Bridging the science communication gap

17 Feb 2011 00:00:00.000
PA 48/11


A University of Nottingham scientist has won an international Fellowship to help improve the communication of important science research to the media and general public.

Dr Wim Thielemans is a researcher whose work spans chemistry, chemical engineering and materials science and is among ten scientists worldwide to begin a year-long programme in how to publicise new discoveries in environmental health and sustainable chemistry.

Better dissemination of research is becoming a bigger priority for scientists wanting to avoid inaccurate news reporting, misleading headlines and scaremongering in the media. The Fellowships are awarded by Environmental Health Sciences, a non-profit organisation that promotes public understanding of links between environmental factors and human health.

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The scientists will work with editors and journalists to produce original research reviews and to commentate on media coverage of these sometimes publically sensitive stories. They will also be available to journalists seeking expert opinion and information for news stories relating to this burgeoning field of science research.

The programme trains scientists to articulate more clearly their research findings and to explain their relevance to the general public. The aim is to improve public understanding of complex issues relating to the environment, human health and ‘green’ chemistry which tries to minimise the use and generation of hazardous substances in manufacturing.

Dr Wim Thielemans said: “I am delighted to have this opportunity as I think it is very important that scientific findings and discoveries are correctly portrayed in the media. And since we are supported with public funds, we do have a duty to inform the public of our work.”

Professor Sam Kingman, Head of the University’s Department of Chemical and Environmental Engineering, said: “We are extremely proud that Wim has been awarded this fellowship. His work is at the interface of two different disciplines, Chemistry and Chemical Engineering, and therefore issues around communication can be even more challenging. The skills he develops will be invaluable, not just to himself, but other scientists and engineers at the University. Ultimately, we expect this will lead to better public communication of all of our work.”

The ten scientists awarded the Fellowships represent a wide range of interests and experiences, from major universities the United States, Canada, Sweden and the United Kingdom. They bring a commitment to educate the public about the connections between chemicals and human and ecological health. Their professional and academic backgrounds range from environmental toxicology to epidemiology to green chemistry.

Every month, the Fellows will translate new research findings into short summaries written for a general audience. The summaries are then published at They will also write brief reviews – also published there – commenting on how well the media are covering environmental health science and green chemistry issues.

Environmental Health Sciences (EHS) and Advancing Green Chemistry (AGC) are sponsoring the fellowships. EHS publishes the online news source Environmental Health News ( and The Daily Climate ( AGC publishes chemistry updates at

More details on Dr Wim Thieleman’s research can be found at


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Notes to editors: The University of Nottingham, described by The Sunday Times University Guide 2011 as ‘the embodiment of the modern international university’, has award-winning campuses in the United Kingdom, China and Malaysia. It is ranked in the UK's Top 10 and the World's Top 75 universities by the Shanghai Jiao Tong (SJTU) and the QS World University Rankings. It was named ‘Europe’s greenest university’ in the UI GreenMetric World University Ranking, a league table of the world’s most environmentally-friendly higher education institutions, which ranked Nottingham second in the world overall.


The University is committed to providing a truly international education for its 40,000 students, producing world-leading research and benefiting the communities around its campuses in the UK and Asia.

More than 90 per cent of research at The University of Nottingham is of international quality, according to the most recent Research Assessment Exercise, with almost 60 per cent of all research defined as ‘world-leading’ or ‘internationally excellent’. Research Fortnight analysis of RAE 2008 ranked the University 7th in the UK by research power. The University’s vision is to be recognised around the world for its signature contributions, especially in global food security, energy & sustainability, and health.

More news from the University at:


Facts and figures at:

Story credits

More information is available from Dr Wim Thielemans on +44 (0)115 951 3507


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