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European Science Journalism Forum 2010 under the Spanish Presidency

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European science to improve communication

In a forum organised by the Spanish Presidency of the EU in Madrid in spring 2010, science journalists discussed the challenges facing science communication in the 21st century.

Climate Change and Environment

Over 250 delegates descended on Madrid to participate in the Media for Science Forum (MSF), where they agreed a broad alliance of the main stakeholders in the European science community was needed to bolster the culture of science among the general public. This alliance would need the backing of the scientific community, the media, science journalists and policy-makers to have an impact, according to the findings of the six round tables that were held. More effective measures from governments were needed to publicise science through the media. This was one of many recommendations put forward by the forum. Delegates also agreed that results from research projects, especially those that are publicly funded, should be accessible to the general public, as well as promoted through the media. All stakeholders, including governments and media outlets, should make more use of the media to disseminate scientific information that could be of interest to the public. This, the forum recommendations noted, would help 'localise' science and make it more relevant to local communities. While promotion is a good first step, action is needed earlier on in the cycle: at university. Targeted scientific journalism courses should be created and integrated into media degrees to help kick start careers for budding journalists in the field. Likewise, training courses should be offered to scientists to give them basic media/communications training. While it is important for public authorities to promote science, it is equally important for the science community to itself release media information on projects which could garner large public interest. This point was emphasised further in the recommendations of the forum when it called for scientific institutions to be more capable and better equipped to publicise science to the general public. In its conclusions, MSF believed that science is Europe's greatest historical contribution to modern civilisation. Delegates believed that Europe must renew its commitment to science, while science has to renew its commitment to the society that funds it. Science journalism is important, therefore, to provide a link between science and the people.

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