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A Student’s Perspective 18.05.17

 

AprilSix Proof is committed to encouraging the next generation in science, technology and engineering. This year our Director of Operations, Joe Meaney, mentored Grant Kirkpatrick, who is studying for an MSc in Science Communication at the University of Manchester. In this guest blog, Grant discusses what this meant to him.

My name is Grant Kirkpatrick. I am a current student at the University of Manchester studying towards an MSc in Science Communication. One of my main reasons for selecting the course at Manchester was the Mentored Project module, a component of the course in which students are provided with an industry mentor with whom they work on a collaborative project. The aim of the project is to provide an insight into the working world of science communication and aid the pursuit of future employment.

It has been my ambition for many years to pursue a career in medical writing, a desire that came from my combined love of both science and creative writing. This information was used to inform my course leader’s decision to allocate me to AprilSixProof for my Mentored Project. An ambitious and innovative company with an excellent stock of clientele; it immediately became apparent that working with AprilSixProof would be hugely beneficial to my future intended career. I was introduced to Joe Meaney, UK Operations Director, in January 2017 and by February we had outlined a plan for a collaborative project. The aim of the project was to support AprilSixProof’s work to promote to the ground-breaking research into cancer being conducted by the National Physical Laboratory (NPL), the UK’s national measurement institute and an important client of AprilSix Proof.

In 2017, cancer is an inescapable fact of life. Many us will know, or know of, a person who has suffered with this terrible and relentless disease. According to Macmillan Cancer Support, there are currently an estimated 2.5 million people living with cancer in the UK. This number is projected to rise to 4 million people by 2030. The mortality rates paint an equally bleak picture, with statistics estimating that around 163,000 people died from cancer in 2014, the equivalent of one person every four minutes. The significance of the human loss is further compounded by the huge financial burden that cancer places on society, responsible for an £18.3 billion annual cost.

With healthcare services stretched further than ever before in their attempts to offer first class care, there is an imperative need for a breakthrough in cancer treatment. That is not to say that the world isn’t trying. One of the most powerful forces in the fight against cancer is Cancer Research UK, a charitable organisation that invested £376 million in supporting research aimed at combatting cancer in 2015/16. Cancer Research UK have recently announced one of the biggest funding rounds that they have ever awarded, which included funding for the researchers working at NPL. It is hoped that the investment will yield new technology that will completely revolutionise how cancer is both diagnosed and treated.

My project was to assist the public relations campaign delivered by AprilSixProof on behalf of NPL. The early stages involved many different interviews AprilSix Proof ran with NPL’s scientists and researchers in order to yield information for promotional use. I was fortunate enough to be observing these interviews to understand how information is strategically selected in order to bring attention to a particular subject. I was given the opportunity to create case studies based on the interviews I observed, which would be used internally to support the press release materials generated by the NPL account team at AprilSix Proof for its client.

The experience was highly engaging and allowed me to understand the demands associated with working within industry, such as the immediacy of deadlines, the importance of detail and the ability to multitask. In addition, I was provided with the first real opportunity to apply what I have learned from my course to a real-life working scenario. I implemented news values, a varied list of criteria that an event must be seen to satisfy if it is to be deemed newsworthy, in the assessment of the information gathered from the interviews. This allowed me to place prominence on certain aspects of the interviews and highlight particular important pieces of information.

My output from the early stages of the process was used by AprilSix Proof to create media pitches, which the NPL account team then delivered to various journalists across their networks. One such outlet, Pan European Networks, responded with interest and requested a 2,500 word article for publication in their upcoming health title. This result was hugely satisfying for me as it indicated success with my previous efforts. Pan European Networks is a website with a highly varied multi-national audience of government agencies and departments across Europe. The site is even visited by the European Commission. The website exists to provide fluency between the above-mentioned stakeholders and the scientists and academics that operate across Europe.

The brief received requested a feature article based on the collaboration between NPL and the European Organisation for Nuclear Research (CERN) regarding nuclear medicine. I was given the article as the task that would constitute the main component of my project. To be entrusted with such an important piece was very pleasing and the team I worked with at AprilSixProof were very supportive throughout the writing process. Once again, I was given the chance to employ the knowledge gained from my studies in terms of appropriate writing style, selection of the correct angle/perspective with which to present the article and the appropriate use of historical information.

The article was well received by my mentor at AprilSixProof and despite going through a number of internal and external refinement processes, remained largely unchanged. The article will be published in the near future. To write an article for a major European publication is without doubt one of the highlights of my MSc and such an opportunity wouldn’t have been possible without the support of those at AprilSixProof and the course faculty at the University of Manchester. Working with AprilSixProof has reaffirmed my desire to pursue a career in medical communications and given me increased confidence in my writing ability. I hope to use the experience as a foundation on which to build a successful career.

If you have any questions about this blog, or working with AprilSix Proof, please email joe.meaney@aprilsixproof.com

References

1.Dobson, C. 2016. University of Manchester remains in top 50 universities across the globe. Image of Manchester University. 

2. Macmillan Cancer Support. 2015. Statistics Fact Sheet. Macmillan Cancer Support.

3. Cancer Research UK. 2017. Cancer Mortality Statistics. Cancer Research UK. 

4. The Department of Health. 2015. 2010 to 2015 Government Policy: Cancer Research and Treatment. The Department of Health. 

5. Milmo, C., Day, A., Mort, D., Burn, C., Kitchen, R., Lynch P., Fishwick, B., Bradfield, P. & Punshon, D. 2017. NHS Crisis: 19 Hospitals Face Axe as Doctors Accuse Government of Deliberate Underfunding. iNews. 

5. Cancer Research UK. 2017. Facts and figures about our research funding. Cancer Research UK. 

6. NPL scientists set to create ‘Google Earth’ of cancer tumours. NPL.