FAQs – journalists
Political correspondents report on the UN Climate Conference in Paris, tabloid reporters on an actor who has both breasts removed for fear of cancer, business editors on the pharma industry, sports reporters on doping, local reporters on a suspected case of Ebola at the Job Centre, science editors on the newest coup in CRISPR/Cas technology. Science plays a role in all fields of life and thus in all branches of journalism.
This is why the Science Media Center Germany not only addresses science journalists but, quite intentionally, journalists on other desks as well – right across the media board: print, radio, television, online, multimedia and news agencies.
How and where can you turn for reliable scientific expertise at short notice? Where can you quickly find experts who are not only qualified, but also willing and able to provide quotable answers? When debates get emotional, who can be relied on to come up with factual arguments and hard facts? These are the sort of challenges journalists like you are faced with when you have to decide how to rank scientific content amongst current affairs, when breaking science news causes a public stir, or dramatic science-related events have to be evaluated immediately. If you are in a rush, the jungle of publications, information sources, thematic areas and terminology in science is almost impenetrable. The Science Media Center Germany can act as a competent guide: we take the initiative on socially-relevant public issues when journalists can benefit from the expertise we collect and disseminate; issues we can expect to be of interest to a wider public. With our portfolio we particularly want to fertilise and enhance reporting on sensitive and complex topics.
- „Rapid Reaction“:
This service provides scientific expertise and assessments delivered by our experts on current events – as a guide, as journalistic raw material, as a basis for further research of your own.
- „Research in Context“:
When studies and specialist publications deserve public attention but are still under embargo this product provides assessments and facts prepared by experts for SMC’s database even before the embargo has been lifted.
- „Fact Sheet“:
When events are confusing, this format helps you to have the right facts up your sleeve and ask the relevant questions – a ‘crib sheet’ with background information.
- „Press Briefing“:
Direct access to scientists allows journalists to put their own questions to the experts. SMC organises press conferences – at the SMC office in Cologne, by phone or video conference.
- Other formats are planned.
SMC’s expert database is composed, above all, of scientists and other experts, that is, individuals who have conducted research but now work for specialist authorities or people who have acquired serious expertise in a special field over a long period of time. When approached by SMC, all the experts in our database agreed to help elucidate scientific expertise for journalists as well as readers, listeners and viewers.
When you are searching for an appropriate expert, the first one who comes along is not necessarily the best one. In order to avoid compromise, we take the time to systematically build a unique database. The scientists and experts concerned are hand-picked by SMC editors. We focus on individuals who have produced relevant research outcomes and earned a reputation in their specialist disciplines as long as they are prepared to join the public debate, if necessary, at short notice.
SMC is neither a press office nor a lobbyist for institutional interests. We distance ourselves from individuals who merely wish to promote themselves. Our goal is to strengthen the great good of public awareness by employing evidence-based arguments supplied by scientists.
Very important: the experts do not pay and are not paid to be included on the database. They have something to say and they are interested in journalism. They are courageous scientists who believe just as firmly as we do at SMC in the basic right to scientific freedom.
The experts on our database are regularly asked about potential conflicts of interest, for example relevant third-party funding from industry. SMC does random checks on conflicting interests. However, as far as SMC is concerned, a potential conflict of interest does not necessarily mean that an expert’s specialist knowledge is not welcome; it does mean, however, that we draw attention to the fact and that certain individuals may not be asked to comment on given topics or aspects of a topic.
SMC delivers its portfolio on several different levels:
Journalists who are accredited with SMC receive the products by e-mail at the earliest opportunity.
Journalists who are granted embargo access and are in agreement with our embargo policy will also be sent the relevant SMC products before an embargo has been lifted.
On topics of current interest which SMC has prepared, all registered journalists are immediately given access to all the expertise that has been accumulated. In some cases, this may only be a short assessment by a few experts. In the course of the day, or when other commentaries are received, we progressively deliver additional statements and information.
Journalists who have not (yet) registered with SMC can read the portfolio on the SMC website at a later stage and inform themselves about topic-related expert assessments. They can also follow us on Twitter (@smc_germany) where we announce new material as soon as it goes online.
SMC’s products are offered free of charge. Registration does not cost anything either – apart from a few minutes of your time.
By the way: experts are not required to pay anything, nor do they receive any financial remuneration for being included on the SMC database and delivering their expertise. SMC is non-profit and financed on the basis of a starting grant from the Klaus Tschira Foundation. A broader circle of sponsors from academia, business and society is currently being built in order to finance SMC in the long term.
Specialist scientific articles that have not yet been published are usually subject to an embargo determined by the journal. Consequently, any assessments provided by experts at SMC’s request are also subject to the embargo. This means that no reporting on the specialist article or the expert statements collated by SMC may be used before the embargo has been lifted. Only full-time journalists who have been registered by SMC and who have agreed in writing that they have understood and will observe the embargo policies of both the scientific community and SMC will receive embargoed material from SMC. If journalists or editorial offices break an embargo this can mean that they will no longer receive any advance press information: potentially, an editorial desk, a medium or the SMC itself could be excluded from embargoed information which, in its turn, would be to the detriment of many colleagues and science reporting. Thus we require all registered journalists who wish to receive embargoed information to agree in writing to respect embargoes.
SMC is not a news agency. We do not deliver finished articles, but quotations and assessments by scientists and other experts to supplement your research and enhance your reports. And whilst news agencies take payment for delivery, SMC’s entire portfolio is free of charge and will be sent to your editorial office by e-mail.
Unfortunately not. This kind of mediation is not on our agenda. SMC offers all registered journalists and editorial offices its portfolio in the same format. And we also select the experts on the basis of their specialist knowledge.
SMC Germany is a team of currently nine staff who cannot cover the whole range of science journalism topics. Apart from which, we are neither omniscient nor experts in explaining the world. So we shall not always be able to provide information on every single topic or deal with every single item of news.
We burst into action when socially-relevant public issues emerge and when we can assume that the expertise we collect and distribute will provide added value for journalists and be used on a broad scale. We want our portfolio to help enrich and improve reporting, especially on sensitive issues.
Are you a full-time journalist?
Do you work for German-language media in Germany, Austria or Switzerland?
Would you like to receive the Science Media Center Germany’s expert statements and fact sheets in German?
If so, please complete this online accreditation form.
If you have any other questions, please write or call. We look forward to hearing from you.