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Melbourne, Australia, has been selected to host of the 5th World Conference on Science Journalism, due to be held in either late 2006 or early 2007.

The city has been chosen by national members of the World Federation of Science Journalists (WFSJ) from five candidates. The other candidates were Beijing (China), Munich (Germany), Trieste (Italy), and Barcelona (Spain).

The result was announced late yesterday (7 October) during the final stages of the fourth world conference, which has been taking place in Montreal, Canada, this week.

"We are delighted with the outcome," says a member of the Australian Science Communicators (ASC), which headed the team that put the bid together. ASC was also responsible for the fourth meeting of the Public Communication of Science and Technology network in 1996.

The Australian bid documents promise a broad programme for the meeting, as well as a series of visits around Australia for visiting science journalists. These will look at issues ranging from indigenous health and desert knowledge to the ways in which Australian science has transformed wine-making.

New Zealand will also be part of the conference, and is expected to participate in organising post-conference tours.

The organisers of the bid have promised to raise funding to support the participation of developing country science journalists in the meeting, and have assigned Aus$300,00 (US$220,000) to this in its draft budget.

The representation in Montreal from developing countries, especially from Africa, had been "just remarkable", said Niall Byrne, vice-president of the ASC, shortly after the news of Melbourne's successful bid had been announced.

"We’ve spoken to groups that put other bids forward, and they’ve been very generous in offering to provide their contacts and help us to ensure that we maintain the momentum, " said Byrne.

This would also help the organisers of the Melbourne meeting to ensure "that we continue to engage strongly with Africa and South America, as well as adding an additional level of involving  Asian developing countries, in order to build an even stronger federation and conference."

Since Australia was at the time in the middle of a general election campaign, the organisers of the bid say that they have not yet approached federal agencies to discuss in detail where support might come from, although a number of state-level commitments have already been made.

However the bid document says that the organisers "are confident that an event of this calibre will attract the desired interest and appropriate funding from federal government, state government and the private sector".

According to Byrne, one of the attractions of Australia as the host of such a meeting is that it is located in a "compelling" region of the world, pointing out in a letter to WFSJ that "our closest neighbours are Indonesia and the nations of south-east Asia."

At the end of the Montreal meeting, the WFSJ announced that its next president will be Australian science writer Wilson da Silva, a former president of the ASC.

Jean-Marc Fleury, until recently director of communications for the International Development Research Centre, has been appointed as the organisation's executive director.

The federation has also agreed to set up a programme committee to look at the training of journalists, particularly in developing countries. This will be chaired by Pallab Ghosh, the science correspondent of the British Broadcasting Corporation.

SciDev.Net reports from the 4th World Conference of Science Journalists

Details of Melbourne bid