UNESCO’s Venice Office is behind a new drive to get science journalism on the agenda of science ministers in the Balkans.
A recent two-day UNESCO meeting in Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina (22-23 November) brought together experts, including science journalists and EUSJA members, to draft and present a list of priorities for regional collaboration and funding to science ministers from Albania, BiH, Bulgaria, Croatia, Greece, Macedonia, Montenegro, Moldova, Romania, Serbia, and Turkey.
Supporting science journalism was one of the five priorities highlighted in the outcomes as a “UNESCO roadmap towards the establishment of science communication and science journalism in the macro-region of the South-East of Europe”.
The aim is “to increase the quantity and quality of ethical science reporting in the media; to better educate journalists and media-savvy scientists; to train both specialised science journalists and general reporters and editors; to increase science literacy of readers, and to increase media access to quality science news from the region’s institutes, journals and researchers”.
The document calls for the development of “macro-regional networks of science journalists in synergy with national and regional science journalists associations; for funding of conferences and workshops for science journalists and journalists’ meetings with scientists, as well as funding of science journalists through direct funding of travel costs and grants; and establishing a prestigious prize for science journalism”.
It also calls for “setting up a regional science newsletter or PR service, modelling on independent, government-funded online based media services” such as ScienceNordic.com.
The ministers acknowledged the expert advice and signed a joint declaration which mentioned that “knowledge production and accessible diffusion play a key role for the enhancement of innovation, sustainable economic development, and social well-being” and agreed to “generate and encourage public understanding and awareness of science”.
Gretchen Kalonji, UNESCO Assistant Director-General for Natural Sciences, said: “I was intrigued to see that at the experts’ meeting there were quite a few presentations on science journalism, which is an important part, of course, of the popular understanding and support [for science].”
She said that building popular support, understanding and participation in science was one of the three pillars to strengthening capacity in science, technology and innovation, alongside policy and institutional capacity building.
Sanja Vlahović, Montenegro’s science minister, said the key elements suggested by the expert meeting should warrant further collaboration.
“One of these is the development of scientific journalism, where we would have better relationships with journalism to promote science, because we came to the understanding that a common challenge in our countries is that changes are more difficult to implement than in some other regions of the world,” Vlahović said.
Mario Scalet, head of science at UNESCO’s Regional Office for Science and Culture in Europe (Venice), told the ministers that one of the issues the expert meeting discussed was “a new network that could be launched soon – the network for science media – that we consider a very important aspect in society. One of the main critical points in this region is also awareness about the importance of science, so this network could help us in order to increase awareness of the importance of science in the region.”