'Scientists recognise that they have to work with the media and not against it'

August 10, 2007

Wellcome Trust's Katrina Nevin-Ridley urges her fellow publicists to help researchers get the message across

Katrina Nevin-Ridley, head of media at the Wellcome Trust, wants to recruit university press officers to a support network that will help them to promote scientific research to the wider public.

Ms Nevin-Ridley has been appointed chair of Stempra (Science, Technology, Engineering and Medicine Public Relations Association), which brings together people working in science communication at universities, research charities and museums.

Ms Nevin-Ridley, previously press and PR manager at Edinburgh University, said: "A lot of university PRs feel they're working in silos and there isn't really a space for science PRs to get together and network. Stempra provides that. We have regular networking and professional development events, an e mail network, and we're thinking of (networking on) Facebook."

There is an enormous public appetite for information about science, she said, and Stempra offers a unique forum for PRs to share ideas on how to work more closely with "some of the leading scientists in the UK, and possibly in the world", she said.

The UK is fortunate in having specialist correspondents in education and in science, she added, and PRs can help develop relations between researchers and scientists.

"Science communication has improved dramatically in the last five years," Ms Nevin-Ridley said. "Press officers can really galvanise scientists into understanding how the media works and realising that it's a valuable tool. They now recognise that they have to work with the media and not against it, that they have to get back to (reporters) in time and say things that are easy for a layperson to understand."

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