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Hold the front page! Media Fellowships

We hear from three IBMS members who have completed media fellowships on their experiences and the benefits of completing a placement.

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The Association of British Science Writers (ABSW) Media Fellowship provides a unique opportunity for practising scientists to spend time working in a media organisation. It supports in learning how to write news stories for the media and for journalists to gain a better understanding of their chosen field, and to have a contact for any future relatable articles.

The IBMS has sponsored Media Fellowships placements since 2020 and we’re pleased to announce a further placement has been secured for 2024.

Media Fellowship alumni Dr Martin Khechara, Sheri Scott and Dr Sarah Pitt share their experience of their placements, what they learnt and why they encourage members to apply this year.

Dr Martin Khechara

Dr Martin Khechara

Dr Martin Khechara was the first member selected for a fellowship, choosing a six-week placement working with The Naked Scientists on their award-winning podcasts. The start of the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic meant that his placement was pushed back into 2021, and further restrictions led to him completing it remotely, working from home.

“Because I had been working closely with the Institute on public engagement, I really wanted to learn how a broadcast media organisation worked; it was perfect timing for me when the opportunity came up to apply for the Fellowship,” he said.

“The most useful things I learned during my placement were the basics of journalism. As an academic often involved in social science research, I found this very interesting. I massively enjoyed learning about the technical aspects of recording, editing and broadcasting content.


Since my placement, I have used the skills I learned to produce my own series of podcasts for the group I manage, called the “STEM Response Team” (University of Wolverhampton Podcast on Spotify).

I have also been a guest presenter and editor of the Lab Life feature on the IBMS podcast series, which I enjoyed immensely.

“I’d definitely recommend doing the Fellowship. If you are chosen, you join a select band of people, and it’s truly something to shout about. The programme is highly regarded across the country as so many people who have completed it have gone on to success in terms of transferring the skills they’ve learned to colleagues and students.”

Dr Sarah Pitt

Dr Sarah Pitt - Credit-Simon Dack

In 2021, Dr Sarah Pitt was selected as the second Media Fellow, but, following an accident, had to hold off her placement at BBC Futures until last year.

“Since the start of the pandemic in 2020, I have been giving regular interviews on the radio and TV and news articles, so I wanted to learn more about the interviewer’s perspective. I applied for the Fellowship because I wanted to learn how journalists approach scientific topics, and how they decide what might be interesting to a wider audience.

“My placement was at the BBC TV Centre in London. I learned that journalists pick up on details that differ from what I expected. What we biomedical scientists think of as the most important and exciting part of a story might not be the points that attract journalists’ attention.

It has helped me better understand what makes exciting news. In turn, this helps me to respond to media interview requests more effectively.

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“The Fellowship is a great way to learn about communicating scientific topics to a general audience. Biomedical scientists need the skills and confidence to explain what we do and why it is vital. If you are interested – go for it. Don’t worry if you do not feel confident about engaging with the media. You will be given lots of help, support and encouragement, as well as a chance to learn valuable skills. It is a great experience!”

Sheri Scott

Sherri Scott

Sheri Scott was the recipient of the 2023 award. She carried out her placement last summer at the Financial Times, offering her expertise in biomedical science and sustainability.

“I decided to do the Fellowship for a lot of reasons. I wanted to promote the role of biomedical scientists and gain knowledge of science communication that I could pass on to my students. I also wanted to raise awareness of the climate health crisis and actions taken to combat it. Also, it was an excellent opportunity to build my professional profile.

“I spent three weeks at the Financial Times, where I learned that media writing is vastly different to writing in professional magazines. For example, your language needs to be appropriate for the audience, and the finished article can be vastly different from your submitted piece.

“After I finished my placement, I conducted science communication workshops with our second-year students. I have also contacted our university media team to let them know I am willing to be contacted as an expert by the media in the future.

I developed some valuable skills and an insightful perspective of the science journalist. Although I have realised science journalism is not for me in the long term, the knowledge and skills will be invaluable in teaching. I also did a lot of networking that has provided me with key media contacts.” 

Apply for a fellowship

What are the ABSW Media Fellowships?

The media fellowships were established in 1987 with a view to improve the accessibility of the sciences and provide more opportunities for discussion and debate within the field.

By applying to this scheme, IBMS members have the chance to spend a part of their summer working at the heart of a world-renowned media outlet - such as the Guardian, BBC Breakfast or the Londonist.

Selected fellows will also receive direct mentorship from professional journalists – giving them the confidence to better engage with the media and tackle vital issues of mistrust and misrepresentation within scientific disciplines.

How does it work?

The IBMS will identify and shortlist members who satisfy the ABSW person specifications (found on our website). The ABSW will then identify media hosts and match individuals to media hosts.

The chosen Fellows will receive training from the ABSW prior to taking up their placements and will be supported by the ABSW throughout their placement and beyond.

Placements normally take place for 2–6 weeks during the summer.

How to apply

Please visit the website and download and complete the application form, and equality diversity and inclusion monitoring form and return to [email protected]

The deadline for applications is Friday 5 April 2024.

Image credit | iStock Simon Dack | Shutterstock

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