The Australian Science Media Centre (AusSMC) believes scientists can make a big impact on the way issues are covered in the media.
By building bridges that help the scientific community to engage with journalists, the AusSMC supports scientists to take more initiative and play a leading role in informing public debate.
The AusSMC is a not-for-profit organisation that represents no particular faction in science. Its agenda is simply to utilise evidence-based science to shed light on issues and present a broad spectrum of scientific opinion.
The AusSMC is:
- Independent – With a broad range of sponsors and by capping individual contributions to 10% of total operating costs, the Australian Science Media Centre is able to provide an independent service and a spectrum of opinion from the scientific community without fear or favour. See full statement of independence below.
- Media driven – While most issues we cover are driven by the level of media interest, the AusSMC also plays a role in providing journalists with heads-up on emerging issues.
- Proactive – The AusSMC is constantly ‘horizon scanning’ looking for situations where science can help clarify an issue.
- Collaborative – When scientists from different institutions are involved with the same media story, the AusSMC can provide an independent platform, enabling coordinated distribution of the message to the media.
The AusSMC is not:
- A distribution service for institutional media releases;
- Responsible for increasing the profile of specific concepts or areas of science (eg: chemistry, physics etc) in the media;
- A PR agency for institutions that do not have access to a media office;
- Set up to take general enquiries directly from the public or non-media institutions.
The AusSMC is an independent, not-for-profit organisation actively disseminating evidence-based science to the public through the media on a broad range of topics (read our policy on selection of experts below). The AusSMC is governed by a Board of Management. All board members acknowledge that Centre staff are free to disseminate the best available scientific information, regardless of any commercial, political or personal interests, including those of any sponsors or board members. Full editorial control of all material disseminated by the SMC rests with the staff of the SMC, with guidance sought from the Centre’s Science Advisory Panel (SAP) when required.
Our policy on experts
Below is the Australian Science Media Centre’s policy on selection of experts
The AusSMC’s role is to make the results of evidence-based research available to everyone via the media. Being evidence-based is paramount. The AusSMC’s activities inform and sometimes trigger debate, but are not intended to endorse particular policies or boost the profile of specific individuals or organisations.
The AusSMC has a clear policy on who it approaches for scientific and related expertise
The peer-review process of leading scientific and health journals ensures that the quality of the investigation is such that it is worthy of consideration by the wider community.
The peer-review process used by leading scientific and health journals provides a standard accepted by the scientific community by which the reliability of both investigations and researchers are judged.
- The AusSMC will use peer-reviewed publication in the relevant area of science and health as the basis for defining the expertise of scientists.
Expertise outside of peer-review
Some scientific research may be newsworthy while it is being performed (for example, a longitudinal study over several years, research into a topical issue, the discovery of a rare species etc) and before it has been reported in scientific journals, making the application of peer-review impossible at that stage of the research.
Similarly, in some disciplines, particularly those within the social sciences, arts and humanities (eg science communication), publication in peer-reviewed journals is less applicable.
In such cases, the AusSMC will consider:
- the reputation of the expert’s institute or academic department;
- the professional qualifications and previous track record of the expert;
- the expert’s current role as an active practitioner in his or her field; and
- the expert’s professional reputation within his or her field (judged by, for example, the number of significant awards and grants won).
The credentials of experts may be further assessed by consultation with other experts in the relevant field or, where appropriate, with the AusSMC’s Science Advisory Panel.
When the expertise of an individual is questioned, the AusSMC will refer final decisions on the credibility and suitability of that expert to the appropriate member of the Science Advisory Panel.
In general, the AusSMC does not utilise experts working for specific lobby groups (such groups normally have strong mechanisms to promote their message to the media). Known affiliations or interests of scientists is clearly stated.
The availability of experts within the media’s time frame may be a major determinant of which experts are put forward by the AusSMC.
This policy will be reviewed and updated from time to time.
If you have questions or feedback on our choice of experts please feel free to email us.