Within this background context, the Directorate-General for Research of the European Commission is organising the first European Forum on Science Journalism in December 2007 in Barcelona with the aim of improving the media coverage of European research. In particular, the Forum is expected to discuss the actions that can be taken to improve the visibility of EU research in the media.
In preparation for this event, DG Research commissioned a study of the views of a selected sample of researchers across Europe on the portrayal of European research in the media. The overall goal of the study was to analyse the views and perceptions of researchers on how European research is presented and covered in and by the media in Europe.
The study involved in-depth telephone interviews with a sample of 100 researchers who have participated in projects funded by the European Commission's Research Framework Programme, based on the excellence of their scientific work. Researchers from all Member States and representing a broad spectrum of scientific fields were interviewed in order to adequately reflect different sub-groups.
The fieldwork and data reporting were undertaken by The Evaluation Partnership (TEP) and Deloitte between end April and mid June 2007.
The interviews aimed at discussing in detail the specific experiences of researchers when communicating their work to wider audiences, and the importance that each assigns to communication issues. In particular, it was important to assess the degree and types of initiatives taken by researchers in their relation with the media, and their average exposure to different media channels – including TV, radio and newspapers.
The overall view that researchers hold of the relation between the scientific community and the media was also assessed, as was the comparison between the coverage exercised by the different types of media. The perceptions on the positive and negative aspects of the quality and quantity of science coverage in the media led to the discussion of the existence of a potential "mismatch" in what scientists might wish to see receiving media coverage and what the media might see as newsworthy, and of solutions that might help to fight the differences.
In this general context, researchers were then asked to provide their views on the media’s coverage of European-funded science. Interviewees were requested to rate the relation between European-funded scientists and the media, and in particular to assess the degree to which the European dimension of their scientific was of interest to the media in comparison to the work carried out at national level.
Researchers were also asked to reflect on the evolution of the communication of science and its relationship with the media throughout the life span of their careers, and on their expectations towards the future of media’s coverage of science.
Their views on what each side – the media and the scientific community – can do to improve communication of research results were also tested.
Finally, the study aimed at collecting the views of researchers on the current degree and type of support for scientists in dealing with the challenges involved in communicating their science to the media; and at discussing alternative tools, information and initiatives that they would like to see out in place – both for scientists and for media representatives.