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Communication of medical research through film production and wide distribution

Final Report Summary - COMED (Communication of medical research through film production and wide distribution)

A lot of scientific research is undertaken in Europe, which is hardly perceived outside the scientific community. Scientists and layperson who are unaware of scientific research do not speak the same language. Moreover, they do not use the same channels of communication. Therefore, it is necessary that a 'translator' is involved, i.e. somebody who is interconnected between science and society and who translates and mediates between both sides. For this reason COMED, a 'communication and support action' within the Seventh Framework Programme (FP7)of the European Commission (EC) was created to communicate the results and activities of cutting-edge European Union (EU)-funded health-research projects to the general public. Regarding the great scope of television and internet and their intensive usage, especially by young people, the health research projects will be presented by visually capturing videos. The filmic aspect is also reflected in the project acronym COMED, that stands for 'Communication of medical research through film production and wide distribution.' Ten informative and state-of-the-art science documentaries about the projects will be produced to improve the perception of sciences by the general public and to raise scientific interest in younger population groups. In the films renowned scientists present their recent, groundbreaking results and speak about the challenges of their daily battle against diseases. In addition patients share their personal experience and explain what European research means for their individual situation while state-of-the-art animations help to illustrate the scientific background. The development of the documentaries will take place in close cooperation with the respective science projects, which will be able to use the film and additional multimedia content for their own dissemination purposes. COMED's contemporary science films will be distributed across Europe to TV broadcasting stations for the integration into science magazines. Furthermore, COMED will raise public perception of EU-funded health research by expanding the distribution widely through the internet. An additional objective of this multimedia distribution approach is especially to reach young recipients like high-school students and adolescents to achieve a positive impact on their perception of natural sciences and focus on the daily life of researchers working in EU-funded projects.

The COMED consortium consists of two complementary partners with long-term professional experience: Broadviews TV (BTV), an international award-winning film and internet production company, and United Docs, one of the largest German TV distributors.

Project context and objectives:

Unfortunately only a small minority in Europe is aware of the tremendous efforts being put in European scientific research each year. Especially the dissemination of the approach and results of European research projects to a broad European public is not satisfactory. Each research project has the duty to disseminate and promote its activities and results to a big target group: The EC, the scientific community and to the broader European public as well. However, especially the last and biggest target group is sometimes neglected, often not because the projects are unwilling to communicate their research results, but simply because they rather use the often tight funding for the core tasks and competencies and what they consider most important: research.

Even a lot of the bigger universities and research institutes only have a small department responsible for all communication activities. Consequently, they have no time and capacity to do more than what is necessary. There is hardly any time for creativity, developing individual strategies, creating contacts to media partners that would help to reach out to more than the usual recipients. Another reason for the insufficient communication is that it is mostly planned and managed by researchers and scientists without any external advice or consultancy from communication experts. As a result, the 'usual' communication tools (website, flyer) are implemented without any closer examination of the target groups and their respective media use. Although most projects are in need of such a competent support, few research consortia are blessed with dissemination partners, who have the expertise and capacities to communicate the project results and approaches.

More attention has to be devoted to the broader European public. The European citizens are not only the indirect financiers of EU-funded research projects through their tax payments, but moreover they are the actual reason for health research and should be the beneficiary of every single research action undertaken. It is their health which should benefit in the long-term from research and it is therefore crucial to reach out to them: They must be informed about the great amount of effort being put into research which they can profit from and which is done in their interest. But to reach the masses, one has to speak their language and make use of their media, the mass media. The average European citizen does not actively reach out for science information; science communication has to reach him. And even very engaged science communicators within the EU-funded research projects are often only in contact with science journals and similar specific media, which are unfortunately not used by the average European citizen.

However, the major part of the European research stays hidden behind a huge wall of nescience. The often cited 'gap between science and society' still exists. The EC is funding research Europe-wide within FP7 with approximately EUR 54 billion, but the European citizen is often not aware of this fact. Another widespread prejudice facing the successful communication of research is that science is perceived by many people as boring and unappealing and not as an exciting or attractive field of interest. Scientists have to fight against the image of being unapproachable and living in their own cosmos. The average European citizen is not able to see the connection between his / her own life and scientific research. Especially a lot of younger people are unfortunately not very attracted to natural sciences in general and are consequently not willing to consider a career in the diverse fields of science.

COMED is planned and managed by renowned communication professionals, consisting of Broadview TV, an international award-winning film and internet production company, and United Docs, one of the largest German TV distributors. While the scientists can concentrate on their core-competency research, the COMED consortium can do what they do best: produce and distribute high quality multimedia content through mass media. Hereby, the bundling strategy will generate new resources by realising synergies from inside the COMED project and perform on a high professional level with fewer cost compared to the single communication or dissemination of the research projects.

COMED will produce high-class documentary image-films of ten (later changed into nine films and one trailer) ground-breaking EU research projects of the Health theme and distribute them to TV broadcasting stations across Europe. Broadcasters will be offered a full-service-package including the films in different formats, which can be adjusted to their respective needs. Furthermore they will be provided with pictures, three-dimensional (3D) bio animations and graphics for background information and press use to make it most convenient for the broadcasters to integrate the films into their television programmes. The films will have a length of approximately eight minutes, which was considered to be the optimal length for distribution purposes in the former Sixth Framework Programme (FP6) Specific Support Action APPEAR. Through the use of classical TV distribution and the integration of the films into science TV magazines all across Europe, millions of people of different ages and interests shall be reached.

However, the films will reach an even greater audience by additionally making use of the currently most successful and fastest-growing media that is available, the internet. Taking the enormous number of online communication possibilities into account, successful communication means to spot the best tools to gain direct access to the respective target group. Using the internet in the way they do, is the key factor: by interacting in social networks and by publishing and distributing through new media channels young and technically interested people can be reached. According to a recent survey of the German public television 76 % of German internet users are using the internet on a daily basis, which means that the reach of the internet has almost overtaken traditional television. The COMED videos shall be disseminated via video sharing portals, social networking services, podcasts, blogs, online magazines and many other online services. The online distribution includes also a state-of-the-art website about the project, where all films as well as additional information about the projects is shown (see http://www.comed-project.org online).

Additionally to the transmission of the COMED films via various media channels to millions of European citizens, there will be an added value for the ten selected medical research projects. They will be provided with all produced content adjusted to their needs and for the use of their dissemination activities. This will include: The respective film on DVD in various formats and versions, to present them to any given audience, the films in flash- or other web-based formats for the integration on their project websites, the 3D bio-animations, which can become vital elements of almost any kind of project presentation at congresses, trade fairs, events, workshops, or for training purposes, accompanying editorial material such as the film scripts, all interviews, transliterated and translated, for generating news, or any other written content to be published as well as accompanying graphical material such as screenshots, pictures, graphics, for the use in presentations, on websites, for PR and any other dissemination and presentation purposes.

The main objective of COMED is to improve the perception of sciences by the European public and to increase the trust in scientific research in general. This goal is be reached by the production of nine state-of-the art science documentaries (8-10 minutes) and one trailer about HEALTH research projects funded by the FP7. The films together with additional multi media content are distributed to the research projects to provide them with a powerful dissemination tool and to make them familiar with new ways of successful science communication. Furthermore, the films are distributed to TV stations across Europe and via various different channels in the internet, through which a young and not yet scientifically interested audience shall be reached. In general, it can be summarised, that the main benefits of the innovative communication approach of COMED are greater professionalism and expertise, the extension of communication tools available to research projects and an increased productivity by the economic advantage of combined communication activities for EU-funded projects.

Project results:

Since COMED is a support action to communicate information about EU-funded health sciences, the purpose and intention of the project is not to conduct innovative research with tangible final scientific results, knowledge or new methods. Therefore, no S&T foreground in the actual sense is possible after the finalisation of the support action. The nine science documentaries (at http://www.comed-project.org online) and their dissemination activities (down below) constitute the core result of the project.

Potential impact:

The COMED support action is based on a communication and dissemination strategy to raise awareness and knowledge of European health sciences outside the EU-funded researching projects, addressing in particular the broad European public, young Europeans, policy makers, patients and the wider scientific community. To meet this aim, COMED adapts highly complex scientific processes into understandable and attractive science films. Due to the wide distribution of the films via mass media - television and Internet - and the implementation of different solutions to address divers target groups, science can enter the lives of many Europeans who have not been in touch with these topics before. The overall aim of all communication actions undertaken by COMED is to spread understanding, awareness, enlightenment and knowledge of European health sciences in general and the respective EU-funded projects in particular. In this regard the following aspects have been identified as desired potential impacts of a successful dissemination of the COMED films and the COMED project at large:

- The animation of young European citizens to study natural sciences and to envisage a scientific career. The creation of a more positive image of science and scientific research among the European general public, especially among young Europeans.
- The raise of usage among European citizens of high quality information about human well-being and health research results. This may also stimulate a more responsible approach towards one's own health and a raise in compassion towards diseased people in general.
- A better insight of the broad European public in the European efforts to combat diseases and the raise of awareness of how tax payer's money is invested in their own wellbeing - the improvement of the image of science research and European policy making at large.
- Better information for patients about the latest developments in European Health research, which may give them new hope and increase the impression that they are not left alone, but that the EU is helping them.
- A higher involvement rate of European citizens in EU research, due to a better understanding and trust for their objectives and needs as well as a reduced gap between the general public and the research projects at large.
- Promotion of the competitiveness of European health sciences.
- Promotion of the scope and quality of communication actions of European research projects.

It can be concluded, that the COMED support action shall bridge the currently existing gap between EU research results and their general perception in Europe and worldwide. The raising of public awareness of EU-funded research by showcasing the best practices and achievements of the Health programme will therefore constitute the overall strategic objective of COMED. Since European health sciences contribute to the improvement of European citizens' quality of life, the COMED communication support action will play a crucial role in paving the way for a strengthened consensus on European joint efforts in Health research.

Dissemination:

The COMED dissemination activities shall provide information to the general public, the EC, patients, the scientific community and to current and future project coordinators inspiring them to improve their own dissemination activities by presenting new opportunities, such as the production of image films and their wide distribution through various media channels.

To meet this target a project logo and the corporate design of COMED was produced, a project promotional website was created and promotional material and templates were designed. Furthermore, the communication strategy and the project results were communicated to the general public, other research projects' coordinators, scientists, as well as EC officials. Information about the COMED project was also spread at selected events and congresses dealing with communicating science and medical research in general.

Corporate design

Broadview TV created a corporate design in order to represent COMED and to increase the recognition value and uniqueness of the project. As basis of all corporate design activities, a project logo, visualising the project name in colour and graphics, was created and designed. Furthermore, the corporate design was used for all PowerPoint presentations, the project promotional website and any other dissemination and presentation material.

Website

The COMED website as most important dissemination tool, reflects COMED's objectives, developments and results. The project website acts as a portal for disseminating the COMED project itself as well as the ten EU-funded projects. Each medical research project has a dedicated sub-page, giving short information, links, and showing the respective film upon its finalisation. The user can obtain information about COMED, the selected topics and the project partners and gain insight by reading news and watching the films online. He is also shortly introduced into the Health theme and FP7 in general. The website combines multiple purposes, fulfils several requirements and addresses various target groups. Due to this diversity, the website represents a portal with the overall aim to promote the COMED support action and the ten EU-funded projects simultaneously. Moreover the website contains an internal 'members area' which can be entered with a password, that serves as data repository for internal knowledge management for the consortium and the research projects.

Promotional material

The COMED promotional project brochure was specially designed for distribution at events and congresses. This COMED leaflet is an important dissemination tool that provides a first brief overview and introduction to COMED's approach, objectives, consortium partners and contact data. Furthermore, the brochure contains basic information about the assisted Health projects and the film topics. Because of the limited amount of space, both the leaflet's structure and its content have to be well-considered. The flyer enables the first contact with COMED and creates awareness and curiosity to read more. By displaying the COMED website link on the brochure, the recipient shall get the opportunity to obtain more detailed information about the project. The leaflet addresses various target groups, such as European citizens, policy makers, the EC, the scientific community and other EU-funded research projects or support actions. For providing unity and clarity, the brochure will contain the same corporate design as the COMED website, including logo, colours, font and other graphical elements.

Multimedia kit

The active distribution start was combined with the production of the multimedia kit - a DVD with the objective to provide various internet platforms and European (online-) journalists as well as the project coordinators of the ten portrayed research projects with high quality multimedia content. Each Kit contained the respective eight minutes film in various formats, such as an internet-compatible format for integration on websites (flash), the 3D bio-animations, the film scripts, the interview transliterations, the credits as well as pictures / screenshots of the film. The projects can use the multimedia kit for all presentation and dissemination purposes such as congresses, workshops, websites, press releases, news and many more. They will greatly benefit from it, since it adds new high quality content and opportunities to their communication and press work. The multimedia kit also constitutes a successful instrument for the dissemination of scientific content to (-online) journalists. The specific structure of the multimedia kit and the detailed background information, gives them the opportunity to select the content accurately tailored to their specific needs. The possibility to use only specific parts of the content makes the adaptation into various different websites / programmes / magazines more likely and thus the range of dissemination wider.

Internet distribution

The major objective of the COMED internet distribution is to extend the target group and the recipients and to maximise the number of viewers of the films. In order to reach the highest possible number of European citizens the aim is to expand the traditional distribution channel TV by distributing and presenting the films via the medium internet as well. Through this multi-channel approach, especially young recipients and target groups of high school students and other young adolescents shall be reached. The films were produced to make science research understandable and attractive to people inside and outside of the scientific community. Therefore an online distribution strategy was developed whereby people already interested or even engaged in science as well recipients outside of the scientific realm could be reached. To spread the message of the COMED project as far as possible, various online dissemination tools were chosen with a special focus on the younger generation's most visited web services like YouTube, Facebook and Twitter.

The following tools were successfully used for the COMED distribution:

- web television (Science TV)
- video sharing portals (YouTube, dailymotion, sevenload and myvideo)
- social networking services (Facebook and researchgate)
- social bookmarking services (Delicious, stumble upon and dig)
- blogs and online magazines (the press release and the offer to send the multimedia press kit, was sent to over 50 selected bloggers and online journalists)
- microblogging services (Twitter)
- search engines (Google)
- podcasts (iTunes)
- COMED website and others

All nine research projects included the films or links to the films on their respective project websites.

Attendance to research and technological development (RTD)-related events

The project dissemination also targets the scientific community, present and future EU-funded research projects' coordinators and EC Officials to prove the advantages of the supporting action. One dissemination tool being used for this task was the attendance to RTD related events in order to adequately represent the project in front of the respective target groups. At the venue COMED's unique approach and the special way of communicating scientific content is promoted.

The COMED project was promoted at the following events:

MipCom
4 to 8 October 2010 in Cannes, France
http://www.mipworld.com/en/mipcom/why-mipcom/

German Screenings - United Docs
27 November to 1 December 2010 in Berlin, Germany
http://www.german-screenings.de/

The world congress of science and factual producers (WCSFP)
30 November to 3 December 2010 in Dresden, Germany
http://www.scienceproducers.com/

Inflammatory bowel diseases (ECCO)
24 to 26 February 2011 in Dublin, Ireland
http://ecco11.ecco-ibd.eu/index.php

The international conference on prehypertension and cardio metabolic syndrome
24 to 27 February 2011 in Vienna, Austria
http://www.prehypertension.org/

MipDoc
2 to 3 April 2011 in Cannes, France
http://www.mipworld.com/en/mipdoc/

The international science festival Gothenburg
3 to 15 May 2011 in Gothenburg, Sweden
http://www2.goteborg.com/default.aspx?id=8691

European Neurological Society
28 to 31 May 2011 in Lisbon, Portugal
http://www.congrex.ch/ens2011.html

European Human Genetics Conference 2011
28 to 31 May 2011 in Amsterdam, the Netherlands
https://www.eshg.org/260.0.html

Additional measures

- DVDs (150 copies) as well as flyers and the necessary data for further printing of DVDs and flyers were provided to EC for dissemination purposes at congresses and events.
- DVDs (five copies) as well as flyers were provided to the research projects for dissemination purposes at congresses and events.
- A press release informing about the COMED project was written and sent out to a high number of research institutions in Europe and carefully selected online journalists and bloggers.
- All current EU projects of the Health sector as well as more than 30 projects from related sectors were informed about the new communication approach of COMED.

Exploitation

Since COMED is a communication support action to spread information about EU-funded health sciences all over Europe, the purpose and intention of the project is not to conduct innovative research with tangible final scientific results, knowledge or new methods. Therefore, no exploitation in the actual sense will be possible after the finalisation of the support action. However, the overall objective of the exploitation plan is to exploit the innovative COMED approach of communicating European research through the production and wide multimedia distribution of high-quality image films. Target groups of all exploitation actions are current or future EU-funded projects from the Health programme or other themes as well as responsible authorities of the EC. Thus, exploitation actions follow the dissemination activities to implement the COMED approach towards communicating European science to other research projects and to motivate projects to improve their own dissemination and communication strategies. The dissemination objectives towards the aforementioned target groups are followed by the exploitation activities aiming at transferring the innovative COMED communication approach to future EU-funded projects. After the finalisation of the Support Action, the most important communication tools will remain accessible for the broad public:

- The project website at http://www.comed-project.org will stay online for one more year after the project finalisation with all its features including the online film presentation and the option to contact the consortium for questions or requests.
- The films will still be available online on the various internet and video platforms they will have been distributed and uploaded to within WP 5.
- Once delivered to the ten assisted EU-funded projects, the multimedia kit DVDs can be used, copied, distributed, forwarded to (online-) journalists or other stakeholders outside the research projects in order to continue the communication of the respective project approach, research content and results to external entities.
- Concerning the presentation of the films on television, the experience has shown that some TV broadcasters plan their television and broadcasting programme many months ahead and therefore show the films 'on air' several months after receiving it from the TV distribution partner GUD. Furthermore, many TV channels repeat successful and interesting programmes several times in order to reach the maximum possible number of viewers.

To conclude, one can state that the communication and information achievements of COMED will not end with the finalisation of the communication support action after thirty months. On the contrary: the outcome and results of COMED (films, website, multimedia kit, TV- and online availability of films) will still be available after project finalisation and therefore reach even more people and recipients of the different target groups. The number of clicks of the COMED films online is still rising every day. All partners in the COMED project have expressed their interest in a continuation of a successful cooperation by proposing further projects and actions relating to calls for science communication actions. Furthermore, a possible exploitation of the project as professional communication service is another possibility which would be appreciated by the project members.

Project website: http://www.comed-project.org

COMED consortium

Broaview TV
Ubierring 61a
50678 Cologne
Germany

Phone: +49-221-5796430
Fax: +49-221-5796459
E-mail: info@broadview.tv
Homepage: http://www.broadview.tv

United docs GmbH
Breite Str. 48-50
50677 Cologne
Germany
Phone: +49-221-920690
Fax: +49-221-9206969
E-mail: sales@united-docs.com
Homepage: http://www.united-docs.com