Digital by default discussions: Kath Nightingale

Back to our regularly scheduled programming.

P1030697Kath and I worked together at the MRC and she was/is the driving force behind the MRC Insight blog – the thing without doubt I am proudest of from my MRC days (despite my actually having little involvement). I know it doesn’t sound like that big an achievement but that is because you don’t know the organisation! Kath wrote version after version of the proposal in which even the word blog was banned because of negative connotations and showed incredible patience in making it a reality. Over the last 18 months the blog has really found its voice with Kath still providing the majority of the stories – if you are a science geek it is well worth a read! She is also the voice of MRC on Twitter and has developed a bit of an addiction to real-time web analytics 🙂

[btw I think the answer to the music question might be a dig at me from my MRC days!]


Right now, on my sofa, trying to stay out of the way of my boyfriend on a hoovering tip.

Current job?

Science writer at the Medical Research Council (we’re the people who spend public money on medical research). I also do various bits of freelance writing and editing.

Current mobile device?

It’s either an iPhone 4 or 4S (it’s in the other room…) That kind of thing isn’t particularly important to me – I use it as a phone and alarm clock, for email and Twitter, and for checking if there are engineering works on the tube. Oh, and Instagram. I am also often found in possession of an iPad 1, trying to pretend that reading the newspaper on it is the same as on paper.

Current computer?

I have Frankenmac, a Macbook made mainly out of an old computer, with a new keyboard and bits and pieces from other Macbooks. I’m afraid I’ve made it rather twee with the addition of some wallpaper, and the cut-out is a bird instead of an apple. It’s started making terrible noises and is surely off to a better place soon, but I’ll probably keep going with it till it dies.

One word that describes how you work?


What is your favourite thing about your job?

The access to ideas – I get to speak to people who do all kinds of crazy research and think it’s completely normal. I see that as a huge privilege and therefore my responsibility to get what they’re doing across to others. I also work with a great bunch of people, and we all know how much of a difference that makes to how your feel about your work.

What is the biggest challenge that you face in your role?

People who don’t understand communications, never mind digital comms! But that also makes it more satisfying when things go well. There’s also a lot of corporate-speak about, which I try really hard not to get sucked into.

What’s the access to the internet like in your office?

Surprisingly good. We’re all wired in with our PCs and it rarely goes down. There’s wifi too, particularly good now that tablets are beginning to make an appearance at MRC Towers.

If you could change one thing about your job what would it be?

The usual: less admin and process, and more time for interesting stuff. But then again, I like variety, so sometimes it’s nice to switch my brain off and get stuck into a spreadsheet.

Besides your phone and your computer, what gadget can’t you live without?

Hmm. I’m not really a gadget person. I’m pretty keen on my Kindle but in lots of ways I’m the opposite of an early adopter – I tend to wait until these things are forced on me!

What are you currently reading?

Snow Falling on Cedars by David Guterson (on paper). I try to alternate between fiction and non-fiction, but of late I’ve noticed that I tend to read a novel at the same time as science articles and long form writing. I love Instapaper for that – I’ll see something that looks interesting during my working day and get it delivered to my Kindle. I love that people used to say web writing had to be short and now mobile technology means it’s a place where people are experimenting with form and length.

What do you listen to while you work?

Nothing usually. We’re in an open office and it feels a bit rude to disappear into headphones. I sometimes listen to music if I’m concentrating on writing, and I will always have either music or Radio 4/6Music on in the background at home (or sometimes mindless tele…)

What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?

Not to worry too much about what other people are doing. Do what feels right and get on with it. (I don’t always stick to this, but it’s an admirable aim.)

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