Since 2018, I’ve led science communication for the European Commission’s Scientific Advice Mechanism as Head of Communications for SAPEA. It’s a very lively and challenging role which demands subject knowledge, creativity, hands-on communications skills, strategic thinking and (increasingly) team leadership. It’s not just about communicating the science behind our advice — it’s also about raising awareness of issues at the science-policy interface, and stimulating debate in society about the roles scientific evidence should play.
I produce and present an ongoing podcast for the European Commission’s Scientific Advice Mechanism. It’s a series of long-form interviews about the interface between science and politics, focusing particularly on science advice and evidence-informed policymaking.
I’ve interviewed some big names (big in the science advice world, that is!), but also a range of early-career researchers and off-the-wall guests. The show has become pretty well known in science advice circles in Europe, and it’s a lot of fun — if you’re into that kind of thing.
In an extremely unlikely turn of events, I was the lead author for a paper about microplastics pollution published in the journal Environment International, and subsequently cited in Nature. I don’t think this is too bad an achievement, given that my highest science qualification is a school certificate from the age of 16.
Visual design and layout
As well as writing, I’ve done a lot of visual design for both printed and online communications over the years. Here are some samples.
I wrote and edited the rules for several popular board games on the Dized app.
I’ve written my fair share of speeches for people much more important than me to read from podiums. Here’s one I wrote for the erstwhile prime minister of Bulgaria. (Yep.)
Party of European Socialists
When I first moved from the UK to Brussels, I spent two years as Senior Communications Advisor to the Party of European Socialists. My particular responsibility was press and media relations, but I also had a role in publications, events planning, campaigns and many other areas.
I conceived and created a phone app, Doorstep EU, in the early days of Britain’s EU referendum campaign. Originally intended for doorstep campaigners, it provided daily in-depth analysis and mythbusting of the main EU-related stories in the British media. By the final weeks of the campaign it had over 20,000 active users — including Labour MPs, BBC journalists, politicians and activists.
UK referendum campaign
I was closely involved in the 2016 UK referendum on EU membership — on the losing side, unfortunately. Alongside being head of communications to the leader of the Labour party in the European Parliament, I was seconded as a communications advisor to former home secretary Alan Johnson, who led Labour’s campaign.
Mostly through being in the right place at the right time, I’ve had the opportunity to lead high-profile public communication campaigns on European issues in Britain — including conceiving and developing a widely-used mythbusting app during the EU referendum campaign, advising the Remain campaign for the UK Labour party, and serving as Head of Communications to a senior British MEP.
I’m now a post-Brexit Brit, living and working in Belgium.
How to talk about Europe
As part of the UK’s referendum campaign in 2016, I was commissioned to write some guidelines for well-meaning political journalists and campaigners on how to avoid traps when discussing Europe.
Sad to say, this stuff is no use to anyone any more. I guess we didn’t avoid enough of the traps.
Training for early-career researchers
When working for a collaborative research project in the UK, one of my responsibilities was to train early-stage social science researchers in communications activities, both traditional and new media. As well as providing written training materials, I also put on a series of seminars, plenary lectures and workshops at the Universities of Cambridge, Reading, Sheffield and Loughborough.
For five years, I taught an elective module in media ethics for medical students at the University of York. The course ran every term and was frequently over-subscribed. It was one of the most fun jobs I’ve ever done.
Limericks are dreadful
I wrote an extended essay on limericks so you don’t have to. Here’s the first part of it.
Shape from shading
I’ve done various freelance science writing jobs over the years. This is an example of a magazine commission I wrote in 2013 — an article about scientists’ attempts to teach computers to understand 3D shapes.
Left to our own devices
In 2011, I co-led a knowledge exchange project called ‘Left to our own devices’. The aim was to challenge stereotypes, particularly among policy-makers, about the relationship between older people and technology.
Advanced murder mysteries
I wrote about the design process behind murder mystery party games back in 2010, for a long-defunct magazine.
I’ve written my fair share of corporate documents as a freelancer.
KT-Equal was a research consortium developing technologies to improve the lives of older and disabled people. Among the partners were the universities of Sheffield, Edinburgh and Cambridge. I was their Communications Manager, with responsibility for communications strategy and projects, media campaigns and brand management, especially web and social media.
UK national museum
I ran the press office at the UK’s National Railway Museum, managing a team of staff in a busy media-facing environment. This was a year-long contract starting in 2006. We achieved extended coverage on UK national TV, front-page news in national newspapers, and a documentary for UKTV History.
Web design and development
I’ve been making websites since before it was cool. All the way back in 2005, I built and managed a large, comprehensive website for a leading politician, including extensive campaign and policy materials, a widely-read blog, audiovisual resources, and an archive of political activities. The site was nominated for a New Statesman New Media award in 2005, and the blog was listed as one of Europe’s top ten political blogs by the Wall Street Journal in 2006.
Since then, I have kept my hand in with web design and development, but it’s no longer a main focus.