Talking to our publics

We sometimes characterise our audiences as the public, policy-makers and Parliamentarians – the people we need to talk to if we are to fulfil our Terms of Reference. These audiences are not always separate, of course, and nor is this an exhaustive list of our ambitions, but it can be a helpful way of thinking about different aspects of our work.

And in recent times we seem to have done more than a bit of most of it.

It was only five weeks ago that I wrote a blog about how so many of our reports remain alive, and that we get involved in policy discussions, many years after they have been published. And over the last couple of weeks we have been kept busy by the media. Our new neurotechnology report might not have made the biggest big splash on the day it was published, but there is a steady trickle of discussion and interest that we see and are ready to respond to, such as this blog article in the New York Times.

Meanwhile, the world’s media has been fascinated by the Chief Medical Officer’s announcement that the UK Government is ready to back ‘three-person IVF’ (better known as ‘techniques to prevent mitochondrial DNA disorders’). Our 2012 report has been much referred to, which is only right as it was at the heart of the public and policy discussions.

Then this week we had the vote in the Welsh Assembly to adopt an ‘opt-out’ approach to organ donation. This much-trailed policy was given considerable attention in our 2011 Human Bodies report, and Council member Tim Lewens gave evidence to the Health and Social Care Committee whilst they were considering the draft Bill. As a result, we have been busy speaking to the press this week in explaining our position.

Working with the media is an important part of our job, and as we have seen this week it can help connect the various audiences that we address – public, policy and Parliament. These have been tricky issues, and I have to say that for the most part (and apart from the odd case, and the regular overblown headlines), the media has handled them rather well. Our contribution may be seen as a bit dull, in that we tend not to take up the extreme or highly controversial positions that the media so desires, but we keep working at it as best we can and I am pleased to see that it does (often enough) pay off.

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