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European women in science TV Drama on Message

Final Report Summary - EUROWISTDOM (European women in science TV Drama on Message)

Regarding the importance of science and technology (SET) for the social and economic development and the underrepresentation of women in SET professions observed throughout Europe, there is a growing awareness that television, and here especially the popular entertainment formats, can play an important role in promoting public understanding of sciences and technology and have a positive influence of the image of such professions. In this context, it was the project's target to initialise an intensive awareness raising process and to promote the information exchange between writers, producers, and TV executives on the one hand and scientists, researchers and engineers on the other hand.

At the centre of this project was selecting and rewarding scripts with SET contents and female role models, followed by scientific advice and support for the authors and marketing for the production companies and broadcasters. The project tackled the lack of female role models in science and engineering in European countries, i.e. Germany, in giving women a leading role in science and technology based stories in TV. Writers or producer-writer teams from all over Europe were encouraged to develop ideas for TV drama and series.

The EUROWISTDOM project was exceedingly successful as it managed to initiate, based on the experience gained in the United Kingdom with the PAWS (Public Awareness of Science) and EuroPAWS project, throughout Europe and particularly in Germany, an intensive exchange process between authors, producers and TV executives on the one hand and scientists, researchers and engineers on the other hand. The project focused on selecting and rewarding scripts with technical-scientific contents and female role models, the authors then were able to consult experts on science issues while the production companies and TV stations were supported in their marketing efforts.

The project was accompanied with intensive public relations (PR) work: this included an international conference with top experts at the launch of the project in Berlin. Here, for the first time in Germany, the issue concerning the underrepresentation of women in SET professions was successfully carried beyond science and politics into the media and it was thoroughly discussed which role TV, and in particular the entertainment formats, could have in creating a positive professional image and role models. Indeed, it is possible for fictional programmes to address complex topics from the realm of sciences in a thrilling, entertaining and emotionally moving manner and to have them presented by personalised (female) career models. At the same time, they offer the chance of having realistic insight into the inventiveness of engineers and the fascinating world of sciences and technology. In this manner, they could provide a significant contribution for the fundamental change in the image of engineers something which has been necessary for years.

The EUROWISTDOM model seems to work well in its main objectives; namely to encourage new TV drama treatments involving science and technology and women in SET roles, to encourage new enthusiasm by accomplished professional writers and producers for this genre and to create a new dialogue with broadcasters. There is a clear correlation between the holding of cross-cultural events and the response of writers leading to the creation of new TV drama ideas in this genre. Other key players like writers' and producers' guilds or associations become involved as part of the process, another ripple effect.

A conclusion is that the EUROWISTDOM model embracing the three key elements, writers' grants, cross-cultural events and science and contacts advice, could be applied to include other countries not hosting events on this occasion. The scale of the EUROWISTDOM project is also seen as important, giving standing to the effort and attracting broadcasters and other professionals accordingly. For smaller countries, the accolade of a writer winning a European level support package is seen as prestigious and attractive to broadcasters. Equally a cross-cultural event can spur new dialogue and creative outputs. For larger countries the process of creating dialogue between writers, scientists and broadcasters can be built on harnessing the new involvement of Writers Guilds and networks created in EUROWISTDOM.

As most writers, TV drama people and particularly drama broadcasters are arts educated, the challenge of adding confidence in the appeal of science based TV drama ideas and in the content must involve long term processes. EUROWISTDOM has demonstrated that progress can be made and measured by various yardsticks. What is required now is to translate these gains into a medium-term agenda for action, drawing on all processes that have been seen to work in encouraging new TV drama with science and engineering content and women scientist and engineers in key roles.