EICOS, the ‘European Initiative for Communicators of Science’, is a European programme conducted.at the Max Planck Institute of Neurobiology and the Max Planck Institute of Biochemistry in Martinsried,near Munich. There are three goals: to provide an opportunity for journalists (‘Fellows’) to experience biomedical research at its cutting edge by doing it themselves,to let scientists (‘Tutors’) learn about the mechanisms and restraints under which journalists work,to foster communication between journalists from the various European countries.
EICOS invites once a year approximately twelve journalists from all of the media and from several European countries for one week into research laboratories at Martinsried to work side by side with scientists (‘Hands-on Laboratory’). Working together immediately facilitates excellent communication.This is further strengthened by social activities and discussion in the evenings over beer and wine.However, most of the time is spent at the bench.
Fellows are encouraged to spend an additional two weeks in first class biomedical research institutions in Germany, France, Italy, or Switzerland (‘External Assignments’), and at least half of the journalists are usually able to do so. Again, the emphasis is on laboratory experience and not on journalistic researching although the possibility to establish new contacts is highly appreciated by the journalists.
Funding is provided partly by the European Commission but mostly by private foundations and some government organisations.
The programme has now been run for six years. The overall response was extremely favourable as summarised by a French journalist: ‘Si EICOS n’existait pas, il faudrait l’inventer...’
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