It also offers an expert recruitment service which enables journalists to find suitable specialists in various fields. Established in 1995 as one of the first e-mail services for journalists, it is today a non-profit organisation with offices in Bayreuth, Bochum and Clausthal.
How can new online and e-mail media be utilized for scientific communication? This question was discussed in 1994 by the press spokesmen of the University of Bayreuth (Jürgen Abel), Ruhr University Bochum (Dr. Josef König), TU Clausthal (Jochen Brinkmann) and the Head of the Clausthal Computer Centre (Dr. Gerald Lange) – then an idea was born.
A networking tool modelled on the American "ProfNet" expert database was then developed. First, the “Elster” mailing list was created (Elster = Electronic technology for European research), as early as 1994. It was made available to journalists for addressing enquiries to specialists by e-mail. The enquiries were then referred to the press relations offices of member research institutions. By 1995, Elster was already being used by 20 press relations offices and 30 journalists.
The direct communication between scientific institutions, the media and increasingly also private users met with general approval. Then the idea emerged that this communication channel could also be used in the opposite direction. With the help of a second mailing list, the press spokesmen and spokeswomen were now also able to communicate something to the journalists by distributing their press releases.
This was followed by the first idw website in 1995. The German Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) supported the further development of the project. The internet platform, which has operated under the name of “Informationsdienst Wissenschaft” (idw, scientific information service) since 1997, was also co-sponsored by the German “Science in Dialogue” initiative and Stifterverband für die Deutsche Wissenschaft (Donors’ Association for the Promotion of Humanities and Sciences in Germany). idw continued to extend and develop its programme, for example by adding a new website based on a database and the scientific calendar, in which its members were now also able to announce their events.
idw has been a registered association under German law with an annual general meeting since 2002. Since then, it has been supervised by a Board of Directors. A team of permanent employees has been involved in the association’s operational business from the very start.
Updating and developing the system has always been one of the main tasks. In 2003, the first list of experts was compiled, and idw has been present as an exhibitor at the annual science journalism conference “Wissenswerte Bremen” since 2004. In 2005, RSS feed and announcements under news embargo were introduced. Individual statistics for every press release, in order to facilitate monitoring for the members, were added in 2007.
The idw Award was introduced in 2008, and since 2010, idw has also been present on Twitter, and on Facebook since 2011. A complete relaunch of the idw website including a redesign has been planned for 2013. An image database has been added as a new offering and users can carry out a targeted search for pictures separately from the press articles. idw is funded by the annual contributions of its members and currently employs 7 part-time and 2 full-time staff at its three offices in Bayreuth, Bochum and Clausthal. It is led by a Board of Directors consisting of volunteers who hold such positions as chancellors and university press relations officers.
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