Struggle with politics

Struggle with politics

(Lead: This Wachter, freelance science journalist)

In a worldwide project, we propose to present long-term profiles of newly politically active scientists.

Scientists in many countries are under attack. The political situations in nations like the US, Russia, Hungary, Turkey and many others show that science and research are under strong pressure from governments. The organisers of the March for Science on 22 April 2017 described their moti- vation to protest on the streets with these words: “Budget cuts, censorship of researchers, disappearing datasets, and threats to dismantle government agencies harm us all, putting our health, food, air, water, climate, and jobs at risk. It is time for people who support science to take a public stand and be counted.”

There are more and more scientists getting politically active to fight for evidence-based decision making, for open access to scientific results and for fair distribution of the benefits of scientific discoveries. This is one of the most important issues in science journalism today. But science policy is also one of the most under-reported areas of our field. Too often science journalists don’t cover the political side of science and research. And political journalists don’t cover it either because it seems too close to science.

We want to change this and we believe that our long-term project can help. The idea, which would be under the auspices of the WFSJ if Lausanne is chosen to host the WCSJ 2019, is to fund seven science journalists to accompany politically active scientists for almost two years and portray their life and struggle. We want to understand why scientists get involved with politics, what they achieve and where they fail, what their colleagues think about their efforts and how this activism changes science itself. We also want the journalists involved to reflect on their role in that process, being something in between a watchdog and a cheerleader for science, as they cover science policy issues.

Outline of the project:

The goal is to present seven developing multimedia stories in English on the website of WCSJ 2019. The stories should contain not only text and photos, but video and/or audio as well. They should cover the timescale of the whole project, and very probably be segmented into different moments and situations with the scientist throughout the duration. The idea is to really follow a scientist in his or her tasks and actions to foster sound science policy and awareness of the crucial role of science in a democracy, and to describe the evolution of the scientists’ thoughts on these matters.

Each story will come from a different place in the world and be covered by a science journalist. The participating journalists are free to publish their profiles in their media and language as well.

A project team will manage the project and the website. The project team is based in Switzerland and consists of two journalists and one website manager.

Casting of the profiles:

The search for interested journalists and scientists will be carried out with the help of the worldwide network of science journalists’ associations, through the WFSJ.