ENS NEWS, N° 16:

Intro: The art of communicating science

We live in the age of the bit and the bite, of ROM and RAM, of software and hard drive. When we are not busy downloading information, photos or music onto a CD, a DVD, a GSM, or an MP3, we are blogging or texting or surfing. Of course, every age has its own language, with its own vocabulary. Language is, after all, a living thing that is fashioned by evolving social trends and technological developments. When it stops moving you know that it’s doomed. The mass of acronyms and linguistic shortcuts that we use today exemplifies how modern communications have evolved. In particular it reflects our insatiable appetite for receiving and processing ever-increasing amounts of information quickly. This need dictates that brevity, clarity and simplicity are paramount - not style, elegance or impeccable grammar. If our communications are unclear or take too long to get to the point, they are quickly disregarded - in much the same way that a time-constrained editor bins a press release that hasn’t grabbed him by the throat after the first couple of sentences.

To those of us brought up on such quaint notions as grammar and punctuation, it’s quite a shock to discover that to communicate successfully we need to speak a language that is rather like fast food - universally available, providing instant gratification and easily digested. Unfortunately, like some fast food, this kind of language is often more about packaging than content and nothing of real substance is communicated. Or is it?

Well, whether you are more comfortable with the Guide Michelin or the McDonalds schools of language, we all know that if we can’t master the language we can’t convey the message. For nuclear communicators it’s rather difficult to reduce concepts like transmutation, deep geological repositories or isotope enrichment to a simple concept that anyone can understand. Of course, there’s nothing new here. Science can often appear complex to non-scientists. But surely this is one area where we can and must improve if more people are to be made aware of and appreciate the many advantages of nuclear energy. At a time when the nuclear revival is in full flow, the premium on good communications is all the greater; but so too are the rewards. The anti-nuclear brigade is often very successful at using communications to influence public opinion. Of course, we shouldn’t resort to exploiting common fears and misconceptions like some of our opponents do, but we can learn from them. We need to constantly upgrade our communications skills and use them to emphasise the social, economic and environmental benefits that nuclear energy brings; that’s a language that everyone can understand. Frank Darwin, son of Charles, once famously said: “In science the credit goes to the man who convinces the world, not the man to whom the idea first occurs.”

Ultimately it’s all about results-oriented communications. There is little point in having something vitally important to say if you can’t communicate it effectively. Nuclear communicators from across the world gathered in Milan from 11-15 February to focus on this and other central questions at ENS’ flagship conference for nuclear communicators, PIME 2007. Scientists need to perfect the art of communications to sell science to a wider and more eclectic, information-hungry public. That’s the challenge. That’s the PIME message. Never before has that message been so relevant.

ENS NEWS N° 16 kicks off with a piece from our President on the Jules Horowitz Research Reactor, for which the foundation stone was recently laid in Cadarache, France. Next up is an interesting and insightful contribution from Andrew Teller on James Lovelock’s seminal work The Revenge of Gaia.

Edition N°16 includes a bumper ENS Events section that features recent and upcoming ENS events like PIME 2007 (there’s no escaping that key theme of communications), RRFM/IGORR 2007, ENC 2007 and EYGF 2007. The continuing success of these conferences reflect ENS’ significant role as international conference organizer and catalyst for analysis and reflection on the key scientific issues of the day.

The Member Societies and Corporate Members section includes a number of reports and articles from France, Switzerland, Romania, Sweden and Belgium. The subjects under the scientific microscope include EDF’s “NICODEME” initiative that offers research institutes – with financial help from the European Commission – contracts to carry out advanced work on nuclear safety; an award-winning doctoral thesis from a Vrije Universiteit Brussel (VUB) student on how artificial intelligence can be applied to materials testing – an area of research in which SCK-CEN in Mol (Belgium) excels; how a series of thematic seminars (“Scientific and Technical Receptions”) organized by our colleagues from the Swiss Nuclear Society have helped to focus on key issues facing the nuclear science community; a drawing competition for children and young people up to the age of 18 years old organized by the Romanian Nuclear Society and a detailed analysis of the latest research into nuclear reactor control systems, which the Royal Institute of Technology (KTH) in Stockholm (Sweden) has carried out.

There is also a distinctly youthful flavour to this edition of ENS NEWS, with several reports from Young Generation Nuclear chapters in Spain, the UK, the Netherlands and Russia.

The recent 50th anniversary of the Euratom Treaty provides plenty of food for thought for the EU Institutions section. Our friends at FORATOM provide an in-depth analysis of the past, present and future of the Treaty and a general statement on the applicability and enduring relevance of the Treaty as it reaches the venerable age of 50.

The ENS World News section goes Down Under to feature a report on the second state-of-the-art neutron beam measuring instrument developed by ANSTO in Australia - called, appropriately enough, “Wombat.” It is used on a sample of opal to assess how neutron beams penetrate and determine the material’s atomic structure.

The ENS Members section completes the spring edition of ENS NEWS.
Enjoy the read and the unusually good spring weather!

Mark O’Donovan



Word from the President

A major milestone for European nuclear research and development

On March 19, the first stone of the new Jules Horowitz research reactor was laid by Industry Minister François Loos in Cadarache, France.


The strange controversy surrounding ITER

by Andrew Teller

Some books have such an impact on their readers that they feel different after having read it: their outlook on life or some long-held belief has been altered irreversibly. The Revenge of Gaia is one of those. Like most people, I had heard about James Lovelock and the Gaia theory, but I had never got round to reading anything about it. James Lovelock’s Revenge of Gaia is his latest book and, admittedly, his testament. It is nevertheless a good place to start for an introduction to his work in general and the Gaia theory in particular.



Nuclear community intensifies communications efforts to reach broader public and meet the information needs of the global nuclear renaissance.

From 11-15 February 2007, over 170 professional communicators from 27 countries congregated in the Palazzo delle Stelline Congress Centre in Milan, Italy, to take part in ENS PIME 2007.


RRFM / IGORR 2007 – the success of synergy!

The IGORR (International Group Operating Research Reactors) conference took place this year in Lyon, France, from 12-14 March, where it joined forces with the RRFM Conference (Research Reactor Fuel Management), to create the first ever RRFM/IGORR.


The European Nuclear Conference (ENC):
Focus on cutting edge R & D

ENC2007 will take place at the VUB (Vrije Universiteit Brussel) from 16-20 September and preparations are already in full swing. Here is some updated information on this flagship biannual ENS conference organized in co-operation with the Belgian Nuclear Society (BNS), OECD/NEA and the American Nuclear Society (ANS).


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