An innovative project to start an on-line press centre for European scientific research will be launched as a pilot service at the annual meeting of the British Association for the Advancement of Science this September.
The web service, called AlphaGalileo, will provide on-line access to scientific press releases, Royal Society briefing papers, a calendar of events, and eventually pictures. Like its North American counterpart EurekAlert!, it aims to be a one-stop shop for journalists, and to allow the public greater access to research results. Individual scientists, universities and research institutes will be able to post press releases on AlphaG free of charge. Only journalists will be able to access news releases before their official release date - via password protected web pages.
Most of the funding for the pilot has come from two UK research councils: the Particle Physics and Astronomy Research Council and the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council. For this reason the site will be primarily be in English.
However, Peter Green, AlphaG's project manager and head of communications at PPARC, is very keen to expand the service into other languages if he can attract funding for it. Later this month Green and Francoise Praderie from the group Euroscience will talk the project over with DG12 officials in Brussels.
Green explains that the project is aimed at improving public understanding of science and promoting the science community. As AlphaG makes no charges, it is reliant on external financial support. And if it is to survive past the pilot stage, and into the next financial year, it will be looking for long-term support from research funders from across Europe.
US-based EurekAlert! is thought to be less than delighted by the appearance of this young British upstart. Although EurekAlert! claims to have worldwide coverage of science press releases, Green is keen to point out that the service is heavily dominated by US research results. This may mean that European science is getting overlooked within the international media.
The AlphaG team is counting on the fact that British and European universities have been slow to take up the EurekAlert! service because of the subscription fee. Whether this is true or not, AlphaG's future remains largely in the hands of the research community.
AlphaG will be testing as a live service by mid-July, but will not be publicly available until the BA meeting in Cardiff.