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Scenes from The University of Rhode Island

URI Metcalf Institute awarded grant for science journalism workshops Project

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Narragansett, RI -- August 16, 2004 -- The Metcalf Institute for Marine and Environmental Reporting at the University of Rhode Island Graduate School of Oceanography (GSO) was awarded a $166,838 grant to support a continuing series of workshops for climate scientists and environmental journalists. This national workshop project works to help scientists and journalists gain a better understanding of the other's work culture and practices with the ultimate goal of improving public understanding of science through the media.

The science journalism workshop project is funded by a two-year grant from the Paleoclimate Program, Division of Atmospheric Science, National Science Foundation, and by a second-year grant from the Environmental Protection Agency's Office of Air Programs. The multi-year project is being managed by the Metcalf Institute. In the first year of the planned three-year project, Metcalf hosted two-day workshops with twelve invited science and environmental journalists and twelve climate/marine scientists. Detailed workshop reports on both of those sessions are available online at Metcalf Institute and at Environment Writer.

"Journalists and scientists depend on each other in their efforts to provide the public with understandable science-based information," said Bud Ward, workshop coordinator. "If they can better understand each other's work culture, ethic, and ‘modus operandi,’ the public will be better served in understanding complex science issues reported through the mass media. Both journalists and scientists--and most importantly, the public--will emerge as winners."

Journalism participants at the initial two workshops included reporters and editors from news organizations such as the Associated Press, The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, Science and Nature magazines, BBC, CNN, and leading regional newspapers. Scientists involved in the initial two workshops have included leading atmospheric, climate, and marine scientists, including the recipients of the 1995 Nobel Prize for Chemistry.

“The workshop project focuses not on breaking news in the climate science, but rather on communications challenges facing journalists and scientists in reporting on science-related news in today's mass media,” said Metcalf Institute Executive Director Jackleen De la Harpe.

The first two workshops were held at the University of Rhode Island's W. Alton Jones campus (November 2003) and at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography, in La Jolla, California (March 2004). The third workshop will be held November 8-10, 2004, in cooperation with the University of Washington in Seattle.

Beyond the planned University of Washington meeting, additional workshops in the project--each involving a new and expanding set of invited journalism and science participants--are being organized in the Southeast and in the Midwest, with exact university-affiliated locations and dates still to be decided.

Additional information and details on the workshop project will be reported in Environment Writer and on the Metcalf Institute website.

The Metcalf Institute was established in 1997 with an endowment from the foundations of three news organizations: A.H. Belo Corporation, owner of the Dallas Morning News and parent company of The Providence Journal, The Providence Journal Company, and the Philip Graham Fund, the foundation of The Washington Post. Additional funding was provided by the Telaka Foundation. The institute was established with the intent of helping journalists become better informed about science and research and to strengthen communication between journalists and scientists.