Editor, BBC Focus

A visit to CERN was a highlight of my time at the popular science and technology magazine
Underground in the CMS detector cavern at CERN’s Large Hadron Collider

B BC Focus was the popular science and technology magazine I edited between 2011 and 2015. It’s a UK consumer title sold in shops in Europe and further afield, as well as on subscription.

It wasn’t the first time I’d worked on the magazine. Back in 1996, I’d gone there for a work experience placement — my first experience of publishing. At that time it was more of a general interest magazine, albeit one with articles on aliens and the paranormal to cash in on the huge popularity of TV show The X-Files.

The paranormal craze came and went, and when I joined Focus as deputy editor in 2002 it was firmly a popular science magazine. When I returned as editor, I ensured that the magazine covered the latest discoveries and cutting-edge topics like graphene, antimatter, quantum entanglement, and gene editing.

The magazine already had some great columnists, not least Robert Matthews. But as most editors do, I added some new ones, including Dr Helen Czerski, BBC Science editor David Shukman, and Kelly Oakes. My personal favourite was Hollywood Science — a column about science in the movies by Helen Pilcher.

During my time as editor, the magazine was a two-time winner of the Digital Magazine Awards for the BBC Focus magazine app. The app development team deserve the lion’s share of the credit but publishing is a team effort. The editorial team worked with them to add videos, animations, picture galleries and other extras to bring the content for life.

The achievement I’m most proud of is overseeing a work experience programme for students. The editorial team provided structured feedback and writing experience to young scientists and science communication students on short placements. Since then, I’m delighted that some of the best students have gone on to land well-deserved jobs in the media.

Also at BBC Focus, and with the help of my former colleague Andy Ridgway, I set up a media partnership with UWE Bristol’s Science Communication Unit. The partnership involved publicising the competition, helping to judge the entries, and publishing the winning entries.

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