Expert Exchange Report – Prof Lidia Pokrzycka
June 20, 2018

Report on Europlanet Expert Exchange to Athens

This guest post is by Prof Lidia Pokrzycka, who took part in a Europlanet Expert Exchange aimed at journalists, teachers of journalism and science communicators. Applications to an open call of this programme can now be submitted any time up until 31st December 2018, with visits taking place before 30th April 2019.

The main objective of the visit was to promote links between journalists/media relations and members of the planetary science community. An additional goal was to establish cooperation in the promotion of scientific activities through social media and possible publications in a scientific journal in Poland.

First of all I visited Eugenides Foundation and Planetarium, hosted by Dr. Manos Kitsonas (director of Planetarium), to talk about the Planetarium’s activities. I was shown elements used for professional promotion of this institution, including educational films. I also had the opportunity to learn about the planetarium’s history and development plans.

Next, at the National & Kapodistrian University of Athens Sect. of Astrophysics, Astronomy, Mechanics (Hosts: Dr. Kosmas Gazeas, Mrs. Nantia Moutsouroufi) I met with the “Space Gates” team of staff and students, who are active in many outreach projects, and we discussed their activities. Then I presented a lecture about media relations and science journalism. In practice I demonstrated public relations tools, role of media relations, social media and main principles of science journalism. I showed some examples of the PR strategies of science institutions and case studies connected with science articles published in national daily papers in Great Britain and Iceland. The Space Gates team then presented to me some of their activities connected with Facebook, Twitter, Youtube and science marketing events taking place in Athens. We discussed possibilities for cooperation and decided to write science articles about “Space Gates” activities in science journal “Cognitivistic and media in education” in Poland. This will be an opportunity for the students at the University of Athens (from “Space Gates” and “Planets in your hands”) and young scientists. I showed them some examples of this kind of article connected with PR and marketing stategies in universities and special scientific projects.

I visited the University of Athens Observatory (UoAO). Staff and students gave presentations about research, educational and outreach activities at UoAO. We talked about public outreach and educational activities in the frame of “Planets in your hands“, a specific outreach project carried out by a team of students. The main idea of the project includes the construction of planetary surface models in square frames, giving a visual and tangible representation of a wide range of environments in Solar System. These models will be exhibited in schools, universities and private institutes. The project will be complemented with a specially developed website, including information all about the Solar System and the exhibited planets. The planetary surface frames will form a portable exibition, while all the information is going to be translated in several languages; thus, the entire project will have a wider European impact, as it can be easily transported or repeated to other European cities. The group presented the project to me and showed me the elements that have been already created, as well as forms of promotion used so far. During the discussion, we came to the conclusion that activities should be promoted more extensively, also in the form of scientific articles, giving students participating in the project points to opening the way for further academic careers.

I visited National Observatory of Athens, Thissio (Hosts: Dr. Anastasia Metallinou, Dimitrios Tsimpidas) and I had a tour of the telescopes. We discussed with the outreach team about history of Observatory and possibilities of cooperation. At the National Observatory of Athens, IAASARS (Hosts: Dr. Evangelos Kolokotronis, Dr. Olga Sykioti), located in Penteli, I had a tour of the telescopes and then we discussed about forms of effective promotion and PR strategies in astronomy.

My visit was very short but effective. I had an opportunity to visit The National Observatory of Athens (NOA), Eugenides Foundation and Planetarium, the Gerostathopouleio Observatory of the University of Athens and the National Observatory of Athens, Visitor Center in Penteli. The IASA team arranged meetings with scientists that are engaged both in planetary research and in relevant public outreach. I presented workshops on public relations and effective media contacts. I plan to write publications about the visit in the Maria Curie Sklodowska University journal “Wiadomości Uniwersyteckie”. I met students and faculty staff members involved in observational astrophysics, optical instrumentation and public outreach. I met the strong motivated team who share a strong interest in the communication of planetary and space science, astronomy and astrophysics to the general public through various channels and activities. They will closely cooperate with me to effectively promote projects, research/events. The IASA team arranged meetings with scientists from other institutions in Athens, who are engaged both in planetary research and in relevant public outreach. We exchanged experiences and we want to cooperate closely in the field of effective marketing and scientific activities.