Science Communication With a View Over Sicily


Every year the Erice International School of Science Journalism hosts a course at the Ettore Majorana Foundation and Center for Scientific Culture. The view is spectacular and the historic town, Erice, located on the top of a mountain about 800m above sea level is a beautiful location for any kind of activity. What drew two colleagues from ITMO University there, however, was the chance to learn at one of the world’s best journalism schools together with scientists, journalists, scientific communicators and even parliamentarians who shared their experiences in the field of science communication.

Getting into this course is not for the faint of heart. One must fulfill several criteria. First to have professional experience as a science journalist or science communicator, or to be a study in a masters program for science journalism or science communication. Then one must complete a motivation letter in English. If you get a fellowship, all expenses are paid, with benefits for participants from EU countries, if not, one can pay their own way and still participate. ITMO University was represented at the course by Ekaterina Boglaeva, Head of the Public Relations Department, and Daria Denisova, Deputy Director of the Center for Science Communications.

Ms. Boglaeva shares how by participating in this course she was able to immerse herself “in an environment where science communicators work, and also better understand the mindset of such professionals and academics.” She also had the opportunity to meet “science journalists from other countries, with whom we discussed some of ITMO University’s latest scientific press-releases and exchanged contact information.”

“Fabio Turone, President of Science Writers in Italy & co-director of the course, believes that science communicators have a special responsibility for society and scientists. For many science communicators, the school in Erice becomes a point of rethinking their activities and this was no exception” explained Ms. Denisova.

This opportunity to meet with science communicators from over 20 countries, gave the representatives from ITMO University a chance to see challenges of science communication from other perspectives. They observed how one participant from Tokyo University explained that converting japanese scientific press releases into english is not as simple as just translating it but rather one must take into account peculiarities of language and culture, and even a structure that is based on a logic unusual for Western colleagues.

Ms. Boglaeva further explained how scientific news is all about “using a creative approach. It must be surprising and use the “WOW-element”. Then both journalists and society as a whole will find it interesting.”

According to Ms. Denisova the experience and new contacts made in Erice, will help with the implementation of the Master’s program  in Science Communication which will start in September.  

“Many of the participants had studied in such programs abroad or teach them now and so it was interesting to compare approaches to curriculum design and on what disciplines more emphasis was made. They were enthusiastic about possible collaboration and as per our request, provided a touching video for our future Master’s students explaining the potential of this chosen profession: the range of career paths are great, the research fields are wide, and education in this field of overlapping competencies is both timely and relevant.”