World Federation of Science Journalists

World news round-up


March 27, 2007

(source: ISWA)

Research Information: Free Online

The Washington Post reported in early March that the Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI) –-which funds some US$600 million worth of biomedical research in the United States—has entered into an agreement with Dutch publisher Elsevier to post on the Web manuscripts of all research involving HHMI investigators within six months after it appears in an Elsevier journal.

Formerly, Elsevier had resisted free postings of such papers, arguing that it could hurt paid subscriptions to its journals. The HHMI will reduce that risk by paying the publisher US$1000 to $1500 per article posted.
To some observers, the broader significance of this development is that it gives further strength to the argument that similar arrangements should be made for all research supported by public monies, i.e., the federal government, the largest single source of research funding in the United States. Several US lawmakers agree that Americans should not have to pay costly subscriptions to see the results of research supported by their tax dollars. Legislation mandating free public access to such research results is expected to be introduced in the US Congress later this year.

[Interestingly, it seems that many scientists support the concept of open access in principle, but, not in practice. A survey of German scientists, cited in the March 16 issue of "Science," found that two-thirds of the respondents read open-access literature, but only one-third chose to publish that way. One commentator called it the "Jekyll-and-Hyde Syndrome," in which researchers act one way as readers and another as authors.]

The Daily Planet Online

A host of Swedish science, technical, and educational institutions, led by The Swedish Research Council, used the AAAS annual meeting to introduce a new public education campaign devoted to research on global change. The package includes a movie, a TV series, an online game for young people, and a multimedia website called "The Planet InFact." The website, premiered for the press in San Francisco, uses animation, stories, games, and interactive video to raise awareness of our planet's plight. And, unlike the other components, it is in English. Go to: www.forskning.se/theplanet


On-line Calendar of European Science Events

AlphaGalileo runs a web calendar of major European scientific meetings with listings for several months into the future. It's a great reference for anyone looking for events occurring on or about the time one is traveling to Europe. Go to Alphagalileo then click on "Calendar" in the pull-down list at the left. Access to this part is open to anyone; access to other parts may require registering as a "journalist."

New Guidelines for Scientists Communicating with the Media
The media are often accused of hyping research findings. But many distortions and misunderstandings arise because scientists themselves fail to communicate their results in a clear and meaningful way. As part of a European Commission FP6 project (MESSENGER), new guidelines for scientists on how to communicate more effectively with the media have been produced by the Social Issues Research Centre (SIRC) in partnership with the Amsterdam School of Communications Research. The Guidelines and other materials from the MESSENGER project are freely available at http://www.sirc.org/messenger/.

A Different Drummer for Awards and Funding Opportunities

The Drum Beat, an offbeat e-newsletter devoted to topics in development communication often devotes an entire issue includes to award and funding opportunities for journalists and others. Past summaries of this information, plus instructions on how to subscribe to the free newsletter, can be found at The Communication Initiative's website: http://www.comminit.com/

Latin American Science and Technology News Tips

NOTICyT is an e-bulletin of current sci-tech news from Latin America compiled by a team of journalists based in Bogota, Colombia. To subscribe to the English-language bulletin, send an e-mail to noticyt.acpc@urosario.edu.co Or check out their website at www.noticyt.org


German Freelancers Find a Survival Plan

Modern German journalists –faced with declining demand for full-time staff writers at traditional media—have come up with another kind of survival plan, but one that is certainly more benign –and potentially more beneficial to society--than that of their pre-War predecessors. In 2001, when a group of recent journalism trainees found that no jobs awaited them after graduation, they started freelancing. But not entirely on their own. Led by science writer Eva-Maria Schnurr, the former classmates formed a group dubbed "Plan 17" (the number of students in their class) that would find projects—both individual and group—for their members. Several other German groups have followed their lead, responding to the media's new business model that out sources content production. Writers in other parts of the world might take notice. More details appear the March/April 2007 "Columbia Journalism Review": http://cjr.org/


Science (Journalism?) Diplomacy

A thought-provoking article in the February 9 issue of "Science" suggests that scientists might be among America's most effective ambassadors. "Time for a New Era of Science Diplomacy" by Kristin Lord and Vaughan Turekian looks back to a time when personal relations between the scientists of different countries often transcended—and sometimes transformed—the political differences of their respective governments. The authors urge a renewal of this cross-cultural exchange between individual scientists. Their argument that scientists are in a unique position to carry out this diplomacy could, one might suggest, be extended to science journalists. The global interchanges of the World Conferences, the long-term personal networking fostered by ISWA, and, most recently, the extraordinary outreach efforts of the World Federation, including the twinning of such disparate groups as American and Arab associations, all offer evidence that science writers, too, can be good diplomats.

-vm27/03/2007.for:wfsj-