On 1st December, Dr. Petra Nieckchen took on her new role as Head of EFDA Public Information replacing Örs Benedekfi, who returns to the Hungarian Association HAS. Petra Nieckchen is a Public Relation professional and holds a PhD in chemistry. She started her professional career at Max Planck Institut für Plasmaphysik in Garching in 1999, where she was responsible for internal communications and exhibitions. In this position, she edited the quarterly in-house magazine “Impulse”, and designed and managed exhibitions, guided tours and educational workshops for youngsters. In June 2008, she was seconded to EFDA-JET as Responsible Officer for Public Information and Web, where she oversaw all of the communication activities. She edits the quarterly Newsletter “JETInsight” and recently redesigned the EFDA-JET web page.

Petra, what role does Public Information
play in terms of EFDA?

In any organisation, Public Information (PI) serves many masters and EFDA is no exception to this: We want to support the Associations as much as we can, whilst also providing journalists and the general public with appropriate and credible information. To do so, we must supply information to many channels. Up-to-date print materials and good articles online are a necessity as is our presence at science festivals all over Europe. And there is the Internet. Whilst looking after the EFDA-JET web page, I fell in love with the Internet and its possibilities. Web 2.0 offers up exciting new opportunities and I strongly believe that social networks must be included in our daily PI work. The most important thing is to find those channels which best suit the needs of EFDA. This will take some time. With this in mind, I have to mention that EFDA PI is very short staffed in comparison to related organisations such as Fusion for Energy, the European Commission and ITER, let alone institutions like CERN or the ESO. As a result, we are limited in what we are able to implement. This is, in my opinion, also true for many of the Fusion Associations in Europe.

How do you like your current work at JET?

Working here at Culham is a great pleasure for me. When you move abroad on a permanent basis you give up many things and it is not always easy to keep in touch with friends and family. But it broadens your horizon enormously. I (Photo: EFDA-JET) work in an inspiring environment with many interesting people. I fear that I will miss that a lot when I eventually move back to Germany. I really love what I’m doing.

What is essential for good Public Information?

It is my job to make EFDA and JET as visible as possible. But, as in any research organisation, the success of my work depends largely on the support of my colleagues on the front line of research. Whenever scientists and engineers take the time out to do PI work, they do so voluntarily. In other words: You need to be pushy without being tiresome. Finding the fine line between the two is a difficult task. (laughs) However, the more seriously the management takes PI, the easier it is for us to approach our colleagues. Our profession offers powerful tools in both internal and external communication. EFDA needs to become more visible in order to have more support and PI can contribute considerably towards this goal.

What will be your first steps?

In line with an overall reorganisation of EFDA, the PI offices in Culham and Garching are going to be unified. As the new Head of this office, and having mentioned the tough staffing situation, I will need to make best use of the resources available. I therefore plan to combine the EFDA and EFDA-JET web pages as well the Newsletters Fusion News and JETInsight. This way we gain resources that should enable us to broaden our activities in the subjects above mentioned.