ISSN 1470-3947 (print) | ISSN 1479-6848 (online)

Endocrine Abstracts (2006) 11 S106

Talking to a lay audience

TR Parkhill

Society for Endocrinology, Bristol, United Kingdom.

The public’s understanding of current scientific matters is mostly communicated through the news media. Scientists and clinicians are often reluctant to comment to the press, largely through a fear of these comments being taken out of context. The news media tries to balance reports by taking comment from different sides of the story; if scientists and clinicians do not put their views forward, this void is often rapidly filled by someone with a stronger opinion, for example pressure groups or commercial interests. This means that not commenting produces exactly the lack of objectivity which scientists are trying to avoid. Scientists and clinicians have a duty to make sure that their work is accurately represented.

Scientists and clinicians need to be conscious of finding the right voice with which to communicate. Too often the fear of inaccurate reporting means that public understanding is sacrificed, and this can be true in both research and clinical practice contexts. If we are to communicate to a wider public, we need to take the initiative in putting forward good science. Being proactive means that scientists can set the agenda, and minimise any potential distortion being presented to the lay audience.

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