Encouraging dialogue about medical sciences

Strategic aims

To fulfil our mission the Academy must maintain effective dialogue with a range of stakeholders, particularly patients and the public. We aim to ensure that our policy advice is shaped by the views of wider society, and we provide public platforms for our Fellows to share their knowledge and expertise with non-scientific audiences. The Academy is a highly valued source of comment on medical science in the media and we continue to work to increase the Academy’s profile through traditional broadcast and print media. We embrace social media and are responsive to changes in online communication to increase public accessibility to our outputs.

Significant activities

  • A new online face of the Academy. After an extensive programme of redevelopment and financial investment the Academy’s new website launched in December 2013. Since its launch the number of page views has increased by 32% and the average time spent on the site has increased by 17%. Our social media activities have continued to increase with Twitter followers doubled to 2,400 over the year, and we have explored ways to use social media to listen as well as communicate, including a Twitter chat for early career researchers to feed into our study on team science.
  • Remaining a trusted voice in the media. Our ongoing programme of proactive and reactive media liaison has ensured that the Academy’s views reach the public through a variety of media outlets. In 2013-14 our work to brief journalists on the impact of personalised medicines on healthcare resulted in packages on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme and BBC Newsnight. We also provided a consistent voice in the high profile media debates on the challenges and benefits of sharing patient data thorough the controversial care.data initiative. Working with our partner National Academies we highlighted the importance of a stable investment framework for research and innovation in national broadsheets including The Financial Times and The Daily Telegraph.
  • Rewarding good communication. The Academy awarded its first Communications Prize at the Winter Science Meeting for Starter Grant Awardees. The prize, which was judged by a panel that included Academy Fellows, patients, and media representatives, was awarded to Dr Karin Straathof, UCL Institute of Child Health.
  • Addressing the lack of women experts on TV. Following calls to increase the number of women experts in the media we initiated new activities to promote our women Fellows as media spokespeople. We supported nearly 50 women Fellows to sign up to the Science Media Centre’s expert database and offered intensive media training to seven women Fellows to build their media skills and confidence.
  • Opening up medical science. We were successful in expanding our programme of public events in 2013- 14 with over 500 people registering. In July 2013, Sir Stephen O’Rahilly FRS FMedSci and Professor Maria Zambon FMedSci delved into the archive of public health films to explore the past, present and future of public health messaging. In December 2013 we debated whether laughter really is the best medicine with Professor Sophie Scott FMedSci and in March 2014 we opened 41 Portland Place for a festival of music and medicine where attendees heard about the use of medicine in the NHS and explored the physiology of speech and hearing.
  • Connecting with patients. Our communications activities have benefited from an increased involvement of patients. Throughout 2013-4 our headquarters has housed an exhibition of images ‘The emotional cancer journey’, donated by The MAP Foundation to promote expression, communication and understanding for people affected by life threatening illness. In December 2013, members of the INVOLVE patients network helped to judge our first ever Communications Prize and in March children from Kennel Lane School, a school for children with special education needs, contributed to our public event on the impact of music on children with autism.

Future plans

  • Inspiring others with medical research. We will support a culture in which scientists are encouraged to communicate their work. We will provide opportunities for the early career researchers with whom we interact to increase their communications skills and to engage in public dialogue about their work. We will seek funding to expand our programme of media training and support to increase the number of women Fellows commenting in the media.
  • Sharing science. We will continue to provide opportunities for Fellows to share their passion for medical science through events at 41 Portland Place and at various science, art, music and literature festivals.
  • Involving the views of the public to shape our advice. The public, particularly as patients, play an important role in research, health and healthcare. We will seek funding and develop partnerships that will enable us to deliver a programme of public dialogue that feeds into a major working group study on public health.
  • Interacting in accessible and innovative ways. We will develop our new website and our social media presence to increase the accessibility of our work and the work of our Fellowship for all audiences. We will undertake a major review of the Academy’s visual brand and how it is applied across all print and online media, and explore ways to translate our projects into formats easily shared via social media such as infographics, videos and podcasts.

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