One such individual is Dr Federica Amati, head of science communications at personalised nutrition platform Zoe, who is set to speak on the topic at NutraIngredients' Probiota conference in Milan next month (Feb 7-9).
As a postdoctoral medical scientist and an AfN-accredited nutritionist, it seems incongruous that Amati began her career in hospitality PR, but she explains she always had a gut feeling that eventually her two passions—nutrition science and communications—would align.
“I took the marketing role in order to earn some money while I was a student, but I got quite good at it and progressed to head of communications for a hospitality company," she said.
“Throughout my education and post-grad work, people always asked why I bothered working in marketing because it
has nothing to do with science, but I always felt like they needed to care much more about communication because academics will so often struggle to communicate their work effectively."
After completing her Masters in Public Health, Amati took a job in New York, heading up marketing and PR for a large hospitality group, and she found herself getting coverage for the venues in Vogue and other prestigious magazines.
“I realised that with effective communication you can get a lot of coverage," she said. "The only issue was I was getting the coverage for things like Pharrell’s birthday party. I always said I want to be able to write an article in Vogue about science. It was my aim to make things that are actually important, make the headlines.”
After returning to the UK, she completed her PhD in clinical medicine research at Imperial College, London but continued consulting for hospitality companies on weekends.
“Then Covid changed the game because it was scientists commenting on science," Amati said. "I think that was the big switch over for giving scientists a voice in the mainstream press.”
It was during this time that Zoe pivoted its strategy to focus solely on the pandemic, and the company gained much attention through its Zoe Covid app which tracked the status of millions of people.
“Covid is a good example of Zoe's communication ability as the team was able to communicate the study so rapidly that they had 1 million sign-ups within 24 hours—it goes to show that when researchers communicate effectively, it has a big impact.”
The team recruited Amati as a consultant in 2021 to help translate their science to the press and the general public.
“I love communicating science and making sure we are really responsible in our comms," she said. "Because we are a trusted brand with a strong team of scientists, I want to make sure we are really responsible for what we are doing. Sometimes I am the party pooper for the marketing team, but that’s okay.
“The shift to at-home testing and digital health means we need to be more responsible than ever with science communication because people are engaging directly and making changes themselves, at home."
Now employed as Zoe's head nutritionist and head of science communications, Amati has achieved her dream and gained coverage for Zoe in Vogue magazine, and she argues that any company in this space should have a 'science communication' team of some description.
“Traditionally, this hasn't been a thing, but as more brands go into that health and wellness space they will need to make sure they have a science communications team of some sort," she said.
“It’s going to become something that is much more common in companies dipping their toe into wellness. For example, it would be ideal to have a science comms expert at Instagram responsible for putting a health warning on posts that aren’t health based. They did that during Covid with a quick turn-around so clearly they have the ability to put these warnings on posts.“
She added that it's important to give scientists a voice in the press and allow them to debate topics in order to create more insightful coverage and empower the public with the information needed to make their own choices.
"Not all scientists agree on everything, obviously, and when they disagree it brings more nuance to the conversation," she said. "For example, there are those for and against the use of continuous glucose monitors in those without diabetes. Zoe would argue there is a benefit to CGMs in this audience, but I think it’s much more useful to actually have that debate in the press, rather than just giving one side’s opinion."
At Probiota, Amati will discuss the importance of science communications to improve public engagement, how the pandemic changed the face of science communications, and how ZOE uses science communications across its various platforms.
To find out more about the event and purchase tickets, visit the Probiota website.