First Day

It seems like an eternity since I was first awarded the Charity Insights bursary. I have this vague memory that the good news was almost immediately overshadowed by some of the biggest and most important exams I have had to take to-date, then by my July internship with Imperial’s Comms office. But, hey, given all the exciting news from my fellow interns elsewhere, it’s better that I wasn’t too late to the party!

In a way, doing an internship at Imperial right before Sense About Science has left me feeling very prepared. While the former gave insight into how science news is generated, and how Imperial engages the public on its research, working with Sense About Science will hopefully show me the other side of the story: What happens to science news after it’s been published? How is science presented to the public? How can we make sure the information presented is digested and absorbed in a suitable manner?

The internship started off deceptively gently (minus an Underground delay snafu; thankfully I had left a bit earlier!). There was lots of orientating myself with the office, and quite a few new faces and names to learn! (I admit, I spent at least a few minutes after the intro’s looking up everyone’s profile on the website and making sure all the names were embedded in my mind…) But within an hour, things were already hands-on as I went straight into creating a dissemination plan for Sense About Science’s upcoming publication: Making sense of allergies.

A dissemination plan is essentially a database of all the people and organizations that Sense About Science is to contact, in order to ensure the published guide gets to the hands of as many people as possible. But it’s not just a case of searching ‘allergies’ and writing down every result on the first page – in order for a dissemination list to be effective, it needs to pinpoint the specific individuals within the organizations, logging down their names, phone numbers, email addresses, notes of interest etc. Some other important questions also come into mind:

  • Is the organization worthwhile contacting? It’s surprising how many promising results lead to organizations that are defunct or have been inactive for eons. Maybe watch out for ‘bad science’ items as well? Some of the results I’ve came across is best described as ‘shady’
  • Who best to contact? Most groups tend to show a generic email/number and make you dig for more specific contacts. On the other hand, some e.g. research centres only show the most senior members. Networking 101 made apparent today: always try to find the comms or press team! If the contact is too junior/generic, a response might never be had (and an argument could be made that it comes off as unprofessional). But, if the contact is too senior, a response might also never be had…
  • Is a network/relationship already in place? It’s unbelievable how vast their science network is! Lots of cross-checking is to be had to make sure there isn’t already an established person in-place who would be the preferred point-of-contact

When it comes down to it, the task can get a bit dull especially when you’ve been working at it for hours -definitely should consider a bit of better time management over the next few weeks, maybe alternating tasks for added variety! That said, no dissemination plan = no outreach = lots of carefully written & designed booklets sitting in boxes = lots of resources wasted = nobody benefits. Plenty of motivation right there to do it well.

Looking at the week ahead, I expect to dedicate quite a bit of time on creating an exhaustive catalogue of the clinics and research groups relating to allergies. But I’ll also be starting work on summarizing Sense About Science’s publications into light-weight info-packs which can be easily distributed virtually, and helping out with social media by (at long last!) creating infographics! More on the horizon too; this is just the beginning.

Next time: Dissecting Infographics. Then: Tenth Day


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