Science Media Centre

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Science Media Centre
Legal statusCharitable company
PurposeScience and society in the UK
Region served
60 science organisations
Fiona Fox[1][2]

The Science Media Centre is a charitable company,[3] first formed in 2002,[4] two years after the United Kingdom House of Lords Select committee on Science and Technology's third report on "Science and Society" in 2000.[5][failed verification]

This report stated that while science was generally reported accurately in the mass media, there was a need for the promotion of more expert information at times when science is under attack in the headlines, mentioning the public reaction to GM crops, in particular.


In order to promote more informed science in the media, the centre's main function is as a service to journalists, providing background briefings on current scientific issues and facilitating interviews with scientists. Comments are also sourced from scientists about breaking news stories, to provide an independent expert commentary on the news, so that press releases have some peer review. Independence means from the breaking news story, and scientists commenting are asked to declare any competing interests they have with their comment.

Its director is Fiona Fox who is a former member of the Revolutionary Communist Party and a former contributor to its magazine Living Marxism.[6]


The SMC's stated aim is to "facilitate more scientists to engage with the media, in the hope that the public will have improved access to accurate, evidence-based scientific information about the stories of the day". More baldly, the philosophy is "the media will do science better when scientists do the media better".


The setting up of the Science Media Centre was assisted by Susan Greenfield, the director of the Royal Institution of Great Britain.[citation needed] While the centre was initially based in a specially refurbished wing of the Royal Institution, full independence was claimed from all funders and supporters.[citation needed] The SMC is now hosted by the Wellcome Trust.

The Science Media Centre is funded by over 60 organisations, with individual donations capped at £12,500 per annum.[citation needed] The SMC receives sponsorship from a range of funders including media organisations, universities, scientific and learned societies, the UK Research Councils, government bodies, Quangos, charities, private donors and corporate bodies. For an up-to-date list of funders, see [1].

As well as having a board of trustees, the SMC maintains an advisory board of science and media experts to consult on its strategy.


Criticism of the SMC relates to perceptions of independence: in respect of funding sources relating industry with an interest in some science applications, in respect of scientists promoting specific views in favour of their own research in response to news stories, and promoting science establishment concerns particularly in respect of funding for science.

A 2013 article in Nature stated about the SMC, "Perhaps the biggest criticism of Fox and the SMC is that they push science too aggressively – acting more as a PR agency than as a source of accurate science information."[7]

In 2002, Ronan Bennett and Alan Rusbridger described the SMC as a lobby group.[8]

In 2023 three out of five scientists on a panel organised by the Science Media Centre which down-played the risks of ultra-processed foods (UPFs) were revealed either to have received financial support for research from UPF manufacturers or to hold key positions with organisations funded by UPF manufacturers. The Science Media Centre informed journalists of declarations of interests provided by the scientists, but this was not mentioned in news coverage.[9]

Other SMCs[edit]

During Professor Greenfield's term as Thinker in Residence in South Australia, a new Australian Science Media Centre was set up in Adelaide, Australia in August 2005.[10][11]

Science Media Centres exist in other countries such as Japan;[1] except for the relation between the Science Media Centre in UK and the Australian Science Media Centre, these centres are independent of each other.[citation needed]

The Science Media Centre of Canada was founded in 2008.[12]

The New Zealand Science Media Centre was launched on 30 June 2008[13]

The Science Media Center Germany was founded in 2015 with €1.5 million in seed money by Klaus Tschira, founder of the software company SAP SE.[14]


  1. ^ a b Callaway, E. (2013). "Science media: Centre of attention: Fiona Fox and her Science Media Centre are determined to improve Britain's press. Now the model is spreading around the world". Nature. 499 (7457): 142–4. doi:10.1038/499142a. PMID 23846643.
  2. ^ Anon (2005). "Editorial: Public controversies that involve scientific uncertainty can be influenced by mavericks. Open confrontation and analysis serves the public better than excommunication". Nature. 437 (7055): 1. doi:10.1038/437001a. PMID 16136088.
  3. ^ Charity Commission. "Charity Details".
  4. ^ Kirby, Tony (2009). "Fiona Fox". The Lancet. 373 (9680): 2017. doi:10.1016/S0140-6736(09)61099-0. PMID 19524767. S2CID 135451733.
  5. ^ "House of Lords - Science and Technology - Third Report". Retrieved 29 July 2016.
  6. ^ Melchett, Peter (19 April 2007). "Clear intentions". The Guardian. London.
  7. ^ Nature (2013). "Science media: Centre of attention". Nature. 499 (7457): 142–144. Bibcode:2013Natur.499..142C. doi:10.1038/499142a. PMID 23846643.
  8. ^ The Guardian (2002). "Lobby group 'led GM thriller critics'".
  9. ^ Gregory, Andrew (28 September 2023). "Scientists on panel defending ultra-processed foods linked to food firms". The Guardian.
  10. ^ "Our Origins". Australian Science Media Centre. Retrieved 3 March 2011.
  11. ^ "Adelaide Thinkers in Residence - Impacts". Govt. of South Australia. Retrieved 3 March 2011.
  12. ^ The SMCC Story The Science Media Centre of Canada, retrieved 29 January 2019
  13. ^ The New Zealand Science Media Centre, retrieved 29 January 2019
  14. ^ The Science Media Center Germany retrieved 28 January 2019

External links[edit]

Audio clips[edit]