Your Research in the News: A Funder’s Perspective

In this blog we are delighted that Victoria Steven, Senior Media Relations Officer for Cancer Research UK in Scotland offers a funder’s view on the importance of engaging the media with your research.

Have you ever wanted to spread the word about your research further than your housemates, or your mum when you speak to her on the weekends? Do you think you’ve got a really good story to tell? What about trying to get it on the news?

As a regional media relations officer for Cancer Research UK, my job is to help our researchers in Scotland do just that. We are the UK’s biggest funder of cancer research and it’s really important to us to let our supporters know that the money they work so hard to raise is being spent on world-leading, ground breaking science that is making a real difference in the fight to beat cancer sooner. And the news – watched, read or consumed online – is a great way for us to do that.

So what makes a good news story? Anything new and timely – so if you are publishing new research in a journal then this could make a good news story. Especially if there is anything quirky about your research, or if there is a human interest angle – for example, if your research could potentially impact health, our way of living or the environment. Or if it reveals new information about nature or history, or interesting new statistics.

From a funder’s perspective, if you have received a new grant for your research, that’s also a good news story. These kinds of stories work particularly well for us in local media because – as well investing in you – your funding is also an investment in the town or city where you work.

At Cancer Research UK, I also work frequently with our scientists to link their research to our fundraising campaigns. Because without the money raised by our supporters we wouldn’t be able to fund the research that we do. For me, this is an opportunity to show another side to our scientists – beyond the lab coats, microscopes and test tubes. As a former scientist myself, I know that’s not what we’re all about. But these types of stories provide the opportunity to highlight the important research our scientists are doing at the same time.

To help you see how your research could make the news, here are some examples of some stories I’ve worked on with our scientists in Edinburgh.

EDINBURGH SCIENTISTS REVEAL BRAIN TUMOUR’S SECRET ALLY

Dr Dirk Sieger from the Centre for Neurogeneration published some new research at the end of last year that uncovered important evidence about how the immune system interacts with brain tumours – using tropical fish. Using a fluorescent microscope to examine the brains of transparent zebrafish, Dr Sieger and his team observed that specialised immune cells in the brain seem to encourage brain tumour cells to grow, rather than destroy them.

This was a nice visual story because it featured zebrafish and Dr Sieger’s research featured on BBC Reporting Scotland (http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-scotland-edinburgh-east-fife-38064292), STV News and in The Herald, Scotsman (http://www.scotsman.com/news/zebrafish-help-edinburgh-scientists-probe-brain-tumour-growth-1-4296710) and Scottish Daily Express newspapers.

EDINBURGH SCIENTIST AWARDED OVER £1 MILLION FOR CUTTING-EDGE BRAIN TUMOUR RESEARCH

Dr Noor Gammoh was awarded £1.64 from Cancer Research UK to support her research into a common type of brain tumour, glioblastoma. Dr Gammoh came to Edinburgh from Jordan in 2000 to study biological sciences at Edinburgh University. She returned to the city in 2015 from New York, where she first began to study brain tumours. Not long after she started her research in the United States, a close friend’s mother was diagnosed with glioblastoma, giving her personal insight into the effects of the disease.

Dr Gammoh’s story was published as a double-page spread in the Edinburgh Evening News (http://www.edinburghnews.scotsman.com/news/health/edinburgh-scientist-awarded-1-million-for-cutting-edge-research-into-brain-tumours-1-4251572) in October last year.

1.5 MILLION EDINBURGH SCIENTIST TO SOUND HOLYROOD RACE FOR LIFE STARTER

Dr Evropi Theodoratou, awarded a prestigious £1.58 million Career Development Fellowship by Cancer Research UK, urged people in Edinburgh to back life-saving research – by signing up to the charity’s Race for Life in Edinburgh’s Holyrood Park. Dr Theodoratou was awarded the prestigious grant to support her research to improve how bowel cancer is diagnosed in Scotland, by looking for genetic and environmental markers for the disease.

Dr Theodoratou’s story was published in the Edinburgh Evening News (http://www.edinburghnews.scotsman.com/news/city-scientist-awarded-1-5m-to-aid-cancer-research-1-4482989) in June.

So what should you do if you would like to get involved in media activity featuring your research? If you are funded by Cancer Research UK, please get in touch with me by email (victoria.steven @ cancer.org.uk) . Most other funders will also have press offices who would be interested in hearing about your research findings, so do contact them if you would like to get involved in media activity. Or get in touch with the Edinburgh University press office (https://www.ed.ac.uk/communications-marketing/press-and-pr/press-and-pr) if you are publishing any new research. Us press officers are always keen to hear about a good research story!

Victoria Steven is Senior Media Relations Officer for Cancer Research UK, Scotland.

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