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Preparing Science for the Real World

Being good at science communication is more than just having a science degree. It’s about truly understanding the real-world context of facts and data.

It’s not surprising the healthcare communications industry seeks and values people with strong scientific understanding. What is surprising is that ‘good scientific knowledge and understanding for communications’ is not clearly defined or road-mapped.

With the overarching goal of improving health outcomes, science forms the basis for our industry, whether that’s understanding the disease, the treatments, or the treatment effects. Therefore, it’s not surprising we seek and value people with strong scientific understanding.

However, it is surprising that our industry does not have a well-articulated benchmark for what ‘good scientific knowledge’ looks like after academic qualifications. Further, there is often little time to nurture scientific understanding outside ‘the day job’, or to truly understand the real-world context of the facts and data we do know, through the lens of our various stakeholders. With limited opportunities to diversify and expand our knowledge base, and with cold hard facts no longer being enough to cut through the noise (if they ever were), we risk undermining the art of effective communication.

Recent communications around the various COVID-19 vaccine studies have highlighted the rate at which data are digested, interpreted, and re-published in multiple forms and forums. The various regulatory and national bodies, and public influencers (whether health experts or not), providing a multitude of sometimes conflicting perspectives has been unhelpful in many cases. At best, it has a negative impact on trust in the clinical evaluation process; at worst, it could limit vaccine uptake and compromise the ability of our vaccination programmes to deliver effective protection for our population.

So how do we think further?

Since I joined Langland as Chief Scientific Officer last May we have challenged ourselves as a team to think further about science in scientific communications. We drew on broad perspectives from our multi-discipline team to identify the following clear and actionable activities that would drive our scientific team forwards and allow us to deliver more effective communications:

  1. Build our expectations of scientific/medical ‘knowledge’ and establish clear ongoing paths to continued learning both alongside and independent of clients
  2. Extend our capabilities to generate greater insights and broader perspectives on how data will ‘live’ in the real world
  3. Articulate and hone our scientific strategy capabilities to better evaluate, process and interpret all information sources
  4. Elevate standards in content curation to ensure all knowledge and interpretation are communicated to maximum effect

To deliver against this progressive plan, we have grown and are continuing to recruit, and have restructured and reinvigorated the scientific team. We have created new leadership roles, Heads of Editorial and Scientific Strategy, Annette Keith and Diane Ross, respectively. We have restructured the career family for medical writers, enabling more linear progression and re-imagining senior writing roles, and we have formed a new scientific strategy specialism and career family. Finally, we have focused on expanding and enhancing our capabilities in knowledge and insight generation, content curation and scientific strategy.

A different perspective for the health challenges of today and tomorrow

These changes mean we have elevated and will continue to enhance the scientific services that underpin the four disciplines at Langland: clinical trial experience; medical education and strategy; PR and policy; and advertising. Further, working alongside our other crafts of brand strategy and creative, we can better respond to the changing needs of our clients and the industry, with holistic solutions that are grounded in science and will flourish in the ‘real world’.

25th March 2021



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Preparing Science for the Real World
Being good at science communication is more than just having a science degree. It’s about truly understanding the real-world context of facts and data.