Atomium Culture and The Role of the Media in Responsible Research and Innovation – by Jens Degett

Atomium Culture sent an official response to this post, that can be read here:

Science communications is not only a question of telling nice stories that fascinate the public in the best positivistic style. It is a very important part of an advanced society to have an informed public who participate in an open dialogue and the democratic processes behind decision making. Some may see science mainly as a tool to improve economy, but this is only one aspect of science and not all technological developments are beneficial for society. Therefore it is important that the public is informed, understands and participates in the debate about science and technology in society. The shift in European science policy from aspiring to create the best science in the world and instead aiming at creating the best science for the world was the theme of a new series of meetings (EISRI conferences) which started during the Danish EU-Presidency in 2012, and this vision is being implemented in the overall Horizon 2020 strategy.

EISRI_2013_Dublin-responsible-media-Atomium-culture-controversyThe follow up meeting in Dublin, 25-26 February 2013 titled “The Role of the Media in Responsible Research and Innovation” was organized by Atomium Culture, a relatively new media organization in Europe, which wants to develop a European Science Media Centre. This new organization seems to be enigmatic in several ways. Its founder has no firm academic background, nor has he worked with science journalism or even science communication. The key executives also have a weak background in science journalism and communication. Yet, this organization is very well connected to former top politicians like Felipe Gonzáles and Valéry Giscard d´Estaing. In its short time of existence Atomium Culture has made connection to a number of newspapers, but what does this really mean? The content of most of these relationships seems rather empty. To me, their features in English posted in non-English newspapers’ web sites make no sense: readers can’t find them because those features aren’t presented anywhere else in the newspaper (whether in print or on the internet); English speaking readers already have much better sources for science news, even places where they can actually discuss them. This is an example of a top-down, one-way, obsolete, really poor science communication.

The meeting in Dublin was also somewhat detached from the former meeting in Odense, Denmark. This may not be surprising as Atomium Culture was not present at the meeting in Odense at all. For some reason Atomium Culture was allowed to steal the picture of the follow up conference completely. Both the invitation and the conference programme were written more like PR material for Atomium Culture than an EU-Conference under the Irish Presidency. There were some interesting political statements presented at the conference sessions but very little time to respond and discuss the different conference themes. Even worse was the selection of speakers where a new age pseudo science proponent speaking about the influence of black holes on our minds was put together in a session with highly estimated international scientists. I was thinking during this event. What is Atomium Culture trying to achieve? Why are they so eager to work with science communication? Why was this organization given the responsibility to organize the EISRI conference in Dublin with the support of 400.000 € from The European Commission? Does Atomium Culture really have something to contribute to the dialogue on science? You may have a look for yourself at their website:

Jens Degett,
Chair of the Danish Science Journalists Association