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RTD info logoMagazine on European Research N° 38 - July 2003   
 Europe's troubled seas
 Gutsy bacteria 
 The triumphs of a gene hunter
 Utopia on wheels

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EDITORIAL Printable version

Communicating in the European dimension

On 30 June, following an initiative by the Research Directorate-General's Information and Communication Unit, some 50 European journalists gathered in Brussels to exchange experiences and impressions of their profession, as well as the difficulties experienced by the scientific press. The aim was not to give vent to their woes but to see how they could jointly organise effective communication between journalists from all the Member States. 

Strange as it may seem, this was the first time such a meeting had been held in Europe! The participants were pleased to learn of the many initiatives aimed at improving the quality of scientific journalism to be found all over Europe. One of these deserves particular mention. A number of countries have launched schemes which enable journalists and scientists to swap roles. A scientist is invited to write an article while a journalist tries his or her hand at scientific research. As one programme organiser explains, after such an experience researchers cease to fear journalists. We believe that such initiatives should be encouraged at European level.

As the European Research Area becomes a reality, Europe is sorely lacking a mechanism enabling it to draw full benefit from its 'home grown' research activities. For example, an EU-backed project coordinated by a German research team that may, at a given moment, make a global breakthrough is likely to be covered in the national press but may well fail to make any media impact in other Member States. At present, there is no structured mechanism for informing the media in one Member States of scientific activities going on in another and giving the highest possible profile to European research.

A press service such as AlphaGalileo provides access to pertinent national information across an increasing area of Europe. But why not create a genuine European scientific press agency whose mission would be to ensure cross-border media coverage of European Research Area activities?   

In this respect, the Brussels meeting was perhaps a first step towards the creation of a 'European scientific communication area' as a natural corollary of the European Research Area.

This meeting also shows the Commission's ability to act as a catalyst for the process, stimulate initiatives and develop European networks. It also reminds us that, despite their facility and power, virtual exchanges have neither the charm nor the effectiveness of 'flesh and blood meetings'. But had we ever believed otherwise?