| INTERNET - The AlphaGalileo platform
The origin of the creation of AlphaGalileo was the realisation that North America was dominating global media coverage of scientific developments. While this dominance seems to support the notion of supremacy, is it not more a sign that US researchers communicate their research results more and better? An ordinary September day in 2005, somewhere on the web. The University of Lapland (Finland) announces the imminent publication of a book by one of its lecturers with the shock title The Technological Revolution as a Coup d’Etat. The Inasmet-Tecnalin Foundation (Donostia, Spain) reveals, in three languages (English, Spanish and Basque), the development of a new device for combating legionnaires’ disease in air-conditioning systems. Cambridge University (UK) presents details of a conference it is hosting on intelligent vehicles. The European Space Agency launches an appeal for radio enthusiasts worldwide to tune into the signals emitted by a micro-satellite built by students from 23 European universities that is about to be launched from Baikonour. Where are we exactly? At alphagalileo.org, the virtual press centre for European research, visited regularly by 5 000 journalists from 87 countries.
Contributors and users
Today, the site has some 10 000 registered visitors, divided into two categories: contributors and users. The 750 contributors send in their press releases announcing research results, conferences, book publications and any other scientific or technical news. They include universities, institutes and major European research bodies (CERN, EMBO, ESA, etc.), institutional players such as the European Commission or the European Science Foundation, plus industrialists, learned societies and leading scientific journals. The contributions are read and sorted by the seven-strong AlphaGalileo team in less than an hour. “It is not a question of validating content, which is the responsibility of the contributors, but of organising the information and classifying it per theme,” explains Laura Miles, Strategy and Operations Director with the AlphaGalileo Foundation. The contributions are then published on the site and rendered accessible, free of charge, to the users, who are professional journalists and members of the public. Only the journalists can consult the information under embargo, i.e. before it is made public, so that they can prepare their articles in advance. Users can read the information on-line by visiting the site regularly or can be notified by e-mail immediately a press release matching certain key words is published. “In return, contributors are notified of the number of people who have read their information, enabling them to gauge the impact of their communication,” adds Laura Miles.
Seven years after its launch, this virtual agency has become a leading European scientific and media space. “My work would be much more difficult, and my news coverage much less complete, without this continuous information flow provided by AlphaGalileo,” says Clive Cookson, editor of The Financial Times science pages. The twice-yearly satisfaction surveys give excellent results and Laura Miles attributes this popularity to the decision to highlight “exchange and dialogue between our team and the thousands of site users”. When AlphaGalileo recently asked its subscribers for suggestions on how the site should develop in future they received over 500 replies, an excellent number for an appeal of this kind. Among users’ wishes were more information with audio-visual content, greater language diversity (English dominates the content although all languages are accepted), and a better targeting of information sent in response to declared areas of interest. Efforts will focus on these three areas in the coming months.