EUSJA GA 2015: President’s Report–and More

EUSJA Spring 2015 Venue: BALTIC VENICE of the North (c) Goede
EUSJA Spring 2015 Venue: BALTIC VENICE of the North (c) Goede

At the end of March, EUJA held its annual General Assembly 2015, this time in the Swedish capital, thanks to Kaianders Sempler. He had invited to hold the meeting at his office, the Ny Teknik weekly newspaper in downtown Stockholm. EUSJA president Satu Lipponen delivered to delegates from around Europe a summary of one year’s energetic work dedicated to: Changing | Critical | Together.

Satu Lipponen’s President’s Report below will be followed up by three more reports: Testimonials of EUSJA delegates about the state of the art of science journalism in Europe and its controversial position between journalism and communication; and a study trip organized by Viola Egikova to Life Science Research Institutions in Stockholm.

The ”Venice of the North” is making great efforts to become the European hub of digital health. Soon on its waterfront right across the king’s palace a new scientific and architectural highlight will arise: a new Nobel Center as an educational platform for citizens and school children around the country. So stay tuned!

President´s Report

What it is to be a new EUSJA president? A lot of work. But with meaningful possibility to influence and to interact with talented people. It is much fun to learn from people across Europe.

This is my first report to the GA and for this reason I want to thank especially the Board members for being such a great support. All the decisions we have taken have been unanimous, although there have been long discussions and people need to compromise sometimes. We are working well together. And we have stayed friends. Together we made some far-reaching decisions in 2014.

Future is out there, let´s grasp it

EUSJA General Assembly 2015 Stockholm: Discussion of the President's Report (c) Goede
EUSJA General Assembly 2015 Stockholm: Discussion of the President’s Report (c) Goede

I took the presidency with a clear goal: to steer EUSJA towards new paradigm. My wish for the board was: let us concentrate what is ahead. We all try our best. That should be enough.

We formulated it into three words: Changing. Critical. Together.

I explain the reasons of choosing these words. They are based on plethora of recent studies both in strategic leadership, media and journalism (1).

  1. Changing

Changing came from a notion that any organisation needs to adapt, when its environment is changing. There is no “pure” journalism – but European science reporters who need to share common ethical principles, share experiences and get networked. We should look for talented journalists that seek for innovation. EUSJA must identify networks where it wants to make the difference. It needs friends and supporters. It needs inclusion, not exclusion. We will welcome investigative and data journalists, cross border collaboration, crowd-funding platforms and any science writer, broadcaster, graphic designer, visual story-teller or online community or event manager that is interested in research, media studies and science communications in general. It is not because we are selling our principles but because we need their expertise.

  1. Critical

Conventional science journalism is highly valued but publishing houses are letting people go, science institutions hire communicators and public relations personnel. It is eating science journalism from inside. Roles are blurred. It is a time for a strategic renewal. It must be done together and EUSJA needs to commit to its strategic plans. We must bridge ethical principles over digital divide. This is a goal that is intrinsically in EUSJA´s mission. We take good old practices to new environments that are more complex. If needed, we will develop new skills and professional rules. EUSJA does not compete with journalism schools but seeks collaboration. We also need to maintain the watch-dog attitude towards scientific institutions and science policy-makers.

  1. Together
EUSJA General Assembly 2015 Stockholm: Board responding to delegates' questions (c) Goede
EUSJA General Assembly 2015 Stockholm: Board responding to delegates’ questions (c) Goede

Co-creation means that everybody needs to participate. According to research, at first some people prefer to be by-standers. When strategy process is leading towards concrete actions, it is especially important to have contributions. People work together because it is much more effective than working alone. In Stockholm GA we will continue developing ideas together. We are looking for boundary-drawing power. EUSJA is a knowledge hub and needs to influence beyond its boundaries.

Strategy process in short

The road map is very simple. We condensed the strategy goals in 3 words at the board meeting right after the Vienna GA. We developed them into concrete actions in Copenhagen, June 2014, where EUSJA had its first strategy workshop. It was planned to be co-creative. Task leaders prepared actions and after the workshop memos and the results of the so called brain walks were approved by all participants. I have sent the material to the associations by email 12th October 2014.

EUSJA strategy launch was at the 1st European Conference of Science Journalists in Copenhagen. We announced strategic goals also at the press conference of Copenhagen ESOF.

Now the associations need to discuss the strategy 2015-2018 and its declaration in detail.

We will have yet another strategy session in Budapest, where the 2nd ECSJ is convening 3 November 2015. How we are going to go forward will be on agenda in Stockholm. EUSJA 45th anniversary is another topic that is good to be discussed together.

Four EU projects in 2014

EUSJA Family: Participants of the Study Trip to Stockholm's Life Science Labs (c) Antonio Calvo
EUSJA Family: Participants of the Study Trip to Stockholm’s Life Science Labs (c) Antonio Calvo

Apart from strategic work, EUSJA´s projects have been taking much of my time. EUSJA had four projects in 2014 with total EU budget of 271 000 euros and 7 journalists working in them –  but not administrative power to lead the projects. I had a very busy fall for this reason. EU projects have now been re-structured. We had a special Board meeting dedicated of EU projects in October.

EUSJA seat in Strasbourg has been strengthened and a big strategic step towards professionalism taken, when EUSJA Executive Secretary was selected at the end of 2014. We had excellent applicants in this job call. Thank you for Jens Degett for his work.

New Executive Secretary Ms. Johanne Martinez-Schmitt has already started her work. She will have detailed status updates from EUSJA projects. We will increase communication to the GA about our EU projects and they will be integrated better to EUSJA strategic goals.

We have three projects under planning.

The Board

In this GA there is one election: that of Honorary Treasurer. Priit Ennet has been a careful guardian of our money. EU project money will be handled from a special EU account and this is done with collaboration with Honorary Treasure and Executive Secretary.

Eclipse: Sun over Stockholm turns into a half moon (c) Goede
Eclipse: Sun over Stockholm turns into a half moon (c) Goede

Last fall Mr. Jens Degett, president of the Danish Association and president of the 1st ECSJ, was co-opted to the Board for 2 specific tasks: to develop fundraising strategy and collective compensation for intellectual property rights (IPR) and to liaison with the ECSJ process. Another co-opted Board Member, Mr. Menelaos Sotiriou, has given his valuable expertise in EU projects. I respect very much his knowledge and vision.

It is important that in the board there are special experts. Then the president, vice-president and Honorary Secretary and Honorary Treasurer have time for current activities.

Vice-president Viola Egikova has handled EUSJA study trips with devotion. The Moscow study trip was praised and we all can agree that it was at the core of EUSJA´s mission. There were 8 study trips and over 140 participants in them.

Wolfgang Goede, the Honorary Secretary has been irreplaceable in updating EUSJA website and drafting strategy documents with me. He has societal knowledge of science journalism and broad perspective to our field of expertise.

With Priit Ennet we share the vision of applying more e-work into EUSJA´s portfolio. Honorary Treasurer is central for developing good governance and sound financial control. If we open EUSJA membership to individuals as planned, we need to have cost-effective and modern tools at our disposal.

Fringe Benefit of EUSJA Study Trip: Investigation of the sun (c) Goede
Fringe Benefit of EUSJA Study Trip: Investigation of the sun (c) Goede

I look forward to working with Johanne Martinez-Schmitt. She has long experience with communications and EU projects.

Johanne Martinez-Schmitt has excellent possibility to develop EUSJA with her broad network in Strasbourg. During this year EUSJA will improve its day-to-day practices and prepare for the coming 45th anniversary in full confidence.

EUSJA covers the European region from Lissabon to Moscow and from Helsinki to Athens. We are crossing boundaries but not forgetting our professional ethos. In 2016 we will celebrate all those people that have made EUSJA a focal point of science journalism in Europe.

In 2014 EUSJA both gained and lost members.

We welcomed the Norwegian Science Journalists Association and we lost three members. Association of British Science Writers and Swiss Association of Science Journalism resigned in 2014. The Dutch Association (Vereniging voor Wetenschapsjournalistiek en -communicatie Nederland) was removed from the membership list beginning of 2015.

Thanks to heaven's powers: Full recovery of the evening sun (c) Goede
Thanks to heaven’s powers: Full recovery of the evening sun (c) Goede

(1) For example Chadwick A & Collister S: Boundary-Drawing Power and the Renewal of Professional News Organizations: The Case of The Guardian and the Edward Snowden National Security Agency Leak. International Journal of Communication 8 (2014), 2420-2441