16|02|14: Why I am standing for the position of Honorary Secretary

Bildschirmfoto 2016-02-20 um 13.12.15The election committee for the 2016 EUSJA board elections–Mercè Piqueras, Jesper Madsen and István Palugyai–asked each nominee to send a short CV, a photo and his (her) short view on EUSJA, the European Union of Science Journalists‘ Associations. The list of candidates with this information will be sent to all National Associations at least a month before the next General Assembly on March 19, 2016, in Strasbourg (France) to give each association time for discussion beforehand. Here is my presentation, in a slightly extended version then actually requested:

I will not pretend that I am a science journalist. I used to be a science journalist before I became a science communicator (of a basic research institute funded largely by the public). But I consider my years as science journalist as formative for my career and, more, for any of my professional activities, be they for money, for reputation, or for both. This central relevance of science journalism broadly explains why I am standing for the position of Honorary Secretary on the EUSJA board for the election at the General Assembly on March 19, 2016, in Strasbourg (France).

Stating the obvious, society more than ever relies on science to resolve today’s challenges. The findings of science have to be communicated and explained to society. At the same time the findings need to be scrutinized and evaluated in the context of society, especially regarding their impact on it; lest us not forget that a number of problems we are dealing with on a global scale today stem from the questionable or unreflected application of scientific findings and their technological applications.

Science relies on peer review: learned experts from the same field or related areas test a hypothesis, give advice for improvement, approve a new approach, or reject it if the new idea proves wrong. As any testing system peer review also has its flaws, e.g. bias or ignorance on the part of the peer. But in absence of any more convincing method peer review has continued to be the benchmark for scientific progress.

Science journalism is (if at its best) the peer review of society. It can put a new method or idea into a wider perspective than “just” science, relate the scientific approach to other societal fields like the arts, politics, education or entertainment, trigger clarification processes, and encourage new lines of thought. Through this, science journalism can contribute to the enlightenment of society.

To enable science journalism to achieve this function numerous factors are required. For the sake of brevity I will limit the explanation to one single prerequisite: properly trained and permanently educated science journalists who can act as independently as possible owing to a sound economic foundation of their own existence and their publication platforms. The role of EUSJA in this context is to strengthen and support science journalists

  • by offering a network of like-minded actors,
  • by publically gaining attention and speaking up in favour of independent science journalism,
  • by putting the necessity of science journalism onto the agenda of societal conversations,
  • by examining and denouncing intentions to confuse the distinctions between science journalism, science communication and public relation.

I would like to contribute to achieving of these goals by acting as Honorary Secretary of the European Union of Science Journalists’ Association.

For a picture and my CV (plus some of my work in German and English) please see http://www.oliverlehmann.at/notizen/blurb-cv/

Vienna, February 14, 2016