SMC Picks is a popular email service issued each Tuesday and Friday and available through a password protected area on this website. It alerts journalists to what the AusSMC considers the most newsworthy events, new research, reports and related material being published in scientific journals around the world that week. Other information such as upcoming conferences, government reports and other relevant events is often included.
When an issue or natural disaster hits the news, there is almost inevitably a scientific angle to the story. Through its extensive network, the AusSMC can rapidly locate key experts on the topic, get their reaction and issue those comments to journalists who can choose to use the quote directly in their stories, as a background or follow up with an interview. These alerts are becoming increasingly popular with senior scientists and policy makers, who benefit from knowing how the expert community is reacting to a topical issue.
And when controversial research comes out in scientific and medical journals, the AusSMC provides journalists with context and independent expert comment to help them understand and cover the research. This is all done under embargo so that the context provided by independent experts can be incorporated into articles as they are being written and thus have the capacity to influence the way the story is reported, rather than reacting to inaccurate coverage “after the horse has bolted”.
The AusSMC is constantly monitoring the news and topical issues of the day. The Centre can arrange a media briefing very quickly, when an issue arises in the news which warrants an injection of scientific opinion. These briefings can involve a panel of experts on any particular topic.
There are generally two different types of briefings – news briefings where new research or data is being released, and background briefings where experts discuss an issue which is in the news or an issue the AusSMC considers newsworthy. Briefings can take the form of physical events or online briefings where scientists can speak to the media directly from their desks.
Getting your head around…
There are many issues that appear in the mainstream media which are complex and difficult for journalists to report on. The AusSMC’s “Getting your head around…” series provides journalists with up to date information on numerous issues from coal seam gas to climate modelling and the vexed issue of wind turbines and health. These briefings are not intended to generate media coverage (though they sometimes do), but they do help journalists separate out fact from opinion and go back to fundamental research when needed.
Media Enquiries Service
Journalists cover a huge array of stories and issues every day and deadlines are getting tighter all the time. Finding an appropriate expert to react to the issue being covered is often a challenge, which is why the AusSMC provides a service for any journalist needing help finding an expert. The Centre has 3,000 experts on file and takes up to 100 media enquiries a week from journalists, providing a vital link between journalists and the scientific community. The ability of the Centre to respond during times of crisis (such as natural disasters), including an afterhours service, has made it a popular source for time-poor journalists. The Centre works proactively with media units in institutions throughout the country who frequently collaborate as a kind of “rapid response team” during a crisis.
The Centre currently handles between 200 and 400 media enquiries each month.
Media help for scientists
AusSMC runs a range of services to help the scientific community interact more effectively with the media. As well as general advice and support to scientists willing to do media work the centre runs free half day “Introduction to the media workshops ”and has also produced an innovation online media training module.