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FAQ journalists

Political journalists report on the US President wanting to pull out of the Paris Climate Agreement, tabloid journalists report on an actor who has her breasts amputated for fear of cancer, economic journalists on the pharmaceutical industry, sports reporters on doping, local journalists on a suspected case of Ebola at the job centre, science reporters on the latest coup in CRISPR-Cas systems.

Science crops up in all areas of life and also on all journalism desks.

This is why the Science Media Center Germany does not only target science reporters but journalists in other editorial departments as well – and what’s more, in all media: print, radio, television, online, multimedia and news agency. 

How and where can I find quick and reliable scientific expertise? Where do I search for experts who are not only qualified, but also willing and able to deliver statements at short notice? When debates get emotional, who can be relied on to come up with factual arguments and hard facts?

This is the challenge journalists like you face when the media have to decide how to rank scientific content in the context of current affairs, when breaking science news causes a public stir, or dramatic science-related events have to be evaluated immediately. Our portfolio seeks to enrich and enhance reporting on sensitive and complex topics.

It is almost impossible to break a path through the jungle of science’s publications, information sources, thematic areas and terminology. This is where the Science Media Center Germany acts as a competent guide.

We launch 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.

  • Rapid Reaction:
    Expert statements with facts and arguments.
    When science is involved in current affairs.
    As a source of reliable quotations, as raw material for reporting, as orientation for further research.
  • Research in Context:
    Expert statements with assessments from different points of view – technical, methodological, ethical, legal, social.
    When the results of scientific research are published that will make headline news.
    As a source of reliable quotations, as raw material for reporting, as orientation for further research.
    Potentially during the press embargo.
  • Fact Sheet:
    Concise facts, meaningful summaries, more detailed information, link lists.
    When complex topics demand in-depth knowledge or when broad, recurring issues require a general overview.
    As a research aid, background information, compilations of facts and crib sheets – for now and later.
  • Press Briefing:
    Public press conferences or private off-the-record conversations. Run by SMC, with scientists, for journalists. Face-to-face with livestream and call-in options.
    When certain themes such as scientific sensations or an issue with scientific content or political relevance are under scrutiny.
    As exclusive access to experts and for your own questions. 

Additional offers will follow. 

The information SMC distributes can be used by radio and tv journalists just like any other research material: You will receive background information and detailed knowledge, cues as to which aspects of a topic are relevant and where you can continue your own research. And you will discover which experts have already commented on a certain topic and might therefore be prepared to give you an interview.

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 dossier before an embargo has been lifted. 

In some cases, there are several versions with additions: Initially, we distribute assessments by a few experts. When other commentaries are received, we progressively deliver additional statements and information.

Journalists who have not (yet) registered with SMC (and anyone else who is interested) can read the dossier on the SMC website at a later stage and inform themselves about topic-related expert assessments. The Our Offers area serves as a repository. You are welcome to make use of the RSS feed or follow smc_germany on Twitter where we announce new material as soon as it goes online.

Specialist scientific articles that have not yet been published are usually subject to a press embargo imposed 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 are registered with 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 itself. Thus we require all registered journalists who wish to receive embargoed material to agree in writing to respect embargoes.

SMC’s products are offered free of charge. Registering with SMC is also free – it merely costs a few minutes of your time.

By the way: our experts do not pay and are not paid to be included on the SMC database or for delivering their expertise. 

SMC is a non-profit organisation financed with the help of seed funding from the Klaus Tschira Foundation. Currently, a circle of additional sponsors in science, business and society is being built up to finance SMC long term.

SMC is not a (classic) news agency. Instead of finished articles, we deliver quotations and assessments by scientists and other experts to supplement your research and enhance your reports. SMC’s entire portfolio is free of charge and will be sent to your editorial office by e-mail, not via a ticker.

SMC’s expert database is composed of specialists from various fields of medicine and the life sciences, environment and climate, energy and technology. They are supplemented by humanities, social science and cultural studies scholars who address SMC topics in their research. We are particularly interested in topics that are not only relevant to the science community but to the public and society as well – that is, public issues.

The experts on our database are mostly researchers, but also other eminent experts, that is, people who originally conducted research themselves but now work for specialist authorities or who have acquired serious expertise in a special field over a long period of time. 

When approached by SMC, all the experts on our database agreed to help make scientific expertise more transparent for journalists as well as readers, listeners and viewers. 

Very important: These 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.

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 included are hand-picked by SMC editors. 

When it comes to selecting experts we do not have a strict checklist. After all, the criteria that have to be applied to assess expertise in an area of medical research may differ from those required for an energy-related discipline. 

Our basic criteria are as follows:

  • Researchers and specialists have expertise in current topics that preoccupy us. We concentrate on those who have produced relevant research results, have acquired a reputation in their specialist discipline and are perhaps also active on committees or in learned societies as well as being prepared to respond under pressure.
  • Most of our experts speak German, either as their native language or as a foreign language. The language of science across the globe is, of course, English, but SMC’s portfolio targets German-language media. We thus offer our products in German – to avoid translation errors in the editorial offices and to ensure that journalists who are perhaps unfamiliar with specialist terminology in a foreign language can use our products quickly and easily. 
  • Our experts have no relevant conflicts of interest.
  • Our experts usually have some media experience and declare that they are prepared to assist SMC with their special knowledge. 
  • Our experts are not promoting themselves but subscribe to our mission of helping to provide the public with the evidence-based arguments of scientists.
  • Our experts know that SMC is neither a press office nor a lobbying organisation for the researchers own interests or those of their institution.

The experts on our database are regularly asked about potential conflicts of interest, for example patents or relevant third-party funding from industry. SMC conducts random checks on conflicting interests. This happens the first time the expert is included on the database and every single time s/he is asked for a statement or information. SMC itself does spot checks to see whether interests collide.

By the way, as far as SMC is concerned, a potential conflict of interest does not necessarily mean that an expert’s specialist knowledge is not welcome; we do, however, practise a culture of openness and would not want to hide what everyone ought to know. That is why we provide information on potential conflicts of interest in every individual case.

Unfortunately not. This kind of agency work is not part of SMC’s remit. We make the same offers to all registered journalists and editorial offices, and we also select our experts on the basis of their specialist knowledge.

SMC Germany is a relatively small editorial office which cannot cover the entire range of science journalism topics. Apart from which, we are neither omniscient nor experts at 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 launch 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 actually be used. We want our portfolio to help enrich and enhance 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 regularly like to make use of scientific expertise as part of your research?

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