The SMC’s Expert Database lists over 8,000 scientists who are experts in their field and willing to talk to the media.
Some tips on approaching and interviewing scientists:
- Cultivate your sources
Spend time talking to scientists when you’re not on deadline. Help them get to know and trust you, and understand how you work. If a researcher seems approachable, they might help you get your head around a crucial bit of research or fact-check an assertion on short notice in future.
- Make your deadline clear up front
Scientists are often not used to journalists’ tight time frames. If you need a response within the next few hours or days, spell it out clearly (and go ahead and show your appreciation if they drop everything to accommodate you).
- Use email
We’ve found that many scientists are virtually unreachable by phone but respond obsessively to emails. Scientists tend to travel frequently, work at multiple research institutions or have teaching commitments or lab/field work. The SMC has mobile numbers for many media-friendly scientists.
- Head off over-preparation
Scientists will often spend unnecessary hours prepping in-depth facts and figures you’ll never cover. Give your scientist a rough idea of the outcome you want from them, and any constraints on your word or time limit. (Are you producing a 7 minute segment? 300 words? A 30 second bulletin?) Give them an idea of what you’ll be covering in an interview.
- Don’t be intimidated
If you’re not following something, or the scientist starts slipping into jargon, don’t hesitate to interrupt or ask them to explain in simpler terms. It’s often hard for scientists to judge exactly how much background explanation they should provide.