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Making our world safer and healthier through science

Thursday, 9 July 2015 at 2:59:PM

Full steam ahead for our analytical chemistry awareness campaign

“I’m on the train!” Well, not exactly. But you might have seen us from the train, if you’ve been travelling between Swansea and London over the past week or so.

If you have, it’ll be because of our analytical chemistry awareness campaign. This aims to help the public feel more comfortable with ‘chemicals’ and the role of analytical chemistry, by showing them how it affects our everyday lives.

Better understanding for the public

Our reason for doing this was that, although our branch of science may not be in the news as often as genetic engineering, medicine or astronomy, it nevertheless underpins a lot of important work. This work is vital to make our environment cleaner, our homes safer, and our bodies healthier. We reckoned it was about time someone spoke up for this often-overlooked branch of science!

Our whole idea for this campaign began when we won the ‘Best of best’ at the CANMOL: Wales Marketing Awards back in October. The prize – sponsored by outdoor advertising experts Exterion Media – was funding for an advertising campaign of our own choosing.

We were obviously thrilled to receive the award, but initially a bit baffled as to how we could make use of such an opportunity – not many companies in the analytical sciences do billboard campaigns! A few months later, we had come up with the idea of focusing on how our analytical technologies contribute to the greater good of society, and so encourage a better understanding between scientists and the public at large.

Cutting the jargon out of science

We decided to create a striking digital poster to attract attention to our campaign, and since 29 June this has been displayed on railway platforms between London and Swansea, and also at the ‘One New Change’ shopping centre in London's ​East End. The digital poster invites readers to visit our website, where they can download our free e-book, titled “Making our world safer and healthier through science”.

Using a variety of examples of our technologies in action, we explain how our technologies make a positive difference to society and to the world, in straightforward conversational language and avoiding technical jargon. As the copywriter, I’m actually quite pleased that we haven’t used the terms ‘thermal desorption’, ‘mass spectrometry’ or ‘volatile organic compound’ anywhere in the document (with the exception of the formal company description on the back page).

Anyway, take a look at the e-book now and see what I’m talking about – I’d love to hear what you think.

The campaign continues!

I’ll be honest and say it was not a five-minute job to put this e-book together – so although the allocated slot for our railway-platform posters ends in the middle of July, the e-book will continue to be available for free on our website.

However, we’re planning more on this theme of the social and global benefit of analytical chemistry over the coming year, with a drive to make the public more comfortable about chemistry​ and the work of analytical chemists like ourselves – and so foster better relations between scientists and society in general. ​

The Royal Society of Chemistry – Public Attitudes to Chemistry

We’ve had plenty of downloads of our e-book, and a nice comment from a staff member at the Royal Society of Chemistry, who said that the campaign tied in nicely with their recent survey of 2000 people on “Public Attitudes to Chemistry”.

Their survey showed that people are really pretty indifferent about chemists, and that their attitudes towards chemistry largely stem from their experiences at school. One set of responses stood out for me – when asked to list where they thought chemists worked, 76% of respondents said “pharmacies”, with only 47% saying “laboratories”. As a manufacturer of scientific equipment, it’s also very relevant to us that just 14% of people made reference to “other [non-pharmaceutical] businesses”.

As Mark Lorch puts it in this blog post: “The overwhelming message is that there is a void in the public’s perceptions of what it is we do. And it’s a gap that we should all help to fill by telling people about what we do.”

We hope we’re going a little way to filling that void with this campaign – at least for our field of chemistry expertise. Watch out for more from us in the future!

David Barden

David Barden received his Ph.D. in Organic Chemistry from Cambridge University in 2004, and during his time as an editor at the RSC wrote news pieces for Chemistry World on various scientific topics. He is now Technical Copywriter at Markes International, where he puts together a variety of documents relating to the company’s activities – most recently, of course, the e-book described above!


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