going to change real soon,
so we need to learn to work with what we have. 



Niall Byrne

Science Communication Consultant
Science in Public
PO Box 199 Drysdale 3222 Australia
(185 Scotchmans Road Portarlington 3223) 
Ph +61 3 5253 1391, fax +61 3 9923 6008, mobile 0417 131 977 
niall at scienceinpublic.com - or niallprivate at scienceinpublic.com for personal

-----Original Message-----
From: asc-list-bounces at lists.asc.asn.au
[mailto:asc-list-bounces at lists.asc.asn.au] On Behalf Of Fiona Barbagallo
Sent: Wednesday, 1 March 2006 1:01 PM
To: asc-list at lists.asc.asn.au
Subject: [ASC-list] RE: science communication jobs in UK!

I don't think it is necessary to have a science degree to be a good science
communicator. It might help but in some ways (perhaps more in the past) it
has hindered science communication. The science communicators from the mid
1980s to late 1990s may have made the science community feel better about
itself but it could be argued that their efforts actually isolated their
target audience from science and any discussion surrounding science.

I find it quite refreshing to read about science, technology and innovation
from a different perspectives such as social, economical and environmental -
and would encourage more writers (from disciplines other than science) to
cover science type issues.

PR  is part - not all - of what we do - and we can and should be learning
from each other. PR is not just spin.

In relation to the original job description - I know the UK organisation,
Proof Communications - I expect a PR background would be beneficial for some
of the organisation's clients, many of whom are industry. But - we might be
reading too much into this - perhaps the director's take on PR is broad and
includes science communication and that he is not focused on terms such as
'science communication'. After all - it is not an exact field.

ta, Fiona


Fiona Barbagallo
Department of State Development, Trade and Innovation

P +61 (0)7 3224 8209
F +61 (0)7 3225 8754
E Fiona.Barbagallo at sd.qld.gov.au
W www.sdi.qld.gov.au

-----Original Message-----
From: asc-list-bounces at lists.asc.asn.au
[mailto:asc-list-bounces at lists.asc.asn.au] On Behalf Of
asc-list-request at lists.asc.asn.au
Sent: Wednesday, 1 March 2006 11:00 AM

There are several topics for discussion regarding this exchange, but what I
find the most interesting is that the ad does not request that the applicant
have any science experience at all.  I have no problem with a company
looking for someone with PR skills, but placing them ahead of a solid
background in the topic they are promoting is asking for trouble.  I feel
the same about some science journalists.  Asking for writing skills ahead of
knowledge in what they are writing about is also asking for trouble.  Sure,
there are many communicators who have acquired knowledge about science and
research over the years (or who have a genuine personal interest that helps
them develop a background), but I think much of the "spin" has less to do
with intentional manipulation and more to do with lacking skills to convey
the message in an interesting and accurate way.

  ----- Original Message -----

  From: Sue Keay

  To: Jenni Metcalfe ; list at asc.asn.au

  Sent: Friday, February 24, 2006 11:16 AM
  Subject: Re: [ASC-list] science communication jobs in UK!

  Hi Jenni

  If science communicators are ever to receive the fair pay and conditions
that we all feel we deserve then perhaps we need to start learning from our
corporate colleagues instead of bagging them.  This discussion seems to
suggest that all PR consultants are unethical.  I don't share this view and
I think the arbitrary divide between science communicators and communicators
in general only serves to keep science communicators isolated and to
restrict learning opportunities.

  Sue Keay
  Technical Communications Manager

  UDP Number 055
  The University of Queensland
  Brisbane QLD  4072

  Ph.  +61 7 3365 3675
  Mob. 0408 778 667
  Fax. +61 7 3365 3888
  Web: www.cast.crc.org.au
   At 09:42 AM 24/02/2006 +1000, Jenni Metcalfe wrote:


    Dear Colleagues,

    I pasted the add that was sent to be below exactly as was sent to me.
However, as a colleague has pointed out to me, the add does use the word PR,
something I would not have personally included in a job add.

    I also aware that a number of you consider yourself to PR practitioners.
This is perhaps an interesting topic for an ASC discussion.

    My colleague makes this point:

    "This is just what Australian science is up in arms over at the moment -
too much spin, not enough truth.

     I put it to you that science communication is not PR ("spin") but the
honest transmission of scientific fact.  Happy to debate the point on ASC if
you don't agree.

    Running ads like this pushes science communication closer to those who
wish to manipulate science for their own selfish ends. Not a good outcome
for the human race, though very advantageous for tiny elites."
    I personally agree with these comments, but would like to hear your

    Jenni Metcalfe
    Econnect Communication
    PO Box 734
    South Brisbane Q 4101

    Ph. 07 3846 7111; 0408 551 866
    jenni at econnect.com.au


      ----- Original Message -----

      From: Jenni Metcalfe

      To: list at asc.asn.au

      Sent: Thursday, February 23, 2006 3:33 PM

      Subject: [ASC-list] science communication jobs in UK!

      This comes from Terri Telford, who used to work for Econnect, and is
now working for Proof Communication in London (a similar small science
communication company)... she says they're very impressed with Aussie
science communicators!

      Bring your intelligence and energy

      We are a fast-growing communication company based in central London.
We advise some of the UK's biggest science and technology organisations on
how to get noticed. We are looking for talented account directors and
account managers who can lead accounts and help expand the company over the
next five years. Our work ranges from national and trade press relations to
message development, event management and the writing/production of
newsletters. Competitive salary and benefits offered - plus a bonus scheme.
If you have three or more years of PR agency experience, are an excellent
writer and want to play a role in building something special, please send
your CV to recruit at proofcommunication.com.

       Jenni Metcalfe


      Econnect Communication

      PO Box 734

      South Brisbane Q 4101

      Ph. 07 3846 7111; 0408 551 866

      jenni at econnect.com.au




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