EAGLE Initial Conference steers at broader approach to communication

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EAGLE Initial Conference steers at broader approach to communication

Date: 2013-12-18

On November 26, 2013 the 'Let’s Communicate about Ionising Radiation' conference took place in Paris. It was the first public event of the EAGLE project. The conference brought together stakeholders from seven EU countries, including representatives from the nuclear industry, national radioactive waste management organisations, regulatory bodies, medical implementers, members of the media and civil society.

 EAGLE initial meeting in Paris  

At the start of the conference the EAGLE project was presented: its aims, planned results and potential benefits for end-users, the role of stakeholders and especially the possibilities for joint work with stakeholders. The presentations and discussions that followed were dedicated to the key challenges related to communication on ionising radiation (IR) from the point of view of the public, of information sources and of mass media.

The participants were than invited to reflect on some guiding questions and on the challenges raised by the guest speakers in working groups. They presented their own opinions and suggestions regarding the further directions in communication on IR, and regarding the needs for further elaboration of communication issues in EAGLE project work. The discussions proved that the last thing about communication has not been said yet. The working groups provided firm confirmation to go deeper into a number of essential concepts, including participation, trust, transparency, consistency, and meaning and role of expertise.

 EAGLE initial meeting in Paris EAGLE initial meeting in Paris 

As introduction to the closing plenary discussion, it was argued that in initiatives on communication on nuclear in general, and in the EAGLE project in particular, communication is still too much seen as a one-directional transfer of information from a source to a receiver. The impression is that the what, why and how of communication is mainly inspired by the idea that the general public should be ‘educated’ by ‘explaining them the facts’ and by assisting it to ‘better understand’ nuclear technology. One can observe that the general assumption of many nuclear communicators, scientists and managers is still that this ‘better understanding’ would logically lead to ‘better acceptance’ of nuclear.

In contrast to that, the communication should aim to embed factual information in reflections that also pay attention to knowledge-related uncertainties and value pluralisms associated with nuclear technology in particular and with the application context in general (energy governance or medical applications). In that sense, communication activities can become joint reflections instead of one-directional deliveries of information.

As there is no ultimate truth in favour or against nuclear, trust related to nuclear policies can never be generated with the aid of technical information; it can only be generated by the method of knowledge generation and discussion. This argument is based on the idea that people will accept a risk simply when they trust that the way it is justified is fair. In the interest of this, it is not only the general public that should be educated, but also nuclear scientists, environmental activists and policy makers, and this has obviously consequences for the spirit and practice of education, research and decision making.

Many participants to the conference welcomed this ‘broader approach’ to the issues of communication and participation. There was no enough time to reflect on how this could inspire the future practical work within the EAGLE project, but there is an interest with the EAGLE coordinators to discuss this in the near future. 

Open the complete Initial Project Conference report