When interacting with journalists on matters of interest to the news media, IFT regularly utilizes a roster of more than 30 food scientists, nutritionists, and other members who have been trained and display an aptitude for providing clear insight to often complex topics and issues.
Called Food Science Communicators, these three dozen professional members make themselves readily available to interview requests by journalists, which can take a variety of forms. For example, sometimes when reporters contact IFT FSCs, the topic is simple and the scientific consensus is unwavering, i.e., steps to increase food safety in the home. At other times, the issue is complex with gaps in scientific data leading to speculative opinions and misinformation, i.e., defense of the food supply from intentional attack. And at other times the issue requires urgency, i.e., a health alert on E. coli 0157:H7- tainted fresh bagged spinach.
In each instance, however, the FSCs stress the scientific judgment on the issue. In the latter example, over a one-week period in September, four FSCs provided their scientific perspective to news reports reaching audiences of more than 30 million people.
Any professional member of IFT can become a Food Science Communicator, based upon a simple set of qualifications and requirements listed below (abbreviated):
• Procedures. All applications are reviewed by the Selection & Reappointment Panel, comprised of the Chair, Past Chair, and Chair-designate of the Food Science Communicators, and the Past Chair of the Science, Communications, and Government Relations Committee. Upon completion of a three-year term, the FSC is subject to reappointment by the Selection & Reappointment Panel, to be based upon satisfactory completion of performance expectations. FSCs are professional members of IFT and shall meet other qualifications described in the FSCs Guidelines.
• Qualifications/Guidelines. Candidates must have a graduate degree in food science or closely related field and current appointment at an accredited university or college, nonprofit institution, or public service agency. Others will be considered based upon their expertise and demonstration of freedom from vested conflict of interest. They also must demonstrate expertise in science communications, preferably in both print and electronic media. Self-motivation, desire, and willingness to interact with news media are essential. Candidates are expected to initiate and maintain contacts with media personnel. All candidates and participants must remain free from direct financial benefit by participating as a FSC, and have no conflicts of interest that compromise scientific integrity. Candidates require two letters of reference attesting to scientific achievement and communications skills, with at least one reference from a professional IFT member. Candidates must be a professional member of IFT or will become a professional member prior to their appointment as a Food Science Communicator.
• Performance Expectations. Food Science Communicators will remain free from vested conflicts of interest in all media activities. FSCs will be expected to complete and confirm at least six media interviews/activities in the 12-month period beginning from date of appointment. FSCs will be expected to complete and confirm at least 18 media interviews/activities within their three-year term. FSCs are expected to establish and maintain contacts with media representatives. Media activity below the expected minimum will be recognized as an inability to continue serving as a FSC. FSCs will be expected to keep a log of all media contacts and to submit at least two reports documenting those contacts each year. Conduct unbecoming of a FSC will result in immediate review and removal.
The members of the FSC Committee would be delighted to receive new applications for this important public outreach. For more information on becoming an IFT Food Science Communicator, request a full description of the procedures and guidelines via IFT Media Relations or contact any of the following FSCs: John Avens; Susan Brewer; Christine Bruhn; Al Bushway; Mary Ellen Camire; Fred Caporaso; Roger Clemens; Dean Cliver; Fergus Clydesdale; Nancy Cohen; Dian Dooley; Michael Doyle; Ron Eitenmiller; Daniel Fung; Linda Harris; Clair Hicks; Mark Kantor; Patricia Kendall; Manfred Kroger; Elizabeth Kunkle; Paul Lachance; Sandra McCurdy; Mark Meskin; William Mikel; Patricia Murphy; Susan Nitzke; Ruth Patrick; Anu Prakash; Mian Riaz; John Rushing; Aurora Saulo; Don Schaffner; Ron Schmidt; Stanley Segall; Juan Silva; Joanne Slavin; Christina Stark; Susan Sumner; Barry Swanson; Marilyn Swanson; Carl Winter; and Tom Zinnen.
by James N. Klapthor,
Media Relations Manager