Crucial communication: 'Doing science for science's sake won't benefit anybody'

By Nikki Hancocks

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Marketing Communication Gut health

Science is becoming sexy as consumers and media realise the importance of getting their nutrition and health facts straight from the scientists, and the science nutrition firm Zoe is spearheading consumer communication on all things gut health.

Speaking on stage during NutraIngredients' Probiota conference last month, Dr Federica Amati, head nutritionist at Zoe, the UK-based firm best known for its large-scale studies and personalised nutrition programme, discussed the evolution of mass market interest in scientific studies.  

"Everything we do in labs, at the core of it has to be communication to the public, because if we are doing science for science’s sake that’s not going to benefit anybody," she said. "Science communication needs to be an integral part of every team both in academia and in commercial spaces.

"It’s important because it helps us to address urgent issues, it helps us to make science more transparent, to understand why we are doing this and what benefit it may have to non-scientists."

She asserted that the notion of science communication used to be considered a niche concern, perhaps only for companies in the pharma industry. But now, thanks in part to the COVID-19 pandemic, there is a demand from consumers and the media to get the science direct from the scientists, and this requires people like her to deliver the information accurately, effectively and ethically.

"Now companies are understanding they need to have a science communications strategy and a science communications team who understand both the science and how to communicate it for different audiences," she added.

The pandemic pivot

Speaking further about the impact of the pandemic, Dr Amati explained: "Prioritising rapid and live communication was so important, and we saw in different countries how communicating the science differently helped or didn’t help in different areas.”

COVID-19 broke out just as Zoe was developing its nutrition app, and this led the team to pivot to make an app that could be used to help scientists and the masses understand what was going on. The app was built in 48 hours, and within 24 hours of launch, it was downloaded one million times.

The app helped the team to understand the symptoms of COVID-19, and the data they obtained was communicated in peer reviewed journals and to the general population in national news media. This even led to changes in national health guidance regarding what symptoms to look out for ie., lack of smell and taste.

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