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The purpose of the EU FP6 funded coordination action HENVINET was to create a permanent network of environment and health professionals. The main outcome is a networking portal (http://www.henvinet.eu), based on the concepts of social media to support communication between professional stakeholders in the environment and health fields. Its aim is to enable sharing of relevant information in an innovative and interactive manner to eventually support policy making. A social networking tool is not necessarily a typical platform for communication in the professional context, or between scientists and decision-makers. The aim of this paper is to look upon the use of social media in relevant professional communities in the light of the HENVINET experience, and to reflect on the acceptance and usefulness of such a new approach. The portal was designed over the course of HENVINET through intensive interactions by a multi-disciplinary group, involving environmental as well as health scientists, but with only limited access to decision-makers opinions. After the social networking portal was launched, a recruitment campaign was run during the last six months of the project, taking every opportunity to present the portal and to get feedback from users. This feedback was used to improve the functionalities of the tool. Additionally, a feedback session was organized at the final event of the project, attended by over 50 professionals, about half of whom participated from the beginning in the entire HENVINET project. We have also compared the HENVINET portal with similar tools employed by other related communities, and made a literature-based survey on the use of social media for scientific communication. At the end of the project, the portal had more than 300 members with registered professional profile, over 10 topics and 15 discussion groups. The HENVINET consortium members were the most active group of users. The quality of the portal content was considered more important than having a large amount of information. To maintain the content, the majority of the participants declared their willingness to use their time, stating however that dedicated content providers would be also necessary. In theory, professionals see the value of such a tool, and are willing to contribute. Only time will tell if the tool is viable in the long run. © 2012 Grossberndt et al; licensee BioMed Central Ltd.
Grossberndt, S., Van Den Hazel, P., & Bartonova, A. (2012). Application of social media in the environment and health professional community. Environmental Health: A Global Access Science Source, 11(SUPPL.1). https://doi.org/10.1186/1476-069X-11-S1-S16