Recognizing the need for more effective communication of science with the public, the MARC has developed tools to help scientists sharpen their skills.
The first is our media handbook, "Tell Your Story: Media and Communications Guide for NIH Investigators."
This guide, created in collaboration with Pete Schulberg of Oregon Partnership, offers suggestions on preparing effectively for media appearances and interviews, soliciting positive coverage from the media, and handling difficult topics. The guide is currently available online with video sidebars and as a text (.pdf) download.
In addition, we instigated a local training program wherein investigators meet one-on-one with a local journalist/media coach in a mock-TV-interview setting. Practice sessions are videotaped so investigators can see themselves and discuss techniques for communicating effectively on camera. At the end of four sessions, participants demonstrate their new skills in a polished final interview intended for webcast via the "Meet the MARC Scientists" section of this website.
Our goal in developing this program is not only to foster new effectiveness at communicating our own findings, but to create a model training program for use by addictions researchers at NIDA-funded centers and laboratories around the country.
Our partner in both these efforts has been Pete Schulberg (right), a local journalist and TV broadcasting veteran who most recently served as communications director for Oregon Partnership, a statewide drug abuse prevention non-profit. Based on his experiences on both sides of the camera, Pete came up with a list of training points that include:
- breaking down complex messages for the public
- understanding how media work and what they want from you
- techniques for effective on-camera interviews
- building rapport with media and audience
MARC researchers Suzanne Mitchell and Center Director Aaron Janowsky volunteered as research subjects for the first round of training and lived to tell the tale; now nearly a dozen scientists have completed the protocol and found it highly useful for communicating their work. Sample results can be viewed at Meet the MARC Scientists.
Future plans include going deeper into issues of public education around animal research and expanding our programs to our graduate and post-doc trainees so they can start their careers primed for public outreach. Video collected during these sessions will go into modules that K-12 teachers can use to stimulate students' interest in scientific careers.