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European Television? a workshop to prepare a new agenda for science communication

Final Report Summary - EARTHWAKE (European Television - a workshop to prepare a new agenda for science communication)

Science and scientific culture can occupy a much larger part of the totality of broadcast content and to facilitate this would be valuable as a means to embedding better scientific culture into popular culture. In general, the conclusions arrived at in the two days of discussions at the EARTHWAKE forum might be summarised as follows:
1. Science and scientific culture can occupy a much larger part of the totality of broadcast content and to facilitate this would be valuable as a means to embedding better scientific culture into popular culture.
2. The broadcasting community are insufficiently aware of the opportunities for them that are inherent in scientific content and have limited knowledge of the role and realities of science or of how to find out more about the area.
3. The science community understands that there is a need to enhance public awareness of the role of science in society and the potential impact of broadcasting to this end. But they are not sufficiently aware of or connected to the mechanisms and networks that could make this happen and do not have a broad understanding of the variety of genres that offer opportunities for science strands in broadcasting.
4. Consequently, there exists a fundamental need for a large scale programme of bridge building and facilitation between these two communities. This would include mechanisms to offer support and contacts to writers and producers so that they could access science stories and supporting science advice and likewise for science communicators and scientists to improve their interface with the broadcasting community.
5. Ideas on ways to do this include the sponsoring of high profile festivals that showcase best practice and offer a prestigious forum and prizes that reward the considerable efforts required of writers, producers and their scientific collaborators to bring scientific culture to popular notice. The establishment and support of networks amongst the various actors spreading broadly across Europe could provide an infrastructure for the effort.

A number of recommendations were made as a result of the project, this includes:

- Promote opportunities for contacts and exchanges among the professionals involved in the making of TV drama (scientists, writers, producers, broadcasters, etc.)
No external intervention can influence the way in which a broadcaster recruits its personnel in order to have more directors with scientific interests. However, occasions to stimulate and enrich contacts among the various actors are always welcomed by all sides. Due to time constraints, schemes like 'science evenings' would be more successful than long and demanding conferences. This will slowly but more effectively help to overcome difficulties of communication among all actors of the process.

- Promote schemes that bypass market constraints, and allow authors to do proper research
Difficulties have been identified in the research and development phases of the script. Intervention in the pre-market phases could, therefore, be effective. For example, through the attribution of grants for research and development and support in the research phase, and by providing contacts with relevant and interested scientists. The success of the EuroWistdom initiative was repeatedly pointed out as a demonstration of this, as it led many writers to turn toward science stories, which they felt as interesting but on which they could not previously embark.

- Provide cross-training schemes for all the professionals involved in creating a TV drama with significant science role model impact
A significant number of scientists, writers and producers are willing to engage in the experience of developing science TV drama, both for cultural and professional aims. Workshops specifically directed at those people would be highly beneficial and help to transform a desire into real TV programmes. A multidirectional transfer of knowledge and experiences (within the quadrilateral scientists-writers producers broadcasters) is advised. Again, the success of the EuroWistdom project has established this point.

Some of these targets have been explored as specific items in TV production, but in particular the two last ones of the above have not been enough explored (as the workshop has shown in the case of space). And specific attention to these topics by way of further projects would be useful. As an example of this, the EBU 'GREEN TV' project which is fully in line with the 'environment policy' of the European Union would benefit greatly from explicit support.

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