Science Media Centre

Science Media Centre


The Science Media Centre is New Zealand’s only trusted, independent source of information for the media on all issues related to science. Thousands of news stories providing context from and quoting New Zealand researchers have been published as a direct result of our work.

SMC Diagram webWe cover hundreds of issues, including some of the biggest stories of recent times like the Canterbury earthquakes, Pike River and the swine flu pandemic. Most importantly, stories of better quality have appeared as a result of our input and we work tirelessly behind the scenes to keep pseudoscience and dubious claims out of the media. We also help scientists become more confident in their dealings with the media through and Science Media SAVVY workshops.

We have established a great base for increased collaboration and input from New Zealand researchers to help the media better address the big science-related issues facing the country.

History of the Science Media Centre

Science and technology are fundamental to transforming our economy and improving our well being. As part of the strategy to engage New Zealanders with science and technology, in its 2007-2010 Statement of Intent, the Ministry of Research, Science & Technology (MoRST — now the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment) announced a three-year pilot Science & Technology Media Centre for New Zealand.

Following an open call for expressions of interest, the Royal Society of New Zealand was awarded the bid to develop and operate the Science Media Centre. After approximately three months of consultation with media, the scientific community and other stakeholders, a strategic plan was developed that identified priorities and activities for the centre.

The New Zealand Science Media Centre was launched to the media on 30 June 2008 and officially opened on 1 July 2008.

The SMC was conceptualised on the success of the Science Media Centres in both the UK and Australia which, since their establishment, have successfully promoted the voices, stories and views of the scientific community to their national news media. Since the SMC – NZ’s launch, two more Science Media Centres have opened in Japan and Canada.

New Zealand Science Media Centre – Terms of reference

1. Preamble

• Strong and transparent links between the media and science and technology sectors are important in a modern society.

• Research, science and technology (RS&T) cover a vast territory, from mathematics engineering and business through to health, social sciences and the environment. Across these areas RS&T play a key role in driving advances that significantly impact on the way we live our lives.

• It is important therefore that society is aware of the role that RS&T can offer on a range of topics. It is also important for society to consider and debate potential challenges that may emerge around new and emerging areas of S&T.

2. Role

• The Science Media Centre (SMC) will facilitate links between the media and science so that the media has easy access to relevant scientific information. The SMC will support existing media as well as new and emerging media channels.

• The SMC will facilitate these links by ascertaining the needs of the media and structuring its operations to meet these needs.

3. Functions

The functions of the SMC will include:

• Being a first port of call for media that want RS& T based information.

• Proactively providing timely information and material on RS& T topics.

• Developing RS& T reporting capability in the New Zealand media.

• Promoting cultural change within the New Zealand media in support of professional RS&T reporting in New Zealand.

• Providing advice and support for people within the S& T sector on how to engage with the media.

4. Scope

• The focus of the SMC will be solely upon matters related to research, science and technology.

• The SMC will focus its activities on the media-particularly sectors of the media and their staff that do not have specialised RS& T capability.

• The SMC will primarily deal with New Zealand based RS& T but international RS& T can be included where there is a strong connection with or relevance to New Zealand.

• The SMC’s focus on the media will primarily be on the working media. Training and capacity building for journalists will be a secondary priority.

• The SMC will not provide a service for the public, or for the education community, although some resources will be able to be accessed and used by them.

5. Operating principles

• The SMC needs to add unique value over and above the activity already occurring within the RS& T sector. It may co-ordinate, facilitate, enhance and/or complement but not duplicate the communication activities undertaken by other research organisations.

• Where the SMC is addressing issues that reasonably appear to lie within the realm of another institution or institutions, the SMC should focus on cross-sector issues rather than on topics the individual research organisations can, or should be, promoting themselves.

• The SMC will not take any particular standpoint or position on RS& Tissues.

• The SMC will not lobby on behalf of the government or the RS&T sector.

• The SMC will be neutral in matters of policy and politics. It will not act in a way that could reasonably be perceived to be supporting or opposing any aspect of government policy or any other issues subject to political debate.

• The SMC will be open and transparent about its funding sources.

• The SMC will operate to the highest ethical standards.

• The SMC will operate in a way that is responsive and transparent.

• These principles will apply to the SMC and any other activities funded by the SMC.

6. Independence

• The SMC will operate as a stand alone business unit within the Royal Society of New Zealand (RSNZ).

• The manager of the SMC will report to the chief executive or nominee of the RSNZ and will be independent from the other operations of the RSNZ.

• In its work the SMC will be editorially independent from: the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE) and any other government agency; the RSNZ; and from any organisation that funds, provides content to or in any way supports the SMC.

• Reflecting the taxpayers’ investment in the SMC, the RSNZ will be accountable to MBIE for the efficient operation of the SMC.

• The SMC will ensure it does not appear to favour any particular medium, media outlet/s or institution/s

7. Transition to new structure

• The SMC will operate in line with the SMC Strategic Plan, April 2010, (incorporating the business plan) which details the SMC’s transition to an independent trust.

• The chief executive of the RSNZ will establish a transition board for the purpose of advising the chief executive on the SMC’s move to a new structure.

• The chief executive of the RSNZ will draft terms of reference for the transition board.

Updated February 2013


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