Brussels, 16 Jul 2003
Heeding a call from the European Commission, scores of media specialists put their heads together to find ways to improve science journalism in Europe.
Representatives from science writing associations in 24 European countries met EU officials in Brussels on 30 June to discuss the state of science reporting in Europe. On the agenda at the 'Science reporting without frontiers' conference was how to encourage more European-level collaboration in creating what Research Commissioner Philippe Busquin called a "public face" for the European Research Area.
Joining representatives from the Research DG's Information and Communication unit were, among others, delegates from the French Association of Scientific Journalists (AJSPI), AlphaGalileo and EIROForum to hammer out ideas for promoting better scientific communication in Europe.
Peter Green, AlphaGalileo's CEO, explained some ideas coming out of the conference for a press centre that could work as a "network to offer encouragement to press offices or, on occasions, undertake press office duties". In the statement, Mr Green stressed that the aim would be to "harvest more and better raw [scientific] news" than presently being done.
In his opening address at the conference, Commissioner Busquin acknowledged the role that the AlphaGalileo Foundation has played in showcasing European research, calling it a "major player" in the field of science information.
First launched in 1998, AlphaGalileo is an internet press centre for European science and the arts, providing journalists around the world with 24-hour access to news, images, background information and a database of experts in seven languages. After initial EU funding, the service now operates on a mix of government funding, commercial sponsorship and advertising.
"In a way, this meeting is the first step towards a 'European scientific communication area', which could complement the ambitions set out by Commissioner Busquin for the European Research Area," said Michel Claessens from the Commission. For the time being, the meeting is an important launching point, showing the EU's commitment to raising awareness of science throughout Europe.
Avenues for improving science communication discussed during the meeting included exchange programmes – i.e. journalists visiting labs and scientists attending press events – the creation of a European science news agency, prizes for science writing, and Commissioner Busquin raised the idea of having Marie Curie fellowships for science journalists.