In this newsletter we outline the last conference day, Thursday, 27 June; after it, on Friday, the WCSJ2013 participants will spread all over Finland and Estonia for numerous post-conference tours.
The main theme of Thursday is “Our vulnerable world” and this is reflected in the day’s sessions: many of those touch the climate change and related issues.
This starts with the morning plenary, produced by Raili Leino, technology writer from Finland, who is asking “What do you mean climate change?”. This plenary will bring forward the thoughts of journalists working at the heart of climate change reporting at a time of intense media uncertainty. Is it time for a shift in focus? What is there to say (and think) about mass migrations, evacuations, living conditions, and food and water resources?
After the plenary the participants have an unique opportunity to take a ride to Helsinki’s eventful Cold War history. The Cold War Tram, an actual tram driving through the city that was one of the hottest spots during the Cold War.
Threatened, but never occupied by the Soviet Red Army during World War II, Helsinki later on played the role of a Soviet city in Hollywood films. In 1975 the leaders of the world gathered in Helsinki to attend the CSCE, a meeting that changed Helsinki — and later the world.
The Cold War Helsinki Tram Tour is hosted by researchers from the Aleksanteri Institute of the University of Helsinki and the Ylioppilasteatteri theater company will dramatize important events. Is it Mr Brezhnev or Mr Bond that you will meet during the tour?
A limited amount of tickets available from the University’s THINK CORNER at Porthania during the conference for only two tours, starting at 11.00 and 14.30.
More traditional morning sessions include these:
Poles apart: the international reporting on climate scepticism will look into the phenomenon of climate scepticism in international reporting, and explore whether social responsiveness to climate change is impacted by the prevalence of climate scepticism in media reports. The chair of the session will be Dr Aarathi Prasad, an established science writer from the UK.
Weird weather, Global Climate Change and the Media, session moderated byCristine Russell from the US, will offer practical guidance on how to write about this complex subject in different regions of the world. As extreme weather is cropping up around the globe with increasing frequency, science, environment and health writers have a challenge — and an opportunity — to improve public understanding of extreme weather and climate change amidst a barrage of hyped or often incorrect media coverage. Luckily many surveys show that the public increasingly believes that climate change is at least partially to blame for the recent wave of weather disasters.
The psychology of risk perception: fears, facts, and Fukushima will summarize what has been revealed by research about the subjective and emotional nature of risk perception and why people’s fears often do not match the facts. It will offer explanations for ‘science denialism’ and public feelings about a wide range of issues – from vaccines, to climate change, and to genetically modified food.
The session will also examine the disaster at the Fukushima nuclear power plant as a dramatic example of the powerful role that risk perception plays in the public’s understanding of science.
The first part of the session will be led by David Ropeik, the writer of the blog ‘Risk: Reason and Reality’ at Big Think.com, and the second portion will be presented by Fukushima disaster specialist Hajime Hikino, the Science Editor for the Chunichi Shimbun in Japan.
Crossover journalism: Hot stuff in the Arctic is focusing to the Arctic. The northern polar area is undergoing a rapid change from being a remote and marginal region to becoming a central stage in research, economics and politics. The session gives an introduction to the complexity of the subject from many angles: climate change, exploitation of energy and mineral resources, global transport routes, sustainability and changing ecosystems, rights of indigenous peoples, foreign and security policy in a number of countries, just to mention a few. What is happening in the Arctic has global ramifications and concerns us all.
This session is produced by Risto Alatarvas, Markku Heikkilä and Harriet Öster from Finland.
Dr Karin Weyer from World Health Organization, Dr Zarir Udwadia from Mumbai and Dr Videlis Nduba of Kenya will debate what total drug resistance could mean for the world, and how to stop this ticking time bomb.
The European Commission is launching a new strategy to connect research and citizens. The current one, science in society, will be integrated into HORIZON 2020. One of the afternoon’s sessions, HORIZON 2020 – How science journalists tie into the new EU strategy, modertaed by Barbara Drillsma, president of the European Union of Science Journalists’ Associations EUSJA, asks what is the new approach to bridge the gap between the research and the public sector all about. How will scientists try to reach the society with their work and how will this be communicated?
“The world is very hungry for energy!” writes session producer Pallava Baglafrom New Delhi Television & Science. “In times of climate change and exploding atomic reactors how are journalists coping with reporting on issues related to nuclear energy, the only source of sustainable carbon-free electricity generation? Secrecy is the second name of this industry. The challenges and pitfalls of reporting on nuclear energy are immense.”
This session is moderated by Peter Rickwood.
Science coverage of indigenous people will be about the concept of knowledge of the indigenous peoples. Their traditional ways of thinking often clash with critical analysis and Cartesian scientific thinking, resulting difficult balancing act between respect for traditional knowledge and the scientifically-validated facts – especially in medicine and health issues.
In Canada, the main health-funding agency has drafted a set of specific rules directed to scientists who wish to carry out research in Aboriginal communities. These rules include obtaining approval from the indigenous people. Should the same set of rules apply to science journalists? If so, what might such rules look like? How might they be enforced? And could they undermine the integrity and independence of science journalism?
David Dickson, founding director and former editor of SciDev.Net, will debate this issue with reporters experienced with science and medical coverage of Indigenous peoples.
Fresh-Smelling Broadcast looks at the numerous animal videos online and wonders why people want to hear more about bodily emissions than carbon emissions. We’ll look at and listen to some sample programs and talk about fresh ideas for reporting in broadcast and print media. The Helsinki-based producers Minttu Heimovirta and Rae Ellen Bichell ask the participants to bring themselves, their good questions, and their even better ideas to Kino Engel movie theatre, surely the most comfortable venue of the afternoon sessions.
Tough topics: Neglected diseases in the world explores the barriers and the opportunities to cover the problem of tropical diseases that affect roughly one in six people globally, mostly the very poor. These diseases may not directly result in high mortality rates, yet cause much morbidity, suffering and poverty. The patient numbers have been growing in developed countries due to increased population movements. Despite neglected tropical diseases are global health issue, they do not receive media coverage appropiately. This session is proposed and moderated by Valeria Román from Argentina.
A session, sponsored by NordForsk, an organisation under the Nordic Council of Ministers providing funding for Nordic research cooperation and advice and input on Nordic research policy, will focus on artic area.
The closing plenary of the conference is titled “New Horizons”. It outlines the importance of science journalism for the new, emerging knowledge-based societies. There is an urgent need for quality science journalism serving as interpreter between science and the public. The key players in the field have expressed their wish to engage researchers, journalists, decision makers, science-based companies and the public in a dialogue to solve grand challenges the globe is facing today. Science journalists will work for a strong, professional identity and ask critical questions in the public sphere.
During this plenary the organisers from World Federation of Science Journalists and Finnish Association of Science Editors and Journalists will present analysis from the conference days. Satu Lipponen, president of the conference and FASEJ will sum up main themes.
After this, Vesa Niinikangas, president of the WFSJ, will announce the next World Conference place.
Final evening at Heureka
After the final plenary the participants will be bussed to Heureka, the Finnish Science Centre for closing reception and barbeque.
The evening will offer engaging science experiences both indoors and outdoors, including basketball-playing rats, a virtual Lapland winter trip under the Aurora Borealis in the digital planetarium, and an exclusive adult version of the phenomenal “Cool Fire” science show.
Heureka (opened 1989) is a cultural landmark in Finland, visited by close to 300 000 annual visitors. Its travelling science exhibitions have been experienced by more than 12 million people in over 20 countries on four continents.
Next newsletter will be about the post-conference tours
The full programme and details about the social activities are available online at wcsj2013.org.
WCSJ2013 is organised by Finnish Association of Science Editors and Journalists and the World Federation of Science Journalists with substantial aid from the Ministry of Education and Culture of Finland and University of Helsinki.