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Thursday, 25 June 2009

NEWS: EUSJA fighting to preserve science journalists' reputation

The European Union of Science Journalists' Associations (EUSJA) is working hard to defend science journalism and extend collaboration in the face of hard times.

You think politicians have a lousy reputation - what about journalists? An extensive survey carried out by the German Institute of Communication Sciences has just released results showing that two thirds of the German public think journalists are lazy and corrupt. And in Russia, science journalists are considered on par with those that write horoscopes!

When news of swingeing cuts in staff jobs amongst science writers started emerging, the European Union of Science Journalists' Associations (EUSJA) swung into action and has started a steady defence and PR exercise on behalf of the profession. At its General Assembly meeting in Trieste in March many of the 26 delegates reported freelance work has become harder, with rates being reduced and many facing problems trying to hang on to their jobs.

Delegates returned to their own countries determined to raise their profile. Already some associations have increased membership, particularly the Czech group, and others are planning membership drives, organising more events and trying to make commissioning editors aware of who they are and what they do.

At the 2009 World Conference of Science Journalists, EUSJA is running a seminar and debate, “Promises, Promises…” that aims to cement the reputation of science journalists as being a true and trusted source of knowledge and not merely interpreters of science. EUSJA president, Hajo Neubert will also travel to Paris to address a meeting of the European Science Foundation, which is examining the range of science coverage across the continent.

Elsewhere at EUSJA, efforts to organise more study trips have paid off. ABSW members are booked in for funded trips to Lindau, Germany, for a meeting of Chemistry laureates and others will be travelling to various research centres of the Helmholtz Foundation in Germany. There are more proposed trips coming up so keep an eye on the ABSW website and blog.

The French are working on a series of meetings on the nanotechnology between experts and the public, and want to enlarge them by inviting foreign science writers to discuss how the topic is considered and covered in different countries. The Finns are forging ahead with their own plans to be the next hosts of the World Conference of Science Journalists. Already much of the money is in place, helped by the Finns’ canny approach to raising funds. Anybody who attends overseas events can’t help noticing just how many Finnish science journalists there are. This is because their association collects, on behalf of all its members, royalties and rights, slices off a percentage and puts the rest back in the general kitty. Everybody is pleased. Writers often receive payments for appearances in publications they had no idea about and the Finnish group is able to fully-fund its members for trips as far away as the American Association for the Advancement of Science's Annual Meeting each year.

EUSJA will have a stand at next year’s European Science Open Forum (ESOF) meeting in Torino, Italy, and has submitted a proposal to have a programme slot. For more information about EUSJA please visit their website.

Barbie Drillsma
Vice President, EUSJA

Please contact Barbie if you have issues to raise at EUSJA meetings.