Media:Science Writing and Communications

Communications and the media play critical roles in shaping views and informing our understanding of what is happening in the world around us. Scientific writing, publishing and editing, news reporting, and medical affairs all rely upon biomedical professionals to translate advances in medicine and science for a wide range of audiences. Typical day-to-day activities within this field may include researching and creating communication projects, such as annual reports, news articles, web pages, presentations and newsletters. They may also include responding to media inquiries and initiating contact to generate coverage of newsworthy subjects.

Clinicians and researchers with strong communication skills are highly valued within this sector to provide context and describe the implications associated with progress in their respected domains. Opportunities our trainees may get involved in include working as a science writer at Nature, freelancer for various publications, or Medical Science Liaison at a biotechnology company.

Desired Skills for Media and Communications

The art of communication is essential for any role our trainees decide to pursue, but it's most certainly critical in this field. More specifically, having solid writing and presentation experience is important. Getting experience teaching and presenting at your lab meetings and at conferences is an important first step toward developing these transferable skill sets. Typically, one may be asked to submit a writing sample or prepare a presentation as part of the application/interview process. Your publications are a natural choice for writing samples, but remember that writing for the public and policy is very different than writing for scholarly journals. You will find that communications outside of academia are more concise and start with the conclusion/key points first before working their way backward through evidence and background.

Getting started in the field

It is very helpful to write as much as you can and to get published. You may want to freelance or develop a blog/website. Those will give you experience with writing for specific audiences, while a personal website will allow you to include your resume and published writing samples (called "clips"), making it easier for editors to search for you.

One of the most prominent fellowships in this area is the AAAS Mass Media Science & Engineering Fellowship. For 10 weeks during the summer, fellows work as reporters, researchers, and production assistants in mass-media organizations nationwide. They collaborate with media professionals at radio and television stations, newspapers, and magazines. This opportunity allows for one to observe and participate in the process by which events and ideas become news, to improve their communication skills by learning to describe complex technical subjects to the public, and to increase their understanding of editorial decision-making and the way in which information is effectively disseminated.

Typical Job Titles

  • Editor
  • Publisher
  • Medical Science Liaison
  • Science Writer
  • Scientific Communications Officer

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