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Nachgefragt – bei Mark Henderson

13. Juni 2018

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Mark Henderson is director of communications at the Wellcome Trust. Photo: Thomas S.G. Farnetti/Wellcome Trust/CC-BY Array

Mark Henderson is director of communications at the Wellcome Trust. Photo: Thomas S.G. Farnetti/Wellcome Trust/CC-BY

In the series „Nachgefragt“, we introduce, in no particular order, people working in science communication. With 17 questions - and 17 answers, sometimes serious, sometimes humorous.

In our thirtieth episode we are speaking with Mark Henderson, director of communications at the Wellcome Trust, the world’s second highest-spending charitable foundation dedicated to biomedical research.

A good communicator needs…?

To listen. And to recognise that facts are never enough to persuade people.

What motivated you to work in the field of science communication?

Curiosity. And a desire to make a difference to such a critical field of human endeavour. Paraphrasing Churchill, science is the worst way of finding out about the world, except for all the other ways that have been tried from time to time.

Describe your daily work in three words.

Enabling my team.

What is the best experience you have had as a communicator?

Helping to win the argument that we should research a vaccine during the Ebola epidemic. We did the research, and it worked.

What was your biggest communication disaster?

The things we get most wrong are usually internal.

Which of your traits bothers you the most in your daily work?


Which (historical) person would you like to have dinner with?

Henry Wellcome – who created the foundation I work for. I think he’d like what we’re doing today.

What is your favourite research discipline?


Which research topic would you least like to communicate?

Anything where practitioners insist they know best, won’t listen to advice, and won’t accept that facts need to be communicated with emotional resonance.

If time and money were no object: Which science communication project would you like to do?

I’d like to rebuild trust in facts. Through giving them emotional resonance.

If you didn’t work in science communication, what field would you like to be in?

In another life, I’d love to be a mountain guide.

Science communication in 2030 will be…

Better at telling stories that appeal to emotion as well as reason.

What do you consider the greatest achievement in the history of science?

Darwin’s Origin of the Species.

How did you imagine the future as a child?

Like Star Wars – though of course that was long, long ago.

How do you keep your head clear when you are stressed?

Running. Skiing when I can.

I like to help colleagues with …/ I like answering questions about…?

Finding their own solutions.

Who would you like to send this questionnaire to and what question would you like to ask them?

Ken Burns and Lynn Novick – who made the incredible recent Vietnam War history series. I’d ask them to do a contemporary history of science, perhaps since 1945.


Mark Henderson

Mark Henderson is Director of Communications at the Wellcome Trust, the world’s second highest-spending charitable foundation, and a member of its Executive Leadership Team. He leads all aspects of communications, with a particular focus on building and sustaining Wellcome’s reputation and influence so that their work contributes more to health and society. His team’s responsibilities include brand, media relations, digital products, content, campaigns, design and understanding our audiences.

Mark joined Wellcome in 2012. Before that, he had a 15-year career in journalism at The Times of London, where he was Science Editor and won several awards for his reporting. He has written two books: The Geek Manifesto: Why Science Matters, which explores the relationship between science and politics, and 50 Genetics Ideas You Really Need to Know. He is an avid skier and tweets at @markgfh.

In order to read all the posts of this series please follow this link. 

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