UCL Institute of Healthcare Engineering


Communicating Science in the BBC

3 July 2024

On the 18th of June, Dr Liam Collins-Jones delivered a talk on his experience working as a science journalist at the BBC Audio Science Unit. It was attended by a variety of IHE Impact Fellows and researchers.

Presentation by Liam Collins-Jones

Liam is currently a Research Associate at Cambridge and completed his PhD in UCL, focusing on Medical Imaging and Neuroimaging. Last Summer, he spent three 3 weeks at the BBC office in Cardiff, working on science programmes for BBC Radio 4 and BBC World Service.

Liam began his talk by describing what makes a good science story. First, you need to find a “peg” – a topic that’s been in the news a lot. Second, ask “what’s the top line?” – this should be a summary of your whole story in just one sentence. Lastly, think about what voices are needed to tell this story.

In one project, Liam worked as a researcher on a piece about river pollution. He spent his time collecting samples of a nearby river and contacting “citizen scientists” to gain unique perspectives on the topic. Citizen scientists, he describes, are those who are not trained scientists but “spend their free time collecting data for science.”

Liam explains that connecting with citizen scientists and local farmers can be daunting at first. You need to “learn how to ask questions when you’re not the expert.” He advises to “put yourself in the mind of the listener” and think about questions that someone who’s never heard of this topic would ask. As a specialised researcher in a specific topic, Liam noted that it was interesting and refreshing to spend time on research that was so completely different to his own.

Liam was an Impact Fellow at the UCL Institute of Healthcare Engineering and found that being able to read other scientists work and learning how to make communication of science tailored to the public, helped him in this BBC experience.

He concluded the talk by emphasising that its super important to link your science with current affairs and you really need to consider what non-scientist voices are needed to tell your story.

A piece of advice that stuck with Liam was, “you can’t educate and inform without entertaining.”


Written by Junaid Abbas