CASE STUDIES

AthenaWeb (www.athenaweb.org): the European audiovisual portal for science!

LAB TO MEDIA staff set up and later managed AthenaWeb, an audiovisual portal especially for science communicators, on behalf of the European Commission's Research DG, Joint Research Centre and contractors.

Team leader Kathleen Van Damme oversaw preliminary studies, then strategic and technological development of this ambitious EU-backed project to make better use of audiovisual scientific resources in Europe and beyond.

Launched in the spring of 2005, AthenaWeb is a video portal and online workspace aimed at all European audiovisual communication professionals in the areas of science and scientific information. Contributors and users of the service include institutions, universities, laboratories, corporations, not-for-profit organisations, and of course the television and film industry (journalists and documentary makers, producers, people who commission TV programming, broadcasters, etc.).

How does it work?

AthenaWeb has a public and private face. The general public can access and use a limited selection of films, tools and news. AthenaWeb's professional community - once registered - benefit from extra privileges. All free of charge!

Registered users fall into two categories:

  1. Broadcasters and professional producers who enjoy the most rights and access
  2. Other science communicators, such as scientists and the education fraternity
Tools and features include being able to:

  • Organise your next projects and productions with our sophisticated, secure web workstation
  • Arrange private viewings of new film releases
  • Boost distribution and dissemination of your projects via our online tools and marketplace
  • Work online and save on logistics, couriers, calls and hassles
  • Source and negotiate terms for broadcast-quality programming for your TV channel
  • Buy, sell, commission, tender and promote your science films, products and services
  • Publish and keep up with the latest science news and findings
  • Use audiovisuals to boost your teaching and communicating skills
  • Syndicate your links and blog your ideas
  • Up- or download non-broadcast quality films for streaming into classes, or beaming out to auditorium audiences
  • Full-screen viewing of selected films and top-5 lists of films viewed
  • Lever your networks and develop your organisation’s profile
  • Be part of the only comprehensive online space for science audiovisual professionals and enthusiasts in Europe 

Communication and marketing

Critical to AthenaWeb's growing success has been the tireless communication efforts, such as tailored marketing letters and the regular newsletter AthenaNews, aimed at building the community of users, contributors and partners, and keeping them informed on the latest updates, news and activities covering the European research and innovation scene.

AthenaWeb was very well received by the European Commission and the professional science communication community. It quickly built its subscriber base and was positively reviewed - for its technological approach, interface and eye-catching appearance - by several professional publications including a report by Apple QuickTime News which caused a huge spike in traffic to AthenaWeb.

In April 2006, IT giant Apple recognised AthenaWeb as one of the eight best audiovisual sites on the web (QuickTime News story 'AthenaWeb Presents Weird Science') and in September, the CNRS and UNESCO awarded AthenaWeb their Prix Argos-Denis Diderot, citing "the quality of the education and culture programming, the richness and diversity of the content and the elegance of the navigation" as reasons for the decision.

The strong response showed Europe was calling out for a system like AthenaWeb's for better distributing underexploited audiovisual scientific resources. Today, following the launch of AthenaWeb 2.0, it serves as a valuable web-workspace and source of information for science communicators in Europe, and farther afield.

AthenaWeb today

Armed with what it considers today as one of the flagships of its communications effort, the Research DG of the European Commission decided to follow the recommendations of AthenaWeb manager Kathleen Van Damme and her team and partners (Bee to B and Web Solution Way), and transform this professional portal into a veritable television station and workspace for European science on the internet. This transformation and site revamp took place in the first half of 2007.

The enriched and simplified portal was (re)launched in June 2007 at the 'Sunny Side of the Docs' international non-fiction film market in La Rochelle, France. The launch press conference was attended by top EU officials and leading players in the science audiovisual world.

Improvements and refinements to AthenaWeb 'Take 2' are expected to carry on throughout 2007 and into 2008.