Speak up for science

November 8, 1996

I am one of the science communicators that Ian Hughes wants more of (THES, Personal View, October 25). I am not one of the bright new MSc graduates from Imperial or Dublin/Queen's but a professional PR and press officer who has worked for the British Psychological Society since 1985.

I learnt early on that the most effective communicators, regardless of the target audience, are the scientists, researchers and applied scientists themselves. It is their stories, advances and discoveries the public want to hear about; and it wants to hear from them.

Ian Hughes berates the Office of Science and Technology, the Wolfendale committee and the research councils for expecting scientists to spend a tiny proportion of their time on public understanding work. He specifically berates the research councils for providing some of their funded researchers with the necessary skills to engage with the public, namely media training; something which this society has been doing for its members for ten years.

Research and the scientific process crucially depends on effective communications. Hughes's proposal that researchers should retreat to their ivory towers only to be talked to by his new breed of MSc graduates would, as he says, "guarantee at best mediocrity, at worst disaster".

Stephen White Director of information British Psychological Society

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