Doc. 8408
7 May 1999

Scientific communication and European media

Motion for a resolution

presented by Mr Fernández Aguilar and others

This motion has not been discussed in the Assembly and commits only

the members who have signed it

1.       At the present time, public and political attention ever more frequently focuses on numerous subjects of a scientific and technological nature. For that reason, scientific communication has today become a strategic instrument of prime importance in allowing both public opinion and political decision-makers to be guided on highly sensitive issues such as energy, pollution, bioethics, new technologies, space exploration and transport.

2.       Keeping society constantly informed of scientific and technological developments is crucially important in ensuring that all research and development activity is widely supported by the general public.

3.       The two-way flow of information between scientists and the general public thanks to the media enables political decision-makers to weigh up in good time the pros and cons of current developments in the fields of science and technology. Scientists, decision-makers and the general public form a triangle in which journalists are best placed to act as go-betweens and as vectors of scientific information.

4.       The media perform a direct and indirect role in public debate whose influence is in the ascendant. Inadequate or inaccurate information can have adverse effects on the decision-making process, which means an increasing burden of responsibility for journalists.

5.       The greatest challenge which non-specialised media are expected to meet is that the information, minus its pure science content for consumption by the general public, must nevertheless retain sufficient of its essentials to be understood in its full complexity. Only in complete knowledge of the facts can the general public pass the appropriate feed-back to political decision makers and through them to scientists.

6.       Another point to be considered is that by and large the journalists in scientific media have a solid scientific or technical grounding, which is not always the case for journalists in non-specialised media dealing with science and technology questions. They should receive specific training so as to acquire a minimum of relevant knowledge.

7.       The Assembly welcomes the move made by its Committee on Science and Technology to organise, in conjunction with the European Science Foundation and media representatives and with the French parliamentary office for the assessment of scientific and technological choices, a hearing on scientific communication and European media which will attempt to determine the needs and constraints of the various agencies involved in European scientific and technological communication, and also to pinpoint the difficulties and obstructions in the scientific and technological information sequence from generation and preparation to dissemination.

8.       Particular attention will be given to the difficulties faced by specialist scientific publications. The hearing will attempt to define action to be taken to enable such publications to survive, taking into account their low readership levels and their importance for the scientific community.

9.       The impact of the Internet on scientific communication will also be analysed. Practical methods will be sought to ensure that scientific information carried on the Internet is appropriate.

10.       The Assembly invites the governments of the Council of Europe member states and the European Union to encourage the development of appropriate means for conveying scientific and technological information at both national and continental level, paying attention to the situations of all agencies concerned: research bodies, enterprises and media.

Signed : 1

Fernandez Aguilar, Spain, EPP/CD

Beaufays, Belgium, EPP/CD

Guirado, Spain, SOC

Kurucsai, Hungary, EPP/CD

Plattner, Switzerland, SOC

Raskinis, Lithuania, EPP/CD

Roseta, Portugal, EPP/CD

Tiuri, Finland, EDG

Wittbrodt, Poland, EPP/CD

Wodarg, Germany, SOC

1        SOC: Socialist Group

      EPP/CD: Group of the European People’s Party

      EDG: European Democratic Group

      LDR : Liberal, Democratic and Reformers’ Group

      UEL: Group of the Unified European Left

      NR: not registered in a group