It was about six months into my research fellowship when it dawned on me that my real fascination was research itself and the stories it generated, rather than the nitty gritty of samples in the lab.
I was returning to research on a Daphne Jackson Fellowship after a career break from environmental science and I thought I was really keen start learning again in a new research area. Except, I found I wanted to learn about other researchers findings just as much as my own. The more I learned the more I wanted to tell others and a future as a science communicator beckoned. Plan B hatched and I spent a few mad months doing part-time research and commuting from Yorkshire to do the Postgraduate Certificate in Practical Science Communication at UWE Bristol.
The Science in Public Spaces module was the perfect springboard for my first Sci Comm role in the Public Engagement team at the University of Leeds, which I got three months into the PG Cert course. Part of the job was co-organising our family-friendly research showcase, Be Curious, along- side developing training workshops and advice for academics wanting to develop their public engagement skills. The sessions on how to develop creative, effective evaluation of events were immediately useful, as this is one of the main things that researchers need to demonstrate the impact of all their engagement activity, but often don’t know how to do effectively. Considering the needs, interests and language of each audience is another skill emphasised throughout the course, which has been invaluable to pass on when training academics.
As a scientist, I never thought I would have ‘marketing’ in the title of my job. Public engagement was fun, but a step removed from the research stories that had tempted me into science communication. My real love on the UWE Bristol course was with the science writing and so when a research communication role in the marketing team covering the faculties of science, engineering and environment came up at the University, I jumped at it.
My insider’s knowledge of the academic research world, coupled with science communication skills were the unusual combination needed for a job which promotes the research strengths of the faculties to audiences as diverse as industrial collaborators, research funders, policy makers and prospective PhD students. Under the title of Research Marketing Manager it’s my job to work with academic leaders to make sure that case studies, videos and spotlight pieces reflecting the research strengths of the schools are reflected on university website content and other channels. The science writing skills developed on the PG Cert are in constant use and the knowledge gained about press teams, journalists and social media have all helped me.
The role is new to the university and will continue to evolve beyond our own online channels as the research landscape changes. I work closely with the media relations team and social media colleagues as we develop new ways to communicate the incredible variety of research here to the audiences who will be most interested in it.
Dr Clare Gee, PgCert in Practical Science Communication student at UWE Bristol 2016/17