Science communication gets EU cash injection
In the latest round of funding under the ‘Science and Society’ activities in the Sixth Research Framework Programme (FP6), the EU has set aside €1.6 million to stimulate trans-national exchanges among science communicators. For the first time, the funds target the production of audiovisual programmes to stimulate dialogue between citizens and the scientific community in Europe.
This growing emphasis on science communication is, according to the Commission, a timely response to the results from the latest Eurobarometer survey of Europeans, Science and Technology, which reveals that there is still a gap between science and society at large.
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More than one-third of European citizens consider themselves poorly informed about new inventions and technologies (35%) and new scientific discoveries (37%). Europeans also feel somewhat removed from science and technology issues. A sentiment that carries over in the image Europeans have of scientists themselves. The positive role that scientists play in society is recognised, but the way scientists explain their achievements and inform the public came under fire.
The Commission’s efforts to raise awareness of science in society in this way complements other EU campaigns, such as the well-established European Science Week, and the new Descartes Prize for excellence in science communication. This Prize aims not only to stimulate interest and careers in science communication, but also to improve the quality of science communication with the public. It does this by offering European recognition for professional scientists, authors, broadcasters, newspaper editors and science journalists who have shown how to present science to the public in innovative and entertaining ways.
Closer to the people
This EU funding will be made available to projects aimed at bringing science and technology closer to people, and in fostering communication between scientists and the public. One million euro is set aside for developing audiovisual co-productions on science topics, while €600 000 is devoted to actions promoting the exchange of user-friendly scientific information products – i.e. travelling exhibitions, documentaries, science theatre, etc. – across Europe.
Both measures are designed to support actions that can reach a public unfamiliar with research and scientific issues, including young people. Translation, and other adaptations for the specific needs of other countries, may also be financed as part of the projects. In the case of audiovisual productions, it will be necessary to include a clear indication for planned broadcasting of the programme.
In related news, the Commission approved last month the Action Plan to Improve Communicating Europe by the European Commission. The 50 actions set out in the plan are underpinned by thee guiding principles: listening to EU citizens’ and taking into account their views; communicating how EU policies affect them and what added value they bring; and connecting with people by adapting messages to address audiences at the local level.
The Commission is also organising an international conference, called Communicating European Research (CER 2005), in Brussels on 14-15 November, to stimulate debate on the major research challenges affecting Europe and to take stock of progress towards the next Research Framework Programme (FP7, 2007-2013).
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