Newspaper reports about Croatia’s science

When there are no big sport news, political affairs, public scandals and celebrities don’t do anything too exciting Croatian newspapers turn to reporting science.

Image from the Slobodna Dalmacija article

This week I read two brief ‘reports’ on science in Croatia in Slobodna Dalmacija and Vecernji List.

As an aspiring science journalist I was glad to see that someone is finally asking scientists in Croatia about their work and potential applications. But as a Croatian I was dissapointed with the way the articles were written and intrigued by the comments after one of them.

The second article reported on a young chemist who tested a few chemicals and found some anti-cancerogen activity in vitro but is now short of funding for in vivo experiments.

The comments on the story seem to be of three basic types:

  1. the ones attacking the sensationalist title: “At the tracks of cure for cancer” and invalidating the importance of the reported research by the young scientist
  2. the ones saying the scientist should emigrate and become famous in the UK, USA or similar
  3. the ones about conspiracy theory where pharmaceutical companies are blocking anyone from finding cure for cancer because it’s not in companies’ interest

I think the comments give a general picture of Croatian society as a whole:

  1. scientists and educated people who can form an educated opinion about a scientific issue (minority)
  2. general public who believes anything they read, if they understand it, about science and then blame the politicians for the lack of funding and opportunities; they also believe it’s all ‘milk and honey’ abroad (majority)
  3. loud minority of people with strong opinions that are often very misinformed and twisted (minority)

Both articles go for the silly approach that Croatian society suffers from: the ’we’re the best in the world but people don’t realize it’ syndrome. If our sportmen are not winning medals, scoring goals in the European football league or one or two of our intrenational actors are not starring in some obscure Holywood movie then our scientists are creating tornadoes, turning water into biofuel and finding cure for cancer.

“We even create tornadoes” is the title of the first article I mentioned above; “the cure of cancer could be found in Croatia” states the other article. When individuals in Croatia do something good we all want to be part of it: we’ve done it, we’re great!

I’m afraid until everyone starts doing their bits for the society and until we stop having false pretences for being acknowledged as the best country for everything we won’t even make it to the EU let alone anything else. Perhaps many Croatian scientists are doing exciting and relevant research; it might be a while until journalists manage to find the right stories to report and to do it properly.

Map of Croatia (source)
Mićo Tatalović

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