World Federation of
Science Journalists

Highlights of General Assembly meetings held in October 2004 in Montréal

October 8, 2004 posted in Associations

Updates on the World Federation of Science Journalists

Executives from member organizations and members of the Board of the World Federation of Science Journalists met in Montréal during the 4th World Conference of Science Journalists (www.wcsj2004.com ).

A first meeting held Monday, October 4th, 2004, brought together the executives of associations of science journalists as well as the members of the board of the Federation. The purpose of this meeting of the presidents and representatives of national associations was to establish the basis of a dialogue between the representatives of the different countries and continents.

Monday, 4 October 2004

Meeting of Association Presidents - Update on the WFSJ and its membership

WFSJ President Véronique Morin opened and chaired the meeting. She noted that this year's World Conference of Science Journalists had attracted more attendees from more countries and regions than ever before, including at least 40 from developing countries. She stressed the Federation's role in building networks among science journalists, especially those in the developing world. She said the Conference was designed to encourage discussions, and help to promote an international network of Science journalists.

WFSJ Executive Secretary Jens Degett underscored the challenge of building a world federation with voluntary contributions and highlighted a number of activities since the last conference in 2002. He said the Federation is building important links with the U.N. Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO), which is open to some form of funding arrangement, and with the International Federation of Reproduction Rights Organisations (IFFRO), which deals with copyright issues. A new website (www.wfsj.org ) has been established with the help of the European Science Foundation, and a number of new organizations have expressed interest in joining the Federation.

Degett said the next steps for the Federation are to establish a permanent secretariat and minimum governance structure then begin broader fundraising to support ongoing activities.

Update on IDRC support for developing country participation

Morin noted the Federation's interest in concrete programmes and introduced Jean-Marc Fleury, Executive Director of the 4th World Conference and Communications Advisor with Canada's International Development Research Centre (IDRC). Fleury encouraged participants to identify program priorities and potential projects to support science journalism in the developing world, and expressed interest in talking with attendees who might have contacts with aid organizations in their own countries.

SciDev.Net

David Dickson, Director of SciDev.Net (www.scidevnet.net ), said his organization formed in 1999 with the aim of delivering reliable information on science and technology of use to developing countries. "We share many of the same objectives, the main difference being that we're focusing on enhancing science journalism and communications in and of the developing world," he said.

The SciDev.Net website serves 12,500 registered users and has become "a bit of a one-stop shop" for information on science and technologies in developing countries. The organization has developed its own team of regional correspondents and with 15 of them onsite in Montréal, Dickson said the World Conference would be a first opportunity for a segment of the network to meet face to face.

The SciDev.Net network is gradually developing a more formal structure, Dickson noted. The first regional networks were established in Sub-Saharan Africa in 2002 and Latin America in 2003. The next two will be launched in South Asia (November 2004) and China (June 2005). Eventually, SciDev.Net will operate six regional networks covering the entire developing world.

The organization has also produced a variety of communication materials to support science communications and help science journalists develop basic skills, and is planning a mentoring program to enable science journalists in the industrialized north to share their experience with southern colleagues. Specific areas of interest include the role of science communications in society and the use of information technology to report HIV/AIDS science.

Arab Science Journalists' Association

A representative of the Arab Science Journalists' Association, Ms. Bothina Osama, journalist with IslamOnline (www.arabsciencejournalists.com ) expressed her delight at the opportunity to "introduce a dream that will soon come true." She noted that science journalism in the Middle East is generally limited to small weeklies, or to telecasts that are "far from prime time." Science stories are commonly translated from western media, and rarely deal with the link between science and development. Science journalists often encounter a cold shoulder from editors and producers, and training is rarely available.

At a recent meeting in Cairo, supported in part by IDRC and the Canadian International Development Agency, science journalists from a half-dozen countries across the region agreed on the importance of setting up a network. The group has 87 members, including about 20 active participants from seven countries, and has agreed on a mission to

  • promote better science reporting in the region
  • support a higher level of professionalism among Arab science communicators
  • help members of the general public understand how science affects their lives
  • promote communication of scientific developments in Arab countries to the outside world
  • improve the flow of information between the scientific community and the general public
  • take positions on specific science issues
  • encourage the exchange of skills and ideas among Arab science journalists
  • publish an annual report on the quality of science coverage in Arab media
  • encourage professional development and education for science journalists in the region
  • encourage publishers and broadcasters to devote more time to science coverage
  • develop a website for science journalists in the region.


A headquarters will likely be established in Egypt in the next couple of months.

Questions and answers

In a brief question and answer period, a participant said members of his national association had questioned the value of funding a world federation. But he acknowledged the value of helping science journalists to share their experiences, "empowering our own values," and assisting emerging associations, and pledged support for a mentoring initiative. He also expressed enthusiasm for SciDev.Net and encouraged Dickson to consider setting up an international awards program to which member associations could contribute. Degett acknowledged that fundraising has been an issue for some associations, but suggested that sponsorships might supply the minimum funds the Federation will require to function.

A participant traced the early history of the Federation and the World Conference, recalling the important role of the Hungarian Association of Science Journalists and the European Union of Science Journalism Associations. He said it was clear from the outset that science journalists had a number of common interests and shared challenges.

James Cornell of Boston, USA, President of the International Science Writers Association (http://internationalsciencewriters.org/ ) agreed that science journalists had long recognized the advantages of "bonding together as a large organization." The benefits range from tangible issues like intellectual property protection to the opportunity to pool the "buying power" or political clout of the various national associations.

Host proposals for WCSJ 2006

Cornell recalled a time when the World Conference was dismissed as a "plush getaway for retired science writers." Today, he said, "it turns out that conferences of this sort have a very important value," yielding lasting results like SciDev.Net. "The thing I find so extraordinary is that people are now actually vying for these meetings," with five countries lined up to host the 2006 event.

He suggested a formula for a successful host committee proposal: Finances, foundation (in the structure and standing of the national organization), faithfulness to a focus on supporting journalism, faculty, federation, freeway, facilities, friends, future, and finesse of the host community and its culture.

Participants heard brief presentations from five prospective host communities.

Trieste, Italy

  • A focus on the cultural and social consequences of science and technology, as well as the science itself
  • 'An understanding of science journalists' responsibility to use their power as opinion leaders
  • Strong support from a variety of local organizations
  • Host community with a great history as a meeting place for cultures, scientists, and artists from around the world
  • Major centre for basic and applied scientific research, including science communication
  • Track record of past international meetings of science journalists in 1991 and 1999
  • New science centre to be complete by late 2005
  • 6,800 hotel beds, two airports, 4,000 square metres of exposition space, meeting space for 1,100
  • Social program linked to scientific centres in Trieste, Venice, Slovenia, Croatia


Valencia, Spain

  • Joint bid by Spanish Association of Science Journalists and colleagues in Catalonia
  • Support from the three largest cities in Spain, Valencia, Barcelona, and Madrid from four major universities in those communities, and from the national government
  • Meeting to be hosted in a large, integrated complex devoted to science and the arts
  • Past experience with international meetings, most recently the International Planetarium Society


Melbourne, Australia

  • Great range of scientific activities and resources across the country, including astronomy, palaeontology, biology and biodiversity, solar energy, nuclear waste containment, cloning, global warming, xenotransplantation, medical science
  • National science communicators' society with 500 members across the country
  • Conference committee includes some of the country's leading science journalists
  • Host community seen as Australia's science capital
  • Past experience with international congresses, most recently the 19th International Conference of Genetics
  • Multicultural setting with more than 200 languages
  • Four proposed program streams: The big issues, exploring science journalism, science refreshers, and satellite meetings of associated organizations
  • Interest in public engagement through community forums, lectures, debates
  • Range of opportunities for delegate tours
  • Ambitious sponsorship targets based on past experience


Munich, Germany

  • Local capacity to host millions of people, demonstrated by annual Oktoberfest
  • City is well known for its brewing technology, more recently for specialties in biotechnology, advanced automotive research, nanoscience, high-altitude research, as well as presence of a major European observatory
  • Unique collection of technical and scientific exhibits in one of the largest museums in the world, headed by a nanoscientist who strongly supports science communication
  • Complementary events in summer 2006, including European Science Open Forum July 15-19, which has expressed interest in possible synergies
  • Plans taking shape for a huge Science in the City program
  • Capacity to draw attendees to a central location from all over Europe
  • Strong financial support from local industry and research organizations as well as national foundations
  • EU support that would apply equally to other European bids
  • Proponent is the oldest organization of science writers in the world, celebrating its 75th anniversary in October
  • Proposed program tracks include science in the Third World Media, science journalism in the Third and First World, brain drain/brain gain and journalists, and how to survive and overcome information overload
  • Potential financial benefits linked to synergies with ESOF make 2006 a unique year for Munich to host the conference


China

  • (Lead proponent was unavailable to present in English.)
  • Legislated government support for a policy of communicating science news to the public
  • Opportunity to support a developing country directly through site selection
  • Broad-based support from science journalists
  • Track record with other international events, including upcoming Asia-Pacific Symposium on Press and Scientific and Social Progress
  • 2008 Olympic theme of Science, Culture, and Development ties in with science journalism


Melbourne, Australia, was selected as the location of the 2006 Conference and the announcement was made on the following Thursday meeting.

Thursday, 7 October 2004

Election of Board Members of the World Federation of Science Journalists and Final Meeting of the Executives of the National Associations

The meeting opened with Véronique Morin, President of the World Federation of Science Journalists welcoming everyone. She named most of the people present at the meeting, thanked all participants for their attendance and suggested to start with clarifying who is member of the WFSJ, and who has the right to vote.

The list of current members included:

The International Science Writers Association (ISWA)

ASIA

Chinese Society for Science and Technology Journalism (CSSTJ)
Japanese association of Science and technology Journalists (JASTJ)
Medical Journalists Association of Japan
KOSRA (Korea Science Reporters Association)
Australian Science Communicators

EUROPE

European Union of Science Journalists' Associations
In addition to the collective membership of the 22 EUSJA organisations, three European Associations have wished to join WFSJ as individual members.
The Irish Science Journalists Association (ISJA)
Journalistenvereinigung für technisch-wissenschaftliche Publizistik, Germany (TELI)
Asociación Española de Periodismo Científico (AEPC)

AMERICAS

Colombian Association of Science Journalism (ACPC),
Canadian Science Writers' Association
Association des communicateurs scientifiques du Québec

NEW MEMBERS

Representatives from the following associations announced that their members were in favour of joining the World Federation:

  • Catalan Association of Science Journalists
  • Asociacion Argentina de Periodismo Cientifico
  • Associação Brasileira de Jornalismo Científico (ABJC)
  • Russian Association of Science Writers and Journalists 'INTELLECT'


The Quebec Association's representative suggested that the associations that had voted to become members be entitled to vote at this meeting, pending receipt of their official acceptance letters.

New members were present from France, Russia, Finland, Switzerland, Croatia, Denmark, Italy, Sweden, Hungary, Brazil, Catalan, and Argentina.

In addition, Pallab Ghosh, president of the Association of British Science Writers (ABSW) stood up to say he was initially skeptical about the WFSJ before coming to Montreal, but that he had changed his mind, after seeing the 4th World Conference, and he realized the WFSJ was an extremely worthwhile project which he intended to recommend to his members at their next annual assembly in January. Mr Ghosh say that as chair of ABSW, he will tell his members that ABSW should become a member of the WFSJ.

Along the same lines, Laura Van Dam, president-elect, National Association of Science Writers, United States, stood up to say she would also recommend to her Board to have NASW becoming a member of the WFSJ, but did not specify when she would raise the matter with her association. She said that herself and Deborah Blum (the current president) were prepared to help in any way they could in the meantime. Margriet van der Heijden, president of the Association of Dutch Science Writers (VWN), also stood up and said that she would recommend the Association of Dutch Science Writers (VWN) to become a member of the WFSJ as well.

Before the actual vote took place, the assembly adopted some amendments to the WFSJ constitution.

Constitutional Amendment #1
Members of the board are to be elected every two years when the Federation meets.

Constitutional Amendment #2
Federation fees will be received from member associations on a voluntary basis. The Federation will accept offers from member associations, and they will be treated as fees. This will assist developing countries in becoming members.

It is proposed that fees be kept voluntary until 2006, when fixed amounts will be set.

Constitutional Amendment #3
Regarding the line in the Constitution that deals with the location of the office for legal and administrative purposes, the new location will be the physical site of the secretariat.

Véronique Morin said that the vice-president of Radio-Canada in Montréal, Daniel Gourd, had offered an office for the Federation at the CBC building. She suggested a transition period of 4 months (until January 2005) between the move from the actual office at the European Science Foundation in Strasbourg to the proposed office in Montreal. The proposition was well received and all constitutional amendments approved.

Elections of the Board of the World Federation of Science Journalists

New Board

Following elections, the Board of the World Federation of Science Journalists now consists of the following individuals:

Past President: Véronique Morin (Canada)
President: Wilson da Silva (Australia)
Vice President: Istvan Palugyai (Hungary)
Treasurer: Mariko Takahashi (Japan)
Secretary: Diran Onifade (Nigeria)
Member at large: Pallab Ghosh (United Kingdom)
Member at large: Lisbeth Fog (Colombia)

Creation of a Finance Committee and of a Programme Committee

Finance Committee

Mariko Takahashi (Chair)
Kaianders Sempler (Sweden)
Jan Rydman (Finland)
Werner Hadorn (Switzerland)

Programme Committee

Pallab Ghosh (Chair)
Deborah Blum (United States)
Lisbeth Fog (Colombia)
Wolfgang Goede (Germany)
James Cornell (United States)
Nadia El-Awady (Egypt)


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