Science PR and communication – headlines from our background research

I am shamefully late in posting to this blog – we have been extremely busy with a number of research projects, but that’s a poor excuse.

Those projects include a study of science public relations and communication that we are conducting for the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) and Chartered Institute of Public Relations (CIPR).

In this predominantly qualitative piece we’re looking to understand more about the dominant themes in science PR and communication through the experiences, attitudes and behaviours of practitioners.

At the time of writing, we are particularly keen to find in-house private sector practitioners in order to better represent that population in the study – do please get in touch if you fit that bill and you would like to volunteer for a telephone interview (or recommend a colleague or contact).

We are currently sifting and analysing the study data and hope to publish in May.

In the meantime, here’s a selection of headlines from our background research to chew over:

  1. Television news and factual programming continue to drive public understanding of science.

However, where we get our information will depend, in part, on whether we are actively seeking it and information sources do differ by age group, according to the BIS/Ipsos MORI Public Attitudes to Science 2014. (There’s an astute summary of this research by Alice Bell in the Guardian’s science blog).

  1. Research and public commentary of science PR is dominated by analysis of media relations.

But PR practitioners working in or for organisations involved in natural, applied or formal sciences are no more likely to be engaged in media relations work than other types of practitioners, according to a break-down of the CIPR’s 2014 State of the Profession Survey.

  1. The Cardiff University School of Psychology is investigating ‘the potential role of press releases in creating misleading reports of science in the press’.

The team studied 2011 Russell Group press releases, the associated peer-reviewed journal articles that the instigated the PRs, and in turn, the news stories that arose. Results are due to be published soon.

  1. If you want to understand the impact on specialist journalists as a result of changes in the print and broadcast media business, then take a look at this 2009 Nature survey of 493 science journalists.

In particular the answers to the question: Do you have any other comments or thoughts that you would like to share regarding science journalism? (in the ‘Open ends’ tab). Often beleaguered, coruscating, sad.

  1. The most prolific sources of science and technology stories in the UK media are publically funded science or medical research.

Followed by ‘industry’, non-Governmental organisations (NGOs) and other civic groups, then the UK Government, according to a study published in 2007 by Cardiff University’s School of Journalism.

Hearty thanks to the individuals and organisations that have helped us with the study so far – a proper set of thank yous to come.