Cross-posted to my Stuff that occurs to me blog (the version below is the more up to date)
Prospects.ac.uk is a website with a listing of the types of jobs associated with a particular degree / discipline, full list here https://www.prospects.ac.uk/careers-advice/what-can-i-do-with-my-degree/
- What can I do with a biology degree?
- What can I do with an environmental science degree?
- What can I do with a computer science degree?
The biology one does mention ‘science writer‘ as an option but largely focuses on continuing to be a scientist – I didn’t find much on the site promoting jobs in science communication. Pinching the list idea of job types from Prospect and the idea of the range of different scicomm sectors from myself I’ve come up with a starter-list of types of things science communicators might do.
Perhaps you’ll be reading this and going “oh for heaven’s sake she’s forgotten X”, hopefully you’ll tell me 🙂 @JoBrodie
How can I be a science communicator?
People often need or want access to technically precise information without necessarily having the background knowledge to make the most of it. Science communicators can help non-specialists engage with and make sense of complex information. They work in a range of jobs including science or medical writing, museums and science centres, health charities and in government.
There’s a lot of overlap among the different sectors mentioned below – you could also divide jobs into those where you communicate face to face, by written media (blogs, newspapers), or spoken (radio) or on TV…
1. Museums, science centres
- Museum explainer – someone who supports visitors and answers any questions, or highlights other aspects, as they meander through the exhibits
- Science show or Planetarium presenter – someone who gives a short talk and possibly answers questions. Astronomers at the Greenwich Planetarium also give themed talks following screenings of sci-fi films there.
- Blogger (likely to be part of another role though) – someone who shares interesting or even quirky aspects of the centre’s collection, and tweets too.
2. Science or medical journalism
- (Blogger – unpaid, own time)
- As anyone can create a free blog this is a low-cost (beyond time) way of getting some writing practice and seeing what works, while building up a portfolio. While it’s highly unlikely that the blog itself would provide an income it may lead to other opportunities. A good place to start is https://wordpress.com/
- Writer / journalist for newspaper, scientific or medical journal, or a patient charity’s magazine etc – jobs here can include writing for non-specialists as well as more technical writing for people in the field.
- Editor / Commissioning Editor – chooses what goes into the publication and shepherds it to print
- Researcher / fact-checker
- Social media / blogger (as a job) / podcast or other audiovisual content creator, including medical or scientific illustrator or animator
- For science or medical journals some of these jobs may also be combined with the admin of seeking reviewers for articles submitted, and managing the article submission and publication process.
3. TV or radio presenting, or contributor, editor, producer, researcher
- (This can also be a subset of science / medical journalism)
- Might be a helpful idea to create your own YouTube channel so people can see what you’re like on camera, perhaps not just presenting to camera but interacting with an interviewed guest. Or something like a podcast.
- See also a post of mine from 2011 on How to be a science presenter, from a BBC Science talk at the Cheltenham Science Festival
- Social media / blogger (as a job) / podcast or other audiovisual content creator for the programme’s website or medical or scientific illustrator or animator – providing content for the programme itself
4. Medical research charities / patient groups (also science research-funding Research Councils)
- Head of Research / Research Grants Manager / Research Grants administrator
- all involve the administration of the charity’s research portfolio which includes managing applications and finding reviewers for them. There is also a lot of translating all this science into plain English to tell supporters what they’ve funded and why it’s important, also for fundraising colleagues to be able to use that info to raise funds.
- (Science) Information Manager / Officer aka Public Information Officer (PIO)
- this job may be combined with other Comms roles but typically includes helping colleagues, healthcare professionals and the public (eg via a Q&A helpline) make sense of the latest and historical research into the relevant condition and help keep everyone up to date. Often this task overlaps with librarian work.
- Director of Communications / Head of Press / Press Officer / PR & publicity
- this can incorporate science communication when writing a press release about research the charity has funded (or commenting on research from elsewhere) but will also involve policy work, and promoting events or news items that might be less scicomm-oriented.
- Publications editor / writer
- Some charities have a magazine for members, also a more medical one for healthcare professionals and even without that there’s a high chance that there will be patient information leaflets or info leaflets for medics. These may be written in-house by staff with a biomedical background.
- Illustrator / animator (see refs to this above also)
- Most leaflets have illustrative drawings and the charity may well have a YouTube channel or Instagram and will need clear content that explains complex info.
5. Government / Policy
- Researcher / writer of brief ‘POSTnotes‘ for ministers via the Parliamentary Office of Science & Technology.
- Department-specific roles eg in BEIS etc. There’s a list of 500+ government departments, agencies and public bodies here
6. Learned societies / professional bodies
- Head of public events, event manager, officer – some learned societies will have a programme of public events
- Social media / blogger (as a job) / podcast or other audiovisual content creator – to share info with professional members and the public about events or subject-specific information
- See also Publications editor / writer in Medical charities section as many societies have their own members magazine.
- Illustrator / animator (see refs to this above also)
- Public engagement co-ordinators / managers
- this role may be attached to a particular department (eg one for the Biology dept, another for chemistry) or attached to a dedicated Engagement department. Individual large research projects may also employ their own to both involve stakeholders in the development of the research and later to support dissemination of the project’s results.
- Scicomm as a ‘sideline’ to research
- For people already working as scientists in a university there are plenty of opportunities to share their own research, comment on others’ research in the news media. Also plenty of opportunities to make their work accessible via public lectures, fun events, having school groups visit (or giving talks to schools).
8. Pharmaceutical companies
- Patient information information – including leaflets (inserted into the pack of medicine with advice on how to use the medicine safely and effectively)
- Medcomms – medical writing, often in in-house / technical publications
- See the last part of this page, on science writing, which is about medical comms