Infertility is sexy. The media love stories on breakthroughs in fertility and its treatment. This is great for researchers as we can readily generate “impact” for our science, and universities increasingly consider this a key parameter of academic output. (I learnt this morning that you can now “score” the attention your work receives in the press and social media. A great applet for this can be found at altmetric.com. Hours of fun!) Great too for ESHRE, as every July we compete with Wimbledon or the Euros for the headlines.
Getting the “right messages” out requires serious effort, so last Friday, at a press preview meeting in London, I joined a panel to face a room full of journalists and hopefully provide sage and enlightening responses to their questions. They came thick and fast, confirming again how much attention our field attracts. Afterwards, my fellow panelists and I left the meeting, congratulating ourselves on our balanced and effective approach.
“That went well,” we agreed. “They seemed to pick up the right message,” we decided. “No crazy headlines.” Oh, sweet naivity…
As the 10,000 ESHRE delegates gathered in fresh anticipation of the conference ahead, the media had been doing its work. And it seemed we had not. While the accompanying articles reported the cautions and caveats we had emphasised, the headlines told another story.
“Womb scratch doubles pregnancy rates” screamed one. “All couples trying to conceive should have endometrial scratch!’” revealed another. And more was to follow.
Sexy? Yes. Exciting?- for some, and attention generating? Certainly.
Good for ESHRE, our research and our patients? No.
How do we extol the excellent science ESHRE members present at our meetings? How can we exploit our attractive profile to the media without misinforming policy makers, research funders and prospective patients?
Today, the challenge remains. One day gone, two to go. Watch the headlines.
Nick Macklon, Member of the Executive Committee