How can (should?) public information officers work with their scientists?

Roy Meijer - The Netherlands

Roy Meijer started his science communication career as a press officer at Utrecht University (The Netherlands). He moved on to Delft University of Technology (TU Delft, The Netherlands), where emphasis in his work came to lie more on giving advice on (science) communication to different institutes within the university, and to individual scientists.  Apart from media training and media advice, he has a special interest in social media in science communication, and actively tweets and blogs about all of these matters.

He is also one of the founders and current board members of SciCom NL, the Dutch science communication association for ‘everyone who has a story about science’

Session introduction

Making sure things go right when scientists interact with the media lies mainly in the preparation for an interview, and university public information officers (PIO’s, or press officers) should play a key role here, supporting ‘their’ scientists. The PIO’s of Delft University of Technology (TU Delft, The Netherlands) have invested a great deal of time over the past few years giving media training sessions to Delft scientists, putting over 1,000 of them through their paces. This led not only to scientists being better prepared for their interviews, but maybe more importantly, to establishing a relationship of trust between the scientists and their colleagues in the communication department.

Session in-depth

Scientists in general are not very happy when their research get misrepresented in the media - for whatever reason -, and in the long run, it’s not helpful for the reputation of their institute either, which is of course what mainly concerns us university communication professionals (or at least: that is the common assumption). Key to making sure things go right when scientists interact with the media lies mainly in the preparation for an interview and in managing expectations, in this case mainly the expectations of the scientist (although journalist’s expectations could also do with some management).

What’s realistic for a scientist to expect when being interviewed, how much actual ‘air time’ or coverage can scientists expect to see back from that hour-long interview, and how much control over the situation do they have? Spoiler alert: actually, as the one being interviewed, they have much more control than they might think.

University public information officers (PIO’s, or press officers) have an important role to play here, being the intermediary between the fast and furious world of journalism and the slow and nuanced world of science. As PIO of Delft University of Technology (TU Deft, The Netherlands) Roy Meijer will talk about what their communication department actually offers scientists in the way of practical (media) advice, services and damage control, and what in their experience and view counts as impact in the real world. Giving media training and advice is key in their approach, and TU Delft has invested heavily, timewise, in building an extensive network of trained scientists within the university.

After an introduction of this ‘Delft approach’, there will be ample opportunity for questions, discussion and the exchange of best practices.