Written by Svetla Tanova-Encke,
More than ever, science and new technologies surround us in our daily lives. Equally, more than ever, it seems that nobody understands enough about this. Digital communications, artificial intelligence, big data: you do not have to be a high-tech geek to see the impact new technologies are already having on our lives. However, how can average citizens find their way through scientific or pseudo-scientific claims, whom should they trust in the post-truth world, where even issues on which scientists are virtually unanimous, like climate change or vaccines, are heavily questioned and debated?
‘Science is not finished until it’s communicated’, Mark Walport, who was Chief Scientific Advisor to the UK government, once said. ‘Communication to wider audiences is part of the job of being a scientist, and so how you communicate is absolutely vital.’
In this context, science communication plays an important role in helping citizens understand the issues at stake. A constant dialogue between the actors involved in the scientific endeavour – scientists, communicators, policy-makers and journalists – is essential. The European Science-Media Hub (ESMH), newly launched by STOA, should serve as a platform for such dialogue between the European Parliament, the scientific community and the media.
Creating a network
The first task of the Science-Media Hub is to establish contacts with partners from the scientific community, among science journalists and from other relevant stakeholders.
It is important to work across disciplines and across institutions. The Science-Media Hub has already set up an Interinstitutional Advisory Board consisting of representatives from the European Parliament (STOA and DG COMM), the European Commission (DG RTD, DG CONNECT and the Joint Research Centre (JRC)), the European Institute of Innovation &Technology (EIT) and the European Research Council (ERC) Executive Agency.
Monitoring media and innovation
The ESMH will monitor the trends in media coverage of science topics as they happen. Via media monitoring tools the Hub will work to identify the most debated topics in different scientific categories across a wide variety of mainstream media. The team will use additional means to take a closer look at the information streamed on social media. In parallel, the ESMH will identify science-based information, scientists and scientific articles on specific topics, gathering information from scientific publications.
Online platform and knowledge sharing
In the meantime, the ESMH team is working on an online platform for the Hub. The webpage will provide articles on popular topics in the field of science and new technologies, written in a citizen-friendly style. The webpage will also disseminate trustworthy sources of information and promote EU and EP research.
Training for journalists
The ESMH would like to empower quality science journalism through access to such trustworthy information, as well as contacts with scientists and policy-makers. The main target group of the ESMH will be science journalists, young media representatives, science communicators, writers, bloggers and other communication practitioners.
For this audience, the ESMH will organise training and workshops on current technological developments, both as subjects of their reporting and as means of facilitating their work. The first of these will be organised in the autumn by the ESMH team, together with their colleagues in STOA and DG COMM of the European Parliament, and will look into the issue of how big data and algorithms can influence elections.