Getting into science communication

Jun 12, 2024

By Sarah Norcross, Director of PET Progress Educational Trust

Author Biography:

Sarah isn’t a scientist! She has a degree in Law for King’s College London and after her degree she qualified as a barrister. Her legal practice saw her taking on criminal and civil cases. However, it wasn’t the career she anticipated and so she hung up her wig and gown and started to work in the charity sector. She volunteered for Daisy Network the charity which supports women who have primary ovarian insufficiency.

In 2007 Sarah joined PET as its director. Since then, she hasn’t looked back. At a small charity you have to be prepared to roll up your sleeves and get stuck in, whether it is meeting a Health Minister, wrestling with a pop-up banner stand at conference or making sure that BioNews is published every Monday.

What is so great about writing about science?

Writing about the latest developments in fertility treatment or embryo research in a way that is comprehensible to a lay audience is a fantastic transferable skill to have. The ability to write clearly and concisely will help you write grant applications, journal articles and even a strong job application. Being able to communicate a complex issue such as genome editing to a lay audience requires careful thought and when you get it right it is really, really satisfying.

How can you get into science writing?

Lots of charities need people who will volunteer to write accurate content for their website and newsletters, so if you have a particular area of interest find a charity which matches and approach them.

At PET we receive lots of applications from people who want to write for BioNews. One of the things that makes BioNews an attractive proposition is that volunteers get a byline on their articles and a page on our website which lists all the articles they have written. This is a great resource for your writing portfolio and your CV. For an example see David Cansfield.

Practice makes perfect… except it doesn’t

The more you write, the better you will get BUT remember – as I say to all the students on our BioNews writing scheme – that editors are paid to edit. That is their job. They are always looking to improve what you have written and to make sure that it complies to the publication’s house style. Even people who have written for BioNews for a long time and who we all think are fabulous will still have a fair few edits made to their work, so take any feedback on board in the constructive way that it is aimed, rather than as a criticism.

Become a news consumer and read, read, read. When you read a news article about science think about how it is written as well as the facts it is trying to convey. What can you take away for your own writing? What did you like and dislike about the piece, was it clear, was it accurate.

One last tip

Read your article out loud. Yes, I know this makes you feel foolish, but it is the best way to check your work. Imagine you are reading it to someone who has no understanding of the subject and question whether you would carry them along with you or whether you will have lost them at the first paragraph. It will also help you pick up on any repetition.

If your sentences are so long that you are running out of breath, you need to shorten them.

BioNews Writing Prize

This year BioNews is celebrating its 25th Birthday! What better way to celebrate than to encourage young and aspiring writers to put pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard!) and share their opinions about the most important fertility and genomic developments of the last 25 years.

The competition is open to individuals aged from 18-30, and a first prize of £750 is up for grabs.

For full details of the prize and how to enter see: