Coming into the presidency of the CIPR, with a mandate to continue to develop the practice into a profession, I decided upon a theme that might move that agenda forward.
The Leveson Report into press ethics indicated that PR practitioners had often "misled" journalists who then misled the public on scientific issues.
It is clear that science is not always well served by our industry. Superficial stories claiming wonder cures and threatening horrors appear daily, at the same time as detailed scientific studies are reported with such density that they cannot be understood by anyone other than other scientists.
So I am delighted the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills has agreed to join the CIPR and our STEM group to fund some research into the area. The findings will be analysed independently by the researchers appointed and a panel is being established to oversee the work and make recommendations.
As well as a number of additional considerations, the key questions for the research are:
- Where do UK science PR practitioners operate? Where are they likely to operate in the future?
- What do they do? What are their roles and tasks, and what do these tell us about the function and performance of PR in their organisations?
- How does this affect us? What is the relationship between where UK science PR practitioners operate, the roles and tasks they perform and the public understanding of science?
- Where can we improve? What can be done to help practitioners improve the public understanding of science? How might training or regulation assist?
Your nominations are needed for a worthy recipient for this year's president's medal to celebrate excellence in science communication, because role models are vital to encourage the next generation into science and to inspire those already there to achieve more and communicate their successes.
Please send nominations to me (email@example.com) stating in no more than 100 words why your nominee deserves the award. Our panel will help me to choose the winner.
Sue Wolstenholme is CIPR president