My role here at Nature is to oversee the production of the Nature Podcast, our weekly science show that is listened to more than 500,000 times each month.
So what’s a typical day like for me? That really depends on what day it is!
The Nature Podcast’s weekly production cycle begins on a Wednesday afternoon, when I host our lively editorial meeting. Here, we look at the front- and back-half content coming out, and pick two or three articles or papers that we think could be made into interesting pieces for the next podcast.
Some things lend themselves to this straight away: a science paper about bird populations in a forest, say, would be ideal because we could include birdsong in the podcast. But I’m really looking for any article that tells an interesting and accessible story, and ideally one that we can summarize in six minutes or under.
Once we’ve decided on the things we’re going to cover, and which of our multimedia editors are going to cover them, we head back to our desks to start researching. I might then spend the rest of Wednesday afternoon reading papers and articles and watching videos to get an idea of the science I’ll be covering and its wider context.
Thursday to Monday
I now have Thursday, Friday and Monday to contact and interview the people I want to speak to for my podcast piece. These interviews are usually done over the phone from our recording studio in the basement of the building.
Once the interviews are in the bag, I spend the rest of my time putting together and editing my podcast piece: at this point I’m practically living in my headphones! The pieces often take the form of something you might hear on BBC Radio 4, or on National Public Radio in the United States — clips from the interviewee interspersed with links from me to tell the story. You’d be surprised how much science you can get into six minutes. It’s best, though, not to try to cover every facet of a research paper, but instead to give a meaningful summary of what was done and why it was important.
I usually go through two or three versions of my podcast piece, and once I’m happy with it I’ll send it round to the rest of the team for feedback. This can be a bit nerve-wracking — nobody likes seeing red pen on their work — but it always helps to highlight any questions or areas of confusion, and ultimately to make the podcast better.
On Tuesday morning, once all the podcast pieces are edited, we spend the rest of the day in the studio recording the other parts of the show. These include the host links that stitch the podcast together; the Research Highlights (which give a short update on research that’s being reported outside Nature); and the News Chat, in which one of Nature’s print journalists gives us some in-depth coverage of the latest science news.
Once all these individual parts are recorded, we piece the whole show together and send it to one of the team to listen to on Wednesday morning. This is a final check, just to make sure everything is as good as it can be.
In the morning, we make any last-minute tweaks to the show, and at this point the podcast is pretty much completed. All that’s left is to upload it to our podcast host, Acast, which puts the show onto services such as Apple Podcasts and Spotify. Our amazing editorial assistant Rebecca Wild then makes a page for the show on the Nature website. Everything is timed to go live at 6 p.m. UK time. Then, in the afternoon, we have another editorial meeting and the whole thing starts again!
What do I find most rewarding about my job?
We do work to short deadlines making the Nature Podcast, but I’m really privileged to be able to tell stories about amazing science every week, and to hear the excitement of the researchers who do it. It’s also humbling to know that every week, people all over the world choose to download the show and listen to us whether they’re in the lab, working out, driving to work or relaxing at home.
Of course, the Nature Podcast is totally a team effort, and huge thanks must go to all the people who make the show what it is. These include Nick Howe, Shamini Bundell, Noah Baker, Lizzie Gibney, Anna Nagle and many more — including Charlotte Stoddart, who was here for the very first episode of the podcast.
To read what it's like to be a multimedia editor who works on video, I'd recommend you head over to Charlotte Stoddart’s post, which you'll find here.