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FAQ science communicators

Via SMC, you can introduce experts with genuine knowledge to a raft of media and help to reduce would-be experts’ access to public exposure. You will also promote more authoritative reporting on science. Moreover, via SMC you can reach registered journalists who do not work on classic science desks but on local or political desks, for example, which means that more assessments by qualified scientists find their way into the media.

We consider very carefully exactly which themes are appropriate for a topical press conference. And we welcome any information we receive from research institutions alerting us to forthcoming publications or topics that are likely to attract a lot of media interest. These could be ground-breaking research results or events with high news value and a link to science. Do contact us if you have a story in mind that could be of interest to SMC and its registered journalists. Please bear in mind that the criteria for selecting topics for press briefings are different from those for other SMC products: these topics have a broader focus than a specific specialist publication or an event; they are socially relevant; and they could lie at the interface between science and politics; especially as we are only able to organise a limited number of press briefings.

Not as a rule, because we focus on the specialist knowledge of top researchers who are able to deliver expert statements on research articles or current events from the research point of view. If we are already working on a topic, however, and you think you have an assessment on a special area that could be of interest to SMC, or know a particular non-scientific member of staff with relevant knowledge, do get in touch with us. In individual cases and under certain circumstances it could be useful to add an inciteful voice to the expert statements and disseminate them to journalists.

We do our best to provide you with information when we make contact with one of your scientists. And we also encourage experts on our database to inform you about their work for SMC in your capacity as a representative of science communication. It is not, however, a pre-condition for being included on our database.

If a science-related announcement with high news value becomes known, SMC will immediately contact the experts registered with it and request a statement within hours. But we cannot guarantee that our request will reach every scientist with expertise in the field. So if you know an expert you think could provide authoritative information, comment on the current state of research or make useful suggestions, please do not hesitate to contact us. We are grateful for well-informed recommendations and follow them up as quickly as possible.

Of course. We specialise in controversial areas and want to furnish journalists with expertise when complex, contentious or ambivalent scientific topics are on the news agenda. What is particularly helpful are early pointers to publications which you think might generate particular attention in the media. If you are confronted with breaking news, want to suggest an opinion piece on a topic, or draw journalists’ attention to a particular, sensitive research topic, you are most welcome to contact us – irrespective of whether the objective is background information, advice or strategically relevant details. If you wish, we will treat all your information confidentially.

The majority of science communicators are happy for us – just like other science journalists – to contact scientists directly. The researchers who work with us all agree to us contacting them directly and proactively. SMC prefers this immediate approach because it is usually quicker. Please bear in mind that sometimes every minute counts and fast access to expert researchers can be crucial if journalists are to report accurately. We do realise, however, that science communicators want to know which researchers are currently in contact with the media. That is why we are happy to copy you into our request for a statement from an expert at your institution, on request.

Both the expert database and the database of journalists registered with SMC are used exclusively for our own purposes. Furthermore, we guarantee data protection in the declaration of consent that is signed by both the experts when they are included on our database and the journalists when they register with us. We do not disclose any contact details without the permission of the individual concerned. 

We do not forward press releases from press offices to journalists. Nor do we undertake any press or public outreach work for research institutions or other organisations. Our editorial office thinks and acts in supra-institutional terms. We campaign for science to be valued and used by society. And we want to give voice to scientists’ expertise at the precise moment it is likely to help elucidate issues of public interest. Our place is, however, in journalism, not the research landscape.

We do our best to state affiliations accurately and are aware how important it is to your institution to communicate the experts’ names and their institutions. In practice, however, excellent researchers are now often involved in various organisational structures. Increasingly, research is being conducted in the form of projects in which the individual institution is just one of many. We ask all the experts on our database which affiliation they want to use when delivering their assessments. One or two entries are useful and doable; if more are given, the journalists registered with us would have to decide which entry they wanted to use because there would not be enough space or airtime for all affiliations.

If you, as a science communicator, would like to change an expert’s affiliation, please tell us which alternative institutional affiliation is preferred. We will then request the researcher’s permission or a compromise suggestion. Or you might want to discuss the matter with the member of staff in advance and inform us subsequently.

If you have any other questions that have not been answered on this website, please contact us. We look forward to hearing from you.