Louise spoke to the Irish Association for Cancer Research this evening about the importance of communicating to the general public about their work. We've all read about the impact misinformation and fake news can have on life and death matters such as the HPV vaccine. Cancer researchers have a responsibility to get the right information out there and Louise told them a little bit about how they can go about doing that. You can read more about the IACR here.
We had a lot of fun in UCD last Thursday. We were training a big room of cancer researchers and as ever, it was really gratifying to see how much progress people make in such a short space of time. That's the joy of working with very clever people. It was a room of great communicators who all have important things to say.
For ourselves it was great to deal with such a big room - 24 people in all - and to see that people were still managing to get plenty of interaction and practice in. The enthusiasm of the participants definitely helped. Thanks to the IACR for having us!
We're delighted to announce a pioneering research project being conducted by our long time client the Insight Centre for Data Analytics. How Are You Ireland? is an app that will use smartphones to collect data that will give an insight into the well-being of the Irish population. This is the first time public health research of this nature has been undertaken. The project was announced on The Late Late Show and the Insight Centre is asking the public to download the app and sign up to take part in this groundbreaking research project. If you want to find out more and download the app, just click here.
One of our big successes in the past few years has been the number of opinion editorials we have successfully ghostwritten and placed in the national media. Opinion editorials are the purest form of thought leadership. This era of open media and journalism has many benefits, but there are drawbacks. Often no distinction is made between opinion makers who are qualified and those who aren't. We want to help experts to become opinion makers. Informed opinion and expertise is something we sorely need in the time of fake news.
We recently had reason to collate a number of our opinion editorials from the past few years. As you will see we have worked with mathematicians, computer scientists, cyber psychologists and education experts. We collaborated with all of these people to pull their thoughts into readable opinion. Then we guided them through the pitching process. These are some of our successes.
You know, as a communication consulting firm we should really pay a little more attention to our own news feed. Another few hours in the day would be nice.
We have been all over the country delivering media training to academics and researchers. One particularly interesting session was with a group from the Irish Cancer Registry. Did you know that Ireland actually takes a systematic approach to analysing its cancer data? Neither did we. But we do and the guys at the registry are the ones who do it. It was a fascinating session. The challenges in communicating about cancer are many and the stakes are so high. Cervical cancer and the vaccine was obviously a theme. It always is when dealing with cancer researchers. The good news on that front is that the take up rate is improving. There is still a long way to go, but the HSE's strategy of outreach, education and engagement is working.
Check out the National Cancer Registry's website here.
We've been working on this for a while and we're pretty proud of it. www.magnacartafordata.org essentially aims to use crowdsourcing to identify and solve ethical issues faced by data science researchers. We've had a brilliant response from researchers across the board - not just data scientists, but ethicists and law experts for example. Check out the website and follow the project on Twitter @dataethicsire
This is a constant question coming from researchers who are engaging with our data ethics case studies project. They are not the only ones. This is a very interesting article about a recent legal decision about web scraping, or the collection of public data for research purposes. The courts decided that the collection of such data was legal, even when it was against the web provider's Terms of Service. But is it necessarily ethical? Well that depends... Read it here.
That picture looks old mostly because it's scanned from a Sunday Business Post article that featured us in the early days. It certainly seems like a long time ago.
When we had our first conversation about the idea that researchers and academics might benefit from some media training, we never thought that three years later we would be working together full-time, travelling the country delivering training and engaging with organisations about their communication strategies. It has been a real privilege and it has been quite the learning curve.
So what have we learned?
Well, when it comes to individuals and communicating with the public, ability is not the problem. We haven't met any fusty old professors who are unable to hold a regular conversation about their work. Most people are well able to talk in basic terms about their research.
The challenge actually comes down to two main issues - time and confidence. Researchers are busy, overloaded in fact with the different aspects of their jobs. Outreach and engagement takes time and the official rewards are few and far between.
Confidence is complicated. Contrary to popular opinion, simply believing you can do anything doesn't quite cut it. We have found that for researchers, preparation is key to building that confidence. Thinking about their audience, crafting a message and leading out with the most important part of that message are the aspects of our training that people find most useful. The individuals are fine. Communication and outreach is increasingly being seen as part of the job. An exciting culture shift is happening in research in that regard.
From an organisational perspective, many research and academic institutions need to take a more strategic approach to their communication output. Communication may be a 'soft skill' but it is a powerful tool. Every communication action an organisation takes should have a desired outcome in mind. Organisations need to utilise their researchers in their effort to reach the public, and they need to start rewarding those people who stick their heads above the parapet and write an opinion piece or who say yes to the interview request. Those individuals are at the forefront in the war against anti-intellectualism and lies. They are also the best advertisement that an organisation could wish for. They should be incentivised to speak out.
Digital Transformation Report 2017 from KingramRed is a wake-up call for Irish businessRead More
We have been working with the Insight Centre for Data Analytics for two years now and one of our main areas of interest has been the ethics of Big Data research. We're not just talking privacy here - although that is part of it - we are also talking about the ethical implications of the research itself.
For a long time we have been wrestling with the size and the scale of the problem. How do you create an ethical framework when the ground is constantly moving under your feet?
There is an international effort to create this framework from the ground up. The idea is that if we look at individual pieces of research and examine the ethical implications on a case by case basis, we will be able to grow a system of ethics around Big Data research. We may not be able to predict what will happen in the future but if we have a solid grounding in the ethical issues around what we are doing in the present, those ethics precedents will inform what's coming down the line. There's a lot more to it of course, but needless to say we're very excited to be charged with driving this effort.
We do a lot of work with Prof Barry O'Sullivan in the Insight Centre for Data Analytics so we were delighted when he was announced as the Science Foundation Ireland Researcher of the Year.
Prof O'Sullivan is Director of Insight@UCC. His research interests include artificial intelligence, constraint programming, operations research and decision analytics. He was recently elected deputy president of the European Association for Artificial Intelligence (EurAI), the world's largest association for AI.
We work with him a lot on Insight's Magna Carta for Data Project. In September, he spoke for the second time at the United Nations Headquarters in New York about artificial intelligence and data analytics in the context of sustainable development.
He also plays tenor saxophone, he bakes, he's a keen gardener and a dad of three. We're not sure when he sleeps. Congrats Barry.
We really enjoyed delivering media training to groups of researchers in Maynooth University recently. At the beginning of FH Media, the lovely people in Maynooth were kind enough to let us pilot our fledgling training course. Needless to say, we're much more polished nowadays! Anyway, we love Maynooth, especially at this time of year when the beautiful campus is all aglow with autumn.
It felt good to be more than two years in and still doing something we believe in so strongly. We are constantly amazed at how communication is seen as a soft skill, and yet the more we see and experience the more we are convinced that it is crucial to absolutely everything.
The Maynooth University researchers we met were fascinating and had so much to contribute. All they needed was a little re-angling of their messages for a public audience. Having experts who can shed light on complex issues in the media is just so valuable. If we have enough of them, they will force the level of public discourse upwards. We very much hope that we'll some familiar names cropping up in the media.
We recently worked with researchers from the Adapt Centre on presentations for the Smart Futures programme. Smart Futures is a Science Foundation Ireland initiative in which researchers working in various STEM areas go out to schools and give career talks to students. The Adapt researchers were such an interesting group with so much to offer students. It's incredibly important for teenagers, not only to encounter people in STEM careers, but also to meet people who didn't necessarily know what they wanted to do when they sat their final exams. The idea that you can be in a successful career despite not really having a pathway figured out in your head by the time you're 18 is an extremely important message nowadays. Best of luck to everyone we met. You'll be fantastic.
We recently had the pleasure of working with the operations team in CÚRAM, the Galway based, SFI funded, medical devices research centre. They had done a huge amount of work on their core CÚRAM presentation and our session was an opportunity for the ops team to get together and agree on CÚRAM's key messages. A very interesting morning. They subsequently had a really excellent launch on the 26th of September which you can read about here.
Did you know that the Irish Cancer Society funds a huge proportion of cancer research in Ireland? We were delivering training to some of the researchers it funds this week. They were a really interesting group with massive potential from a media and public engagement perspective. Cancer researchers have a real advantage when it comes to communicating about their work, as health and cancer interest the general public. They also have a massive responsibility to communicate their message in a clear and measured way and that was something that came through strongly. It was a really great session and it was a real eye opener to hear about all the cutting edge research that's happening right here in Ireland. We really hope that the researchers got a sense of how far they could go with media and public engagement if they wanted to. It's certainly theirs for the taking.
Something that we find we're pretty good at is helping academics and researchers to formulate their research and ideas into opinion editorials that can then be placed in newspapers or other media outlets. It is a brave thing to do, putting your opinion out there to be read and critiqued, but it is incredibly important. One of the main reasons we started this business is because we believe very strongly in enabling experts, real experts, to engage in public discourse. That of course involves communication on all sorts of different levels but when you can get a platform in a national or international media outlet, why not grab it?
If you click on the picture above you will be able to read the latest op ed we helped with - a really interesting piece by Prof Nial Friel.
It was an absolute pleasure to work with BioInnovate Ireland. It's such an exciting programme and there are some great news stories in its future. We basically set up and kick-started their communication strategy. They have been all over The Irish Times recently and they also had some really decent coverage in international publications such as Medical Devices and Outsourcing. We think we've hit on a great communications solution for smaller operations who don't want to take on someone to deal with communication but need a bit of help in setting up a communication strategy that they can implement internally. It works really well.
Insight launched their RePlay project in Croke Park yesterday. The project involves cutting edge sensor technology and data analytics combined to create, for the first time, a digitised ‘library of movement’ for use by athletes and coaches. It also has huge potential for wider application. RTE's Will Goodbody reported on the launch. You can read more and watch the segment here.
We were asked for our views on the relationship between PR and journalism by the very brilliant Peter McGuire who was writing a piece on the issue for the Sunday Business Post. It's not available online, but we were delighted to be involved.
BioInnovate was highlighted as one of the most interestmnig postgraduate offerings in NUI Galway. There is so much happening in this fellowship. There's an exciting time ahead for them media-wise. You can read the piece here.