Interview with Pampa García Molina, journalist, writer and editor on science, technology, health, and environment. From 2011 to 2022 she was editor-in-chief of Agencia SINC, a Spanish news agency specialised in science. Now she is editor-in-chief of ScienceMediaCentre.es, an independent office that provides resources and reliable content to cover science-related news.
How did ScienceMediaCentre.es come to be?
Pampa García Molina: The ScienceMediaCentre.es is the third one of its kind in Europe and the first in Spanish language. We developed it using SINC’s experience and knowledge of the science news and research landscape in Spain, where we have been active for the last 14 years. In addition, our work was facilitated by our longstanding reputation and the trust from the research community, press offices and journalists.
ScienceMediaCentre.es stems from SINC, but what is the difference between them?
Pampa García Molina: SINC is more general and offers ‘ready to use’ journalistic content for the general public: expert interviews, in-depth articles, news… All our content is created under a creative commons (CC) license which allows journalists to reuse it, either as it is or in edited form.
In contrast, ScienceMediaCentre.es offers resources both for scientists, to facilitate their media relations, and for journalists to improve the quality of their science reporting while providing them with curated information.
For instance, aside from expert commentaries from experts on current hot scientific topics, there are opinion pieces and in-depth explanations on certain society-relevant science content. In addition, we have a resource pool that consists of content ranging from basic information on how to read/interpret scientific data to how to prepare for an interview as an expert.
In your view, is an institutionally funded science agency like FECYT perceived as trustworthy by the Spanish public, and how independent is the information provided by both SINC and ScienceMediaCentre.es?
Pampa García Molina: Despite the current journalism credibility crisis, which is a real democratic issue, public institutions like FECYT are generally trusted in Spain. Per definition, SINC is a news provider aiming towards providing the most rigorous, independent, objective scientific information; and its credibility has been long established.
To ensure that this is the case for ScienceMediaCentre.es as well, we have included an external advisory board that will oversee our activities; and a statute to avoid any kind of interference in our contents, whatever the subject matter.
What do you think would be the most impactful approach to combat misinformation? (Critical thinking, behavioral-based communication campaigns, science literacy and engagement…)
Pampa García Molina: All the above are relevant. But a usually forgotten issue is media literacy. People, including researchers themselves, need to understand the editorial policies of media, its need for subscriptions and advertising, the difference between journalistic formats (editorial, news…); the existence of information bias and conflict of interest…
Actually, this is a key learning because it is applicable to every aspect of life, from economy to politics to health…
During the Covid-19 pandemic we have observed – and suffered – the effects of misinformation campaigns mostly driven by social media. How can ScienceMediaCentre.es help counteract scientific misinformation in the future?
Pampa García Molina: Precisely, ScienceMediaCentre.es aims to counteract the effects of the so-called ‘expert-crisis’, brought about by non-experts giving their opinion on topics on which they are not knowledgeable enough.
ScienceMediaCentre.es aims to serve as a resource for both journalists and scientists but it does not directly refer journalists to experts. However, we have been working on developing a database including contact information of press offices of all research institutes and universities in Spain according to the expertise that can be found in them, to facilitate contact between interested parties.
Which role can the European Science-Media Hub (ESHM) play in science journalism and communication in Spain? How can we collaborate?
Pampa García Molina: There is a good potential for collaboration. We think that the ESMH could be a complementary asset to the work we do both at SINC and SMC.es.