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New Guidelines for Scientists on Communicating With the Media

11.01.2007
The media are often accused of hyping research findings in order to attract the interest of their readers and viewers. But many distortions and misunderstandings arise because scientists themselves fail to communicate their results in a clear and meaningful way. Unnecessary anxieties or false hopes are often the result.

As part of a European Commission FP6 project (MESSENGER), new guidelines for scientists on how to communicate most effectively with the media have been produced by the Social Issues Research Centre (SIRC) in partnership with the Amsterdam School of Communications Research (ASCoR).

The Guidelines have been developed after extensive consultation with key actors and stakeholders across Europe including members of the science and health communities, representatives of journalism and media organisations, European and national government departments and agencies, NGOs and special interest groups. Detailed analyses of variations in styles of science reporting across the EU have also informed their development.

There has been a strong consensus that the public should have access to balanced and accurate scientific information and advice in order to engage more effectively in dialogue and debate. The Guidelines for scientists have been developed specifically with this in mind and they strongly encourage increased interaction between scientists and the public through the popular media. All EU-funded scientists will be urged to consult them.

The communication of potential risks and benefits identified by research is a particularly critical area. The Guidelines provide advice on putting such issues in context and presenting them in ways that will allow people to make informed decisions. Special attention is drawn to the communication of findings that may have implications for public policy.

The role of communication officers and similar specialists in universities and research institutes is also highlighted in the Guidelines. The further development of these critical mediators between the science and journalism communities is strongly encouraged.

The Guidelines and other materials from the MESSENGER project are freely available at http://www.sirc.org/messenger/.

Peter Marsh | alfa
Further information:
http://www.sirc.org

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