Friday, October 9, 2009

Side Effects May Include KNOWLEDGE

If there’s one thing college student’s love more than anything else, it’s waking up early for a special 10 AM lecture on a day off. Thanks to the fine work of our program directors, we got to do exactly that this past Friday.

Helen Leask is the president and creative director of Script Medical, a Toronto based company which bills itself as a strategic medical communications agency [...] grounded in good science. The staff of Script Medical has a goal “to turn your science... into sales” which it does primarily in the field of medical writing between “dance breaks, journal clubs and crazy off-sites”.

The bright-eyed SciCommies interact with our special guest.

Much of the lecture was punctuated by exercises which involved us as a class, which got me much more interested in the subject material. Essentially, we got a crash course in the process that takes a journal article on the effects of sildenafil citrate and produces a saucy advertisement for Viagra.

Identifying audiences and choosing the type of language one uses to address them was a major component. This meant learning what information was cut and what was included. Many of us had a hard time trying to stop talking like scientists, which meant practicing an active voice and undoing between four and eight years of training in about two hours.

Learning not to fear the personal pronoun.

The other major portion of the presentation involved how to market a product. This meant pairing the uses of products with the needs they filled in people’s life and exploiting marketing the connection. As a class we collectively established features and benefits of products. In our final activity, we attempted to market the H1N1 vaccine to young adults by identifying features and explaining the benefits of those features and slapping a flashy title on top to get people interested.

Brainstorming leading to marketing with the power of puns.

The lecture was a wonderful success, not just in learning about more methods of communicating science but also in learning a little more about how science communication is used all around us. With Ms. Leask in the House, we didn’t need to get into Scrubs and head over to the ER of a General Hospital to learn about this special M*A*S*H-up of science and writing.

...Grey’s Anatomy.

-Kevin McAvoy, B.Sc.

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