Advice for podcast guests

You’ve agreed to record an episode for the Science for Policy podcast. Great! Here’s what you need to know about how it works.

General adviceTechnical advice: Windows 10Technical advice: MacTechnical advice: iPhoneTechnical advice: Android phone

How does it work?

Podcast episodes take the form of a friendly one-on-one conversation. Don’t think of it like a conference presentation. Think of it more like an informal interview with a journalist — but one where you can decide what to talk about. You can choose the topic and we agree the questions in advance.

We’ll have the conversation over the internet using Skype, Zoom, or whatever platform is comfortable for you. It will be recorded, then edited and later published as an episode of the podcast.

What topic should I choose?

We cover a wide range of topics on the podcast. The best way to get an idea is to browse through the titles of our recent episodes.

The two main rules are that your topic should be:

  1. interesting to people who have subscribed to a podcast about science advice
  2. something you can speak about with authority

But these can both be loosely interpreted! People who are interested in science advice might also be interested in science communication, science diplomacy, policymaking, philosophy of science, science and politics, and many other linked topics. Don’t feel too constrained. If you find it interesting, and it’s linked to science for policy, it’s probably OK.

One more thing to be aware of: we don’t do pure self-promotion. That is, you can’t come on our podcast and just talk about how important your organisation is. But — we might be very interested in hearing about a challenge that your organisation has faced in the science advice world, or why its role, structure or history are interesting. So be creative.

Who listens to the podcast?

People who are interested in science advice and evidence-for-policy. It’s mostly people who work in the field, in Europe or beyond. For that reason, we can get into quite a lot of detail about the mechanics of how science advice works, who is involved, the history, the challenges and so on. But it’s a public podcast, so in theory anyone can download it.

How long will it take?

The final podcast episode will be 30–45 minutes long. But the recording process will take 60–90 minutes. This allows time for us to get set up, warm up, troubleshoot any last-minute technical issues, and record the actual interview.

What equipment will I need?

  • A computer, either Windows or Mac. Desktop or laptop computers are both OK, but you can’t do this from your phone, and tablets are not ideal.
  • A quiet room. It doesn’t need to be silent and soundproofed like a studio — just somewhere free from obvious background noises and where you can be sure you won’t be interrupted while we’re recording. Your office or bedroom will be fine. (And if you do have access to a studio, for instance at your university or government office, that would be fantastic.)
  • A stable internet connection. Your home or office broadband is fine. 4G or 3G is not fine.
  • Headphones or earphones which connect to your computer. You must wear these, or it won’t work. The little earphones that came with your phone will be OK, as long as your computer has a matching port. But larger headphones, the kind that fit over your head, are much better. Headphones with a wired connection to your computer are better than wireless ones.
  • A microphone. For most people this is built into the headphones, but you can use a separate one if you like. Your computer’s own built-in mic is less good because the sound quality is much lower.

Will we record video as well as audio?

No.

How much will the conversation be edited?

The style of the podcast is a natural, free-flowing conversation, so we don’t really edit content unless you ask us to, or unless we accidentally go way over time. We will mostly edit just for audio quality and to cut out long pauses, speech mistakes, technical errors and unexpected noises.

Can I plan what to say?

Yes, absolutely. It works best if we can have a quick chat a few days before the recording to agree a topic and a rough outline of what you’d like to cover, so we have a shared understanding. We will then draft some bullet points which we can both refer to as a guide during the conversation. Don’t write yourself a full script, though — it’s supposed to be an informal conversation, not a formal presentation where you read from your notes.

Also, remember that the conversation is recorded, not live. It doesn’t matter if you need to stop and think, or want to have a second try at answering a question. We can edit all that out afterwards. If you’re uncomfortable with anything, we can easily re-record that part, or just cut it if you prefer!

Can I have editorial control over my recording?

This isn’t a journalistic interview, and we want you to be happy with how you come across. Not only do we agree the questions with you in advance, but during or immediately after the recording, if there’s anything you said that you regret or would rather not include, no problem — we will simply re-record that part, or cut it.

Once the recording process is over and we have edited the interview into its final episode format (usually a few days after recording), you can’t make further changes, but that is more for time than content reasons.

What if there’s a technical problem?

We have three secret weapons to keep things running smoothly:

  1. We will do a quick technical check with you in advance to make sure everything works.
  2. If there is an unexpected distraction while we’re recording, we can edit it out afterwards.
  3. To insulate against a poor network connection, we will record the conversation at both ends. So we’ll ask you to record your end of the conversation on your computer, and send us the audio file afterwards. That way, even if the quality of the call is poor, we still have a good quality recording of each side of the conversation and we can edit the two together.

How long is the delay between recording and publishing?

A few weeks, even a month or two if there are already several recorded episodes in the queue. We are also quite careful with our programming: we like to prioritise very current topics, we don’t like to publish multiple episodes in a row on similar subjects, and we try to maintain a reasonable gender and geographical balance across multiple episodes. For all these reasons, the delay between recording and publishing might be shorter or longer.

Before the recording

  1. Sit at your computer in a quiet room, with windows and doors closed and possible sources of noise as silenced as possible!
  2. Plug in your headphones and put them on.
  3. Also plug in your microphone, if you are using a separate microphone.
  4. Launch the built-in Windows app called Voice Recorder. You can find it in the Start menu’s list of apps under V.
  5. If this is the first time you’ve used Voice Recorder, it may ask for permission to use the microphone. Say yes!
  6. In Voice Recorder, click the Record button (a big blue or pink microphone) and try speaking a few words. Then stop the recording by clicking the stop button.
  7. Play your test recording back to check you’re happy with the sound. You may want to adjust your headset or move your microphone.
  8. Also please look in your Documents folder under Voice Recordings to check that your recording is saved there — it should be saved automatically.

During the recording

The recording you make for the podcast will be of your voice only. This is why it’s important that you use headphones: they make sure that your microphone will only pick up your voice, not mine.

  1. We will connect first (on Skype, Zoom or whatever we agree) and say hello, before we start recording.
  2. When we start recording, use Voice Recorder as before. Keep it running the whole time.
  3. If there is any disruption, connection problem or other issue during the conversation, do not stop recording. We will deal with any anomalies at the editing stage. If you stop recording and then restart later, it will make the conversation more difficult to edit.
  4. When the conversation has finished and we are both happy, we will both stop recording.

After the recording

The audio file you’ve recorded will be much too large to email. You can send it to me using any method you like (and we can talk through this on the day). Good options include:

  • WeTransfer: email it to toby.wardman@sapea.info
  • Google Drive: drop it in this folder (you will need to sign in with a Google account, but any account will do)
  • File sharing using whatever network service you use: iCloud, Dropbox, Sharepoint, etc

Depending on the length and audio quality of your recording, as well as the speed of your internet connection, the file could take a few minutes to upload. Please don’t close the browser window or navigate away from the page until upload has completed.

Before the recording

  1. Sit at your computer in a quiet room, with windows and doors closed and possible sources of noise as silenced as possible!
  2. Plug in your headphones and put them on.
  3. Also plug in your microphone, if you are using a separate microphone.
  4. Launch the built-in Mac app called QuickTime Player. If it’s not in your Dock, you can run it by pressing ⌘Space for Spotlight and typing ‘quicktime player’.
  5. In QuickTime Player, choose File > New Audio Recording…. A small recording window opens.
  6. The red button is to record. Next to that button there’s a small drop-down menu which allows you to check which microphone is being used (make sure it says ‘external microphone’ or ‘headphones’ or something like that – not ‘built-in microphone’) and set the quality. ‘High’ quality is fine; you don’t need ‘Maximum’.
  7. Click the record button and try speaking a few words. Then stop the recording by clicking the stop button.
  8. Play your test recording back to check you’re happy with the sound. You may want to adjust your headset or move your microphone.
  9. Save the recording by pressing ⌘S and choosing a save location and filename.

During the recording

The recording you make for the podcast will be of your voice only. This is why it’s important that you use headphones. This will make sure that your microphone will only pick up your voice, not mine.

  1. We will connect first (on Skype, Zoom or whatever we agree) and say hello, before we start recording.
  2. When we start recording, use QuickTime Player as before. Keep it running the whole time.
  3. If there is any disruption, connection problem or other issue during the conversation, do not stop recording. We will deal with any anomalies at the editing stage. If you stop recording and then restart later, it will make the conversation more difficult to edit.
  4. When the conversation has finished and we are both happy, we will both stop recording.

After the recording

The audio file you’ve recorded will be much too large to email. You can send it to me using any method you like (and we can talk through this on the day). Good options include:

  • WeTransfer: email it to toby.wardman@sapea.info
  • Google Drive: drop it in this folder (you will need to sign in with a Google account, but any account will do)
  • File sharing using whatever network service you use: iCloud, Dropbox, Sharepoint, etc

Depending on the length and audio quality of your recording, as well as the speed of your internet connection, the file could take a few minutes to upload. Please don’t close the browser window or navigate away from the page until upload has completed.

If it’s impossible for you to record using a microphone connected to your computer, we can use your iPhone instead. This leads to a much worse sound quality and is a bit more fiddly, but it can be a suitable backup option.

You will still need a computer or tablet to actually connect to our conversation. You can’t do the whole thing with just an iPhone.

Before the recording

  1. Sit at your computer in a quiet room, with windows and doors closed and possible sources of noise as silenced as possible!
  2. Plug your headphones into your computer and put them on.
  3. Check that your phone is fully charged and that there is plenty of free storage. (Check Settings > General > iPhone Storage: you need at least 250 MB.)
  4. Put your phone into Airplane mode, blocking all incoming calls. Don’t just mute it or use Do Not Disturb, because an incoming call can disrupt the recording in these modes, even if you don’t hear it.
  5. Place your phone on a convenient surface near to your computer, such as a shelf or spare chair. It’s best not to put it on your computer desk, because you might touch the desk during the recording and this will come across very loud on the recording!
  6. On your phone, open the app Voice Memos.
  7. Tap the record button (a red circle) and try speaking a few words. Then stop the recording by tapping the stop button (a red square).
  8. Recordings are saved automatically in the Voice Memos app. Play your test recording back to check you’re happy with the sound. You may want to adjust the position of your phone.

During the recording

The recording you make for the podcast will be of your voice only. This is why it’s important that you use headphones. This will make sure that your phone will only pick up your voice, not mine.

  1. We will connect first (on Skype, Zoom or whatever we agree) and say hello, before we start recording.
  2. When we start recording, use the phone as before. Keep it running the whole time.
  3. If there is any disruption, connection problem or other issue during the conversation, do not stop recording. We will deal with any anomalies at the editing stage. If you stop recording and then restart later, it will make the conversation more difficult to edit.
  4. When the conversation has finished and we are both happy, we will both stop recording.

After the recording

  1. In the Voice Memos app, locate the recording and tap it. Then tap the menu icon (three dots) and choose Share.
  2. In the Share panel, scroll down until you see the option to Save to Files, and tap it. Choose to save the recording On My iPhone (not in any of the subfolders) and tap Save.
  3. Now open Safari (or another browser) on your phone and go to wetransfer.com. Tap Send a file and then the big blue plus button next to Add your files.
  4. On the menu that opens, tap Browse.
  5. You should see the audio recording saved under On My iPhone. Tap it.
  6. Tap Next on wetransfer. Choose Get a link, and tap Transfer.
  7. Wait a few minutes. When the file has finished uploading, copy the link that wetransfer supplies and email it to toby.wardman@sapea.info.

Android phones come in many different shapes and sizes, made by many different manufacturers (Samsung, Huawei, Motorola, Lenovo, Vivo…).

Most of these do not have a high enough quality microphone to make them viable for recording podcast audio.

(Are iPhones really better in this respect? As a rule, yes they are. An iPhone has a quite high-end microphone in it, and some good audio processing hardware. There are some Android phones that are just as good, but unless you are very confident that yours is among them and you have experience in using it for this purpose, let’s not go there.)

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