Skip to content
Home » Blog » Sam Andrews, Consultant/Communicator (Episode 43)

Sam Andrews, Consultant/Communicator (Episode 43)

    Sam Andrews, Consultant/Communicator (Episode 43) | Sam is helping researchers tell stories which create change

    For this episode of the Research Adjacent podcast Sarah is talking Sam Andrews, marine science writer, research consultant, and director of ocean-focused communications agency Ocean Oculus.

    The wrong PhD for the right reason

    Sam spent her 20s working in local government administration, but the urge to do something more tangible to help protect the planet took her back to university at 28 to do a degree in marine biology. A Masters and PhD followed, and Sam also began writing a science blog alongside her studies. The coding-heavy PhD wasn’t a great fit, but her blog began to get attention.

    “One day this editor contacted me and he said, I like this article you wrote, can I pop it in our magazine? And I was like, yeah sure, why not? And then a few months later he contacted me again and said, if I give you some money, would you write this article? And, I don’t know why, but I didn’t think that was a possible thing to do before he said that.”

    One article led to another and another, and as she realised that a research path wasn’t the right fit, her communications and consultancy work took off.

    A global perspective

    At the time of our conversation Sam was in the French territory of Réunion, an island in the Indian Ocean. Her work and studies have also taken her to mainland France, Canada, and Australia. This has given her a global perspective on her work, particularly highlighting how important it is to contextualise both communications and solutions to the local situation.

    “You can have some great knowledge built up and a solution that’s really great in one area, but it doesn’t necessarily work in another place. It does actually make you kind of stop more often and go, hang on a minute, we need to think about this a little bit more. So maybe in some ways it slows things down, but I think you end up with a better solution.”

    This sensitivity to different perspectives is one of the reasons Sam has decided to set up Ocean Oculus as a media agency. It will bring together communicators with different skills, different cultural backgrounds and different languages to better serve customers around the world.

    “One of the things that’s really important is to have people who speak different languages, who have different cultural backgrounds, who are situated around the world, who can relate to different people and different societies and different situations.”

    Creating ripples of change

    Despite writing articles and reports which might be widely read, Sam is most proud of the times when she has been able to help someone directly. She cites examples of people she has helped through her careers newsletter Ocean Opportunities and people who have contacted her for help after reading her writing.

    “I had this fisher contact me and they were a bit distressed because they had been at a meeting with their government and they were talking about cutting quotas. The problem was they just didn’t understand the information being shown to them. It was too scientific, too technical. So I read it and was able to say this means this and this means that. They left with that extra knowledge and understanding and then they could go back and they could ask questions or make suggestions to figure out a solution.”

    “The small things can add up and change things in ways we don’t necessarily expect”

    Tackling challenges by talking

    Sam has faced a number of challenges along the way, from the hard knocks of a difficult PhD, to boot-strapping a business in her second language. The way she has tackled them is by reaching out to people for advice and support.

    “Just reaching out and saying, hey, you don’t know me, but I really like what you do, I’d really like to learn more about it, can we have a chat? And then just bouncing ideas of people, that’s been invaluable, so many insights. I definitely 100% recommend that to anyone, whatever their challenge is, reach out and talk to people, most people are helpful.”

    Dissemination is not the same as outreach

    If Sam had a magic wand she would use it to help researchers understand that conference presentations and occasional blog posts are not the way to get their research in front of the people who need it most. She would love to see better and earlier collaboration between researchers, communicators and stakeholders.

    “Communicators can help you write the bid so the funding’s there, so that you end up with a good strategy that makes sure that you reach out to the people who you really want to have that information.  Don’t just tell us that this research is important, because it’s going to help solve x problem for this community, this species, whatever. You have to take the knowledge and give it to those people. So make that part of the process.”

    Find out more

    Theme music by Lemon Music Studios from Pixabay

    Follow Research Adjacent on your favourite socials