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Sunday, 11 May 2008

MRC recruits science writer

It is surprising that more science writers have not joined the handful who have taken on appointments on the bodies that oversee various research organisations. After all, writers have to spend more time getting to know more of what goes on than many of the people who get grants from Research Councils, for example.

Writers don't even have to sit back and wait for someone to summon them on to these bodies. The RCs even invite people to apply for seats in their council. We don't know if this is how Vivienne Parry, an ABSW member, came to be a new members of the council of the Medical Research Council. But we can think of a number of drawbacks to applying for such a job.

The income, a grand total of £6570 per year can hardly make up for the work that you might have to forego when you have this sort of appointment. There are just too many opportunities for aggrieved outsiders to scream loudly about potential conflicts of interest. Fortunately, Vivienne, who has, among other activities, made some neat radio programmes in recent years, isn't the sort of person to be intimidated by such accusations.

If nothing else, having a "back" on board at a Research Council should help them to improve their media relationships. Some Research Councils, those I have to deal with, seem to take this aspect of their work seriously enough to allocate adequate resources to the work. They end up with small, hard working teams that really do not have the resources it takes to do an effective job.