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Steph Sinclair, Science Communications Manager (Episode 26)

    Steph Sinclair (Episode 26), Science Communications Manager | Steph is sharing research to help tackle cancer

    Research Adjacent Steph Sinclair Science Communication Manager

    For this episode of the Research Adjacent podcast Sarah is talking to Steph Sinclair, Science Communications Manager at Worldwide Cancer Research. Steph’s role involves finding out what their funded researchers are doing and then explaining that to colleagues, supporters and the public.

    Worldwide Cancer Research funds pioneering discovery research to help understand cancer and develop new treatments. Steph’s day might involve creating website text, social media content, or a press release about a new breakthrough. Some days it even involves getting in front of the camera – like in this STV news report!

    Steph explaining why Worldwide Cancer Research have funded an infant leukaemia study.

    Getting closer to the research

    Prior to taking on this role Steph had worked for both a research funder (Wellcome Trust) and a university (University of Edinburgh) in public engagement, science communication and education roles. Now working for a charity, Steph is enjoying feeling more connected to the research than ever before.

    “And what I really like about working at the charity is that I feel much closer to the research and closer to everything because we’re much smaller. There’s 45 of us, whereas at Wellcome there were hundreds of us, and at the university there’s thousands of people. I feel I can now get a grasp on actually what we’re funding, who our researchers are, what their breakthroughs are.”

    Steph has found that the charity-supported researchers are all passionate about the cause and feel honoured to be funded. This creates a shared sense of working towards a goal and seems to make the researchers more responsive to requests to get involved in both science communication and more generally supporting the charity.

    Career conundrums

    Like many Research Adjacent guests Steph has found the lack of a clear career path challenging. After a Masters in Science Communication she has enjoyed the variety of work that she has done, but still can’t imagine what she might be doing in 5 or 10 years.

    However, perhaps in stark contrast to peers in university settings, Steph’s current contract is permanent. She feels that charities really value the skills that she has.

    “And I think that it would be great if other organizations could recognize that too. That perhaps they don’t know what you’d be doing but they know that they would need those skills. I think often in academia you’re brought in for a particular project that might last 1, 2, 3 years. But there’s not that sense of, you know, this person has really good skills, they’ve built up these networks, we should keep them on. I think charities recognize that they will always need science communication.”

    Steph would also like to use the Research Adjacent magic wand to make it easier for women to progress in science. Despite high levels of female participation in science at school, university and early career, women are still under-represented at more senior levels. Steph’s magic wand would roll out practical support like mentoring and childcare to help women succeed.

    Creative collaborations

    Steph’s career highs so far have been projects that combined art, science and involvement, delivered while she was working at the at Centre for Biomedicine Self and Society at the University of Edinburgh. G-Lands involved bringing Emily Fong into the labs as an artist-in-residence. And Tailored Treatments created graphic novels exploring how rapid developments in personalised cancer medicine are changing what it’s like to be a cancer patient.

    “It was just a really fantastic project because both sides got a lot out of it. So the researchers really valued having that patient perspective. And they also really valued getting involved in learning new skills and just seeing a whole new world and talking about their research in totally new ways. And from the participant point of view, they valued finding out about the research and also going on their own journeys and talking about their own stories. It felt like a really nice collaborative project that benefitted everyone.”

    Considering a charity role

    To anyone considering a similar role in the charity sector, Steph’s advise is this: find charities that are dear to your heart or based near you and get involved, e.g. follow them on social media or volunteer, and you’ll hear when there are opportunities. She also wants to offer reassurance that skills gained in other research-adjacent organisations are entirely applicable to working in a charity.

    “I would always say that to everyone if you see a job, even if you think you’ve not got absolutely everything that they’re asking for, just go for it. Because I think if you have the passion for it and you’re willing to learn, then you’re the right person.”

    Find out more

    Theme music by Vitaliy Levkin from Pixabay

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