Skip to content

‘Ensure that we don’t end up in our own bubble’

“Build that thing in Sardinia!” In February, we organised meetings for residents of the Belgian and Dutch search area for the Einstein Telescope. There was a lot of enthusiasm, but it also appeared that not everyone was overjoyed at the idea.

When I started as communications consultant for the Einstein Telescope a year and a half ago, my knowledge about this project was limited. I had read something about it in the newspaper, but up to that point, it was all very remote. Although I still can’t explain exactly how black holes are created, I am by now fairly well-versed in the world of gravitational waves. What appealed to me about this role is that I can help ensure that such an abstract scientific project as the Einstein Telescope also becomes a ‘human-interest’ story. In an understandable and accessible way, my communication colleagues and I show where the opportunities lie for science, businesses, education, and residents. Through our website, newsletter, and social media, we share the latest news, background stories, and interviews. In doing so, we’re positive but also realistic about all the uncertainties that remain until the feasibility study has been completed.

In general, people welcome technological and scientific developments, but when drilling or construction takes place in your neighbourhood, you probably take a slightly different view. It’s therefore necessary to initiate a dialogue and be willing to listen. For this reason, the project office travelled from one community centre to another to inform people living around the drilling sites, answer their questions, and find out their opinions. No matter how well you prepare for such a meeting, it’s always exciting to see how the evening goes. It’s part of my job to put myself in the shoes of the various target groups. That means that I’d anticipated 90% of the questions and comments. A great confirmation that we’re communicating the right things. But the surprise lies precisely in that remaining 10%. It’s those questions that make you think, keep you on your toes, and ensure that we don’t end up in our own bubble.

If you spend every day among passionate scientists whose eyes sparkle when they talk about the Einstein Telescope, it’s a good idea to consciously listen to the other side as well. And that’s why I’m grateful to the more than 700 people who took the trouble to attend our information evening. Thanks to them, we’re having different conversations, continuing to look for better solutions, and our bid book is getting stronger. Fortunately, there were also many local residents who mainly saw the opportunities. Opportunities for their beloved landscape or for their children and grandchildren. We’re working on the concerns and recommendations. Because it’s clear that only together can we achieve this unique project. The key to success lies in the dialogue between science and the community.

—Dewi Andoetoe

Dewi Andoetoe works as an independent communications consultant for the Einstein Telescope – Meuse-Rhine Euregio project office and lives in Maastricht.

Share this article