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This page was published on 07/06/2005
Published: 07/06/2005

   Science & business

Published: 7 June 2005  
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Science & business  |  Science in society


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New portal for audiovisual scientific information

The European Union has launched AthenaWeb, a new audiovisual scientific web portal with a robust, user-friendly platform providing innovative functions and services designed for the exclusive use of science communication professionals.

New pan-European internet portal designed for audio-visual scientific communication professionals.©AthenaWeb
New pan-European internet portal designed for audio-visual scientific communication professionals.
© AthenaWeb
AthenaWeb, the new portal launched on 4 June, is a unique platform created to boost science film production and circulation in Europe. It was built at the request of the European Commission to achieve a number of important goals, such as exploiting the potential of existing science programming, encouraging new productions and co-productions, and enhancing networking between scientists and communication specialists.

AthenaWeb's official launch took place alongside the European Research and Innovation Conference and Expo in Paris. This high-profile event was attended by thousands of scientists, engineers, policy-makers, researchers and stakeholders interested not just in debating European innovation but also building on European know-how and excellence in the investigative sciences.

Film, television and other audiovisual media are recognised champions when it comes to communicating a message to the general public. Scientific film is no exception to this. Surveys have shown that the average person's knowledge of science is greatly improved, if not solely informed, by television and film. AthenaWeb could not come at a better time, when public faith in scientists and interest in pursuing scientific subjects at university are waning – something the European Union, through its Science in Society initiatives (in the Sixth Framework Programme, FP6), is trying to reverse.

Getting started
AthenaWeb was created for the European Commission's Research Directorate-General by the audiovisual contractor DDB, in close consultation with science communication professionals. According to the Commission, the portal is a “concrete response to well identified needs” and satisfies five main goals.

The first of these is to put existing science programming – from European broadcasters, independent producers, research organisations, universities, industry, etc. – to better use, and to help new science television development, production and distribution. It also aims to facilitate new co-productions and partnerships, improve the circulation and visibility of science and research news, and boost networking between scientists and communication experts.

AthenaWeb is a free service and is open to accredited science communication professionals in Europe, such as TV editors, directors and programme producers; science journalists; as well as communication officers and audiovisual departments of research institutes, universities and industry.

In its test phase, the portal offered 30 hours of programming covering 200 subjects in the environmental and industrial technologies fields. This will be expanded more than three-fold and cover a total of 14 themes by autumn 2005, the Commission confirms. The services offered include a fully searchable electronic library, real-time viewing, background dossiers by theme, an up-to-date on-line agenda, and a European science news service.

The site also has new legal solutions for information sharing (with on-line licences for copyright, and open formats such as ‘copyleft' and ‘copyshare') and is promoting talent sharing and partnerships via its on-line professional forum/market place. Altogether, a handy “one-stop-shop”, say its developers.

“Since the future of this portal relies upon its users' satisfaction, your feedback is very important,” the site notes in a call for constructive comments. “Only you, as users, can contribute to making this portal more efficient.”

AthenaWeb and EU

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