Reflections on my fellowship at the BBC

I started doing “external engagement work” as a postdoc, when I set up a blog to cover the 2012 elections in Taiwan (an experience I wrote about for Issues and Studies). As a result of this experience I started to receive periodic requests for media interviews. I continued to develop my online footprint through Twitter, editing the China Policy Institute blog (which subsequently evolved into a more sophisticated product featuring analysis by some of the world’s top experts) and convening another Taiwan blog to cover the 2016 elections.

Over time the more media I did the more opportunities presented themselves, both in terms of being asked for comment and writing op-eds. I came to see engaging the media as an important part of academic life. Academics create knowledge, but then share it with a tiny number of peers at conferences and in pay-walled journals. That strikes me as a terrible result all round. In the hope of stimulating discussion about external engagement in my own field of China studies, I published two articles in the China Quarterly on working with the media and using social media (forthcoming working paper version).

Through these activities in the past 5 years I developed an understanding of how print and digital media work, at least from the perspective of an academic seeking to engage in these activities. However, I had very little exposure to working with broadcast media, which is why I applied to the British Science Association (BSA) for a Media Fellowship. Thanks to support from the BSA and the University of Nottingham, I secured a placement working with the BBC for a month during the summer. My placement was with the BBC radio science unit, headed by Deborah Cohen, a journalist with a commitment to breaking down barriers between scholars and the media to the benefit of science communication at large. Continue reading

India in the early 90s

I have always been much more of a journal keeper than photographer. The number of photos I’ve taken in my life, certainly in the pre-smart phone era, is tiny. Nowadays I think its a shame, since there are virtually no images of the period when I did most of my travelling and many of the interesting things that I’ve done in my life happened. Over the summer I came across a few images from a stay in India in the early 90s. India remains the most memorable country I’ve ever been to, perhaps because I was really young, but also because I’ve not been anywhere subsequently that was so different from everywhere else. Paradoxically I don’t recall many details about the trip, except for my own terrible sickness and the crowds, the animals and the poverty all around: I’d set myself a budget of £1 a day, which I imagined would bring me into contact with the ‘real India’. I can still ‘feel’ that trip quite keenly today when I hear Indian music or get a whiff of incense, but I think my ‘memories’ of India are mostly constructions based on Naipaul and other writers on my India bookshelf. I haven’t been back in nearly 20 years, and I imagine a lot will have changed. Obviously, a lot has changed to me as well. An Indian trip is one of the things on my agenda for 2014.

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