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[BEIJING] Science could get more media coverage in China thanks to a new government scheme to boost science communication.

But experts warn that without a concrete implementation plan it will have no effect.

The scheme released last week (6 December), aims to increase science coverage in newspapers, magazines, TV stations and other broadcasters and encourage publishers to distribute more popular science books.

To achieve this, it is hoped that the government will fund existing science programmes and columns in broadcast and print media to help improve their quality.

If successful, new science columns, TV channels or book brands will have emerged by 2011.

To achieve these aims, the government will encourage publishers to distribute more popular science books in rural areas, with thousands of bookstores and newsstands planned for remote rural areas.

Other measures include supporting a group of leading interactive science communication websites, and developing computer or Internet games for science communication.

The scheme was drawn up by the science ministry and other government departments, the China Association for Science and Technology (CAST), and China's media watchdog, the Central Publicity Department of the Chinese Communist Party.

It is part of a massive 15-year national scheme for science literacy announced earlier this year (see 'Scientific literacy: a new strategic priority for China').

But Lou Wei, an official with CAST's science popularisation department, which also works as the operations office for the science literacy scheme, admits that a concrete working plan and budget for the scheme have yet to be finalised.

"The outline's implementation details will be worked out in the coming months with more discussion with media professionals," Lou told SciDev.Net.

But he added that getting sufficient funds from the central government to implement the scheme is proving a difficult task.

Xu Jiuwu, a senior science editor and vice chairman of the Chinese Society for Science and Technology Journalism, said the plan will help combine media reporting with professional science communication — which involves tasks such as creating posters about science.

He warned that success would depend on adequate funding and a rigorous approach.

"China's market-oriented reform has made more media stand away from serious science," he told SciDev.Net.

"Without a systematic approach to combine financial support and technical guidance, it is very difficult for the Chinese mass media to implement the outline," said Xu.

In a separate move last week, CAST announced that 310 rural science communication programmes have been given special grants worth a total of US$6.25 million.

This is the first time that the central government have funded science communication projects specifically tailored to rural areas (see 'China to boost science literacy in rural areas').