Interview with Ana Galarraga

Ana_Galarraga
Ana_GalarragaLucía Sapiña

«We are not different, but we have details that differentiate us», explains co-director of Elhuyar, magazine Ana Galarraga. Elhuyar is the reference science communication magazine in the Basque Country. In her words, from the publication they try to «prove that we can discuss science in Basque». A magazine that is «open to the world but focused on our close environment». We talked to the co-director about science communication, language and the distinctive features of their publication.

One of the problems journalists face is how to address science information in order to make it appealing and educational. What are the keys to draw the attention of the reader, in your opinion?
In my opinion, the keys to draw the attention of the readers do not change a lot depending on the field. They would be the traditional ones in journalism: human interest, social impact, novelty, proximity, controversy, originality, emotion… In our particular case, I would add accuracy. I believe it is essential to address science or technology issues, but we must not forget the other ones. On a different plane, science and technology from our close environment, as well as their main players, have a featured presence in our magazine. We believe Elhuyar is a useful tool to portray scientific activity in the Basque Country, and to create networks between involved agents (universities, technology centres and institutions) and build bridges to society. We deal with specific topics that we know have general acceptance among our readers, but maybe not so much to others, for instance, topics related to the operating of the brain in bilingual people or with Basque themes like bertsolarismo (a kind of rhymed, sung and improvised dialectical discussion).

What do you think are the main differences between the fields of science and journalism? Are they irreconcilable?
They have very different systems; for instance, while science is governed by the scientific method, journalism is a social discipline, governed by a code of ethics. But both of them coincide in the goal: they try to understand and interpret reality, and they are based on observation and research, among other procedures. In addition, from the point of view of society, both fields are absolutely complementary. That does not mean the relationship is always easy; for instance, their working pace is almost the contrary. But, for the scientific world, journalism is a tool to communicate their work to society. And on their behalf, journalists find really interesting topics in science that can have a strong impact on society and thinking, or on the way of seeing and understanding reality.

Which one of these would you prefer for your science communication magazine: a journalist with a notion of science or a scientist with knowledge about journalism?
In our case, most of our writers have science studies, and they had professional training as journalists. This gives us a basic knowledge to help us comprehend and evaluate the information we get from magazines, with the help of the experts we ask to complete or corroborate information. Anyway, even if that is our case, I do not think it is the only way. The opposite could be absolutely valid, too.

Social networks and the information age modified communication reality. How did new technologies change your magazine? Do you think written press has a future in your field?
The rise of social networks and the Internet supremacy gave us the opportunity to approach our readers even more, and interact with them naturally. Furthermore, it allowed us to offer more complete information, thanks to the inclusion of hyperlinks, audio and video. We think all of that favourably contributes to gain a younger audience, which is the one with an interest for science and technology, according to the last survey on the social perception of science in the Basque Country, made last year by the Elhuyar Foundation. In regard to the second question, I would be a fortune-teller if I had the answer, and that is not very scientific… I guess the future will be similar to that of general written press, and according to communication gurus, it will not disappear completely, even if it loses a great deal of its current presence. Neither did the radio with the arrival of television, nor the television with the Internet. But we will have to wait and see. For the moment, we survive thanks to the loyalty of our readers, to whom we are very grateful.

Many scientific publications choose English for their texts. Do you think language is an impediment to communicate science?
The language of science communication needs to be, in my opinion, the daily language of the society to which it is addressed. In fact, I think it is the main tool to achieve a natural and effective communication. That has nothing to do with the language of specialized articles addressed to the scientific community. In that context, the language used by most of them is English, their lingua franca. But we are not doing science, but science communication, and we aim at Basque society, thus, we write in our language, Basque.

Eva Maria Javier. Journalism Student at the University of Valencia.
© Mètode 2013.

 

elhuyar

«Science and technology from our close environment have a featured presence in our magazine»

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

«We are not doing science, but science communication, and we aim at Basque society, thus, we write in our language»

 

© Mètode 2013

Estudiant de Periodisme de la Universitat de València.