World Federation of
Science Journalists

UK science journalists join Federation

January 18, 2005 posted in Associations

Pallab Ghosh, Chair of the WFSJ's Programme Committee, wrote:

"I am delighted to announce that ABSW members unanimously voted to join the World Federation of Science Journalists at its annual general meeting on 12 January 2005. The outcome was largely due to the Canadian and Québec associations whose hard work and vision demonstrated what a World Federation can usefully achieve.

It's important though to continue to develop initiatives that will be of practical use to grass roots members rather than for the Federation to become an excuse for jet setting fun for a privileged few. As an international community of journalists we all have much to give and much to learn. The ABSW believes that we should work together to raise standards of journalism across the world. We believe that together we are stronger. We are delighted and honoured therefore to take our place among our colleagues across the world."

Pallab Ghosh, ex-chair ABSW*

*Note: Dr. Toby Murcott was elected the new president of ABSW.

Below is the report Pallab Ghosh made at the 12 January 2005 meeting of the ABSW.

"I went along to the 4th Annual Conference of Science Journalists in Montreal wondering what the point of such a meeting was. Part of my brief was also to work out whether the group that organized the meeting - the World Federation of Science Journalists - was anything more than yet another well intended but ultimately superfluous layer of bureaucracy whose main role was to spend large science communication grants gleaned from equally pointless funding organizations.

The answer that seemed to emerge during the course of the week was so simple it was odd that no one had really thought of it earlier: Journalism. Real Journalism - not the oxymoron that science journalism still is in many parts of the world including the UK.

On the first day of the Montreal meeting there was a session about drug company spin where speakers and delegates were sharing information about how firms were using soft money to hype up their results. So useful was the session that there are now plans to publish a resource document based on the session. IN another room was a graphics workshop where US and Argentinean journalists were talking about new approaches to explaining stories with graphics. Later that day was a session on the money trail were speakers were talking about how large corporate donations to leading research institutions were compromising their independence. Usefully names were named. And so it went on.

Another important strand was helping journalists from developing countries who have few resources and back up. The Canadian organizers paid for 40 delegates to come over and participate. Many told me how they felt more confident and more empowered as a result of attending many of these sessions. They also had a chance to meet commissioning editors particularly from the UK and US to see how they could pitch ideas to the international media.

The meeting served a useful purpose. Many sceptics like myself were won over. Heads of the American, Dutch and Finish national Associations will recommend to their membership that they now join the World Federation. I shall do the same.

The meeting was a good start. But it should not be an event solely of benefit to those who can afford to attend.

If a World federation is to serve a purpose its to use the net and member organizations to share experiences and best practice. We should also think of ways in which the larger national organizations can help the smaller ones. I firmly believe that together we are stronger. What's crucial though is that the prime directive of an international science federation is that it should exist to improve the standards of journalism across the world. If we can do that, then rather than being lost in translation - we'll all be speaking a common language."


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