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Let’s celebrate!

Exactly one year ago, Semiotics was born. At that time, we were still very busy testing our name in an international context, finetuning the company logo and the colours (oh the pink !), writing texts and keynotes for our website. The tension was intense and times were exciting. We were creating, checking, phoning each other and our peers… And finally drinking champagne. We made it. There we were. Shining in pink.

And now we have one year of life behind us. It reminds me of Abraham Lincoln’s saying: “In the end, it is not the years that count. It’s the life in your years.” We could not agree more. We developed and registered our Science Inspired Tales, we travelled around Europe to check the pandemic preparedness on influenza (results to come in 2013!), we built the interactive scientific internet platform “Flu Community”, we had a “pied-à-terre” in Rotterdam while turning the top researchers of the Erasmus MC into the “Viroscience lab”, we learned about HIV in South-Africa, built public health networks in four countries and even created our own WEB SLA’s. Oh! And we published in Vaccine, “About courageous scientists, responsible policy makers, bridge-builders and preparedness for the next influenza pandemic.”

But we always take the time to get inspired. We learned about Simon Sinek’s golden circle: WHY? HOW? WHAT? Ever wondered why the Wright Brothers were the first to fly an airplane (and so many other engineers were not)? Or why Martin Luther King became the spokesperson of the civil rights movement (and so many others fighting for the same cause did not?) Because they thought, acted and communicated so very differently. Most organisations know what they do, some know how they do it (and know their USP’s for example), but few of them know why they do what they do (besides making a profit). We have the privilege of working for scientists, for people who know why they get out of bed every morning.

And we @ Semiotics know our own purpose, our belief and our cause too. Translating scientific data to anyone who can benefit from it. Or to anyone who is responsible for taking action. We believe that science and scientific insights make a difference and that the world should know about it. Of course we develop great strategies and we are making wonderfully designed virtual communities and websites – but we are not asking you to buy one just for that purpose. We are here because people buy why we do it.

We are travelling to the UK next year to talk with a major scientific institute about collaboration. We are exploring the organisation of a “Science Policy Interface” at three major international scientific conferences, we are developing a strategy to create awareness about “Neglected Emerging Exotic Diseases” and we are talking to an organisation that is dedicated to infectious diseases in children.

And we are excited. We are creating, checking, phoning each other and our peers. And having fun with our own promotional tools. Have a look at them here!

It’s our anniversary – we are one year old now. Picasso said: “It takes a long time to grow young.” We leave that to everyone’s own interpretation. But we know for sure: “The best is always yet to come”.

Our crew wishes you a nice Xmas and a splendid New Year!

Yes, we do!

“However beautiful the strategy, you should occasionally look at the results,” Churchill once said.

In the beginning of this year, we started working for what was then known as “the department of Virology of the Erasmus MC”. Six months later they have turned into the “Virosciene lab, where skills meet to study and protect”. A new word was invented and coined: “Viroscience [vaɪə’rɑsaɪəns] non-count. n. Area of medical science that comprises of all scientific disciplines that deal with viruses.”  And top science has a face now…. Have a look at!

At the same time, we started developing the “Science Inspired Tales – S!T” for the European Scientific Working group on Influenza. On 23 May, three top scientists got on stage in the Brussels Albert Hall theatre. After the event, many attendees told us they had the feeling that something very special had been going on. We could not agree less. Renowned scientists bringing their story on stage: a brand new concept to experience science. To savour the flavour of S!T, have look at any of our pioneering performers: Peter Openshaw’s Our germs, our guns: an uneasy peace will teach you everything you need to know about the immune system in 18 inspiring minutes … Colin Russell’s tale called Viruses travel tricky routes may look like science fiction – but it isn’t. And Ab Osterhaus raises an interesting question: Viruses: are we winning battles but losing the war? Are we? Enjoy!

The concept of S!T? Check our trailer. And S!T may be coming to a theatre near you soon, because our concept is for sale: we have the ambition to organise S!Ts worldwide… In the aim to bring science closer to people. In a fun way. Realization of a great ambition.

Talking about ambition… Someone very precious to me once said you should not discard or bypass your ambitions. We @ Semiotics wholeheartedly agree. Some members of our team are working on a book…. “From corporate identity to corporate soul…” It’s about how the word “identity” ceases to be applicable to organizations. “It is soooo eighties”, my stepson would say. “Corporate” and “identity” may even turn into conflicting terms… Companies and organisations will have a hard time if they continue to rigorously impose a self-chosen identity. Rigid concepts do not fit in our current, rapidly changing world. What is the solution? It is looking at the combined characteristics of people in an organization, translating these insights in new strategies knowing that every organization is an integral part of society and – at the same time – constantly demonstrating the organization’s benefits to society.

Another member of our team is working with his ambition as well. We proudly present: Have a look and get inspired! We @ Semiotics follow many different paths to demonstrate what we stand for!

And, finally, let’s look ahead. Well, we will be travelling quite a lot in the coming months. For the European Scientific Working group on Influenza, we are investigating pandemic preparedness in nine European countries with the US situation as a point of reference. How well was the world prepared before the H1N1 pandemic, what happened during the pandemic, and are we prepared for the next one? The outcome of this “Flu Quest” will be ready in December 2012. We’ll keep you updated because it concerns us all.

We are also working on HIV in South Africa – helping scientists who are studying the link between herpes virus infections and ocular diseases in HIV-infected patients. A very new field of investigation, proud to be part of it!

And the organizers of the World Congress on Influenza (Options meeting) invited us to check the possibilities to organize a “Science Policy Interface” (SPI) for them in September 2013. This separate programme track for public health officials already ran 3 times at the European Conferences organized by ESWI. Implementing this on a world scale is very challenging for us. We go for it!

I’ve had this song stuck in my head for the last few days. It is called: “Summertime and the living is easy”. Part of the lyrics goes like this: “One of these mornings, you’re bound to rise up singing. Then you’ll spread your wings and take to the sky.”

Enjoy the rest of the summer!

Semiotics proudly present a brand new concept: Science Inspired Tales

Staging fascinating scientific experts! 

Is it science? Is it performance art? Is it inspirational?

It’s all of that. The Science Inspired Tales are a brand new concept to experience science.

The first series of Science Inspired Tales will stage Profs Ab Osterhaus, Peter Openshaw and Derek Smith, three renowned scientists with a very different professional background, bringing you their personal, fascinating, fun and all the more inspiring scientific story. Are we winning battles but losing the war against viruses? Can we really wipe out some deadly diseases? Why are elephants afraid of mice? What’s the true spirit of Hippocrates’ Oath? What is in the air when YOU are in the air? Find out for yourself at the first Science Inspired Tales on 23 May 2012 in Brussels, Albert Hall complex.

You are very welcome to attend the Science Inspired Tales. REGISTER FREE OF CHARGE!  We would love to have you there!

The S!Ts will be recorded before a live audience and broadcast on An excellent moment to introduce our “Audiovisual Mind”, Niko Himschoot. By now you should know that we @ Semiotics are committed to detect and foster new, promising talent.

We organise the first S!T on request of the European Scientific Working group on Influenza.

But mind you: we have registered the concept, check out the !! We have always admired the “Hit N Run Tours” of Prince 🙂


A Dazlious 2012

Winston Churchill said that “courage is what it takes to stand up and speak; courage is also what it takes to sit down and listen.”

We @ Semiotics, we like to work for courageous people! Bart Staes, a member of European Parliament since 1999 and known in Belgium for his hard parliamentary work, asked us to support him on a very specific issue: genetically modified organisms. Bart is currently writing a book in which he wants to give a well-balanced view on the topic; listening to pros and cons, giving his own strong opinion and sharing his plans on a political level. Bringing the discussion to the heart of society. We sat down and listened, we read the first version of his book and were very impressed. No need to say that we are proud to assist our friend and his team on this matter.

Some time ago we drove to Rotterdam, visiting the Erasmus MC, department of Virology. 120 people work there in research and diagnostics; it is one of the most renowned and well-established research labs in the world. AIDS, exotic infections, herpes, hepatitis, hMPV, measles and rubella, RSV and influenza are among the research topics. They either join or play a leading role in international research projects. These are the people who discovered that SARS was caused by a “corona virus”, thus enabling mankind to take the first steps towards a solution. These are the people who were the first to detect the H5N1 influenza virus in humans. Their scientific findings are the basis of new intervention strategies and therapies. Today they find themselves in the middle of the societal debate: “Should so called “dangerous discoveries” be published or not?” They found out that it only takes a handful of mutations for the H5N1 virus to become transmissible from mammal to mammal, an important condition to become a pandemic virus. All of a sudden science becomes even more tangible… And let’s not forget to mention the researchers’ constant ambition to discover new viruses! We will advise them in standing up and speaking – not only in scientific journals. We will advise them on how to bring their work and findings to the heart of society. Together we will advocate “knowledge transfer” and give science a face. No need to say that we are very exited to start the work… You will hear from it in the near future.

Our work for the European Scientific Working group on Influenza is as pioneering as ever. I just like to mention one idea we are working on: we will put our “top scientists” on stage. In May, in Brussels. And we’ll call it SIT: Science Inspired Tales. Of course you will be invited. We think it will be fun and inspirational… Talking about courage.

At the start of Semiotics we resolved to guide people and organizations in bringing out their messages. We are thrilled that people ask us for advice. We are thrilled that our concept works…. We do realize that we need very specific skills in our consortium to make it work and to “deliver”. We are hence welcoming Maxime De Nittis, official Microsoft partner, spending hours looking @ that <% beautiful code % >. NET, PHP,  Cloud, vps, overall hosting & server infrastructure puzzles are his main breakfast! He is currently developing a worldwide “facebook like” tool for ESWI. And we are also welcoming Hans Housen, our “copywriters mind”, specialized in ‘translating’ complex messages and ideas in a language that different target audiences understand. Hans and I are currently working on a book about “communication in a changing world”… Our Semiotics “rules of thumb” will have a place there. The need to stand up and speak 🙂

Of course, we want to wish you a very “Dazlious 2012”; a courageous one…  Regardless whether you stand up and speak or sit down and listen.

Oh! And as they say in “Two ladies”, the “Cabaret” movie by Bob Fosse: “ I sleep in the middle of the bed, I am left and I am right but there is room on the bottom if you drop in some night.” Always welcome!



Confucius said that a good ending should always be accompanied by a good beginning. I could not agree more.

In the past 15 years, I have enjoyed Link Inc very much. And I truly believe that the start of the agency saw the launch of a different view on communication: convincing governments and organisations to apply the principles of marketing to their communication and positioning. I enjoyed working with each and every one of the people who were there to reinforce us. One of the things I used to tell them was: “use Link as a “tool” for yourself, bring on your ideas, go for your ambition. The agency is just the vehicle…”

The joy of playing and growing….

My grandmother told me that one should always implement the advice one gives to others…. The world is changing rapidly. The digital revolution is there – and it evolves faster than one could ever think. Access to information is unlimited. And it renders people more critical – rightfully so. The classical definition of “peers” is hence way behind us: new groups of peers are formed. The words one uses – or doesn’t use – keep gaining importance. Every organisation, every policy maker, every entity will have to explain and convince the outside world why their cause or solution is the good one, why their issue is of importance to groups, to people, to mankind. They will have to be skilled in constructing, presenting, understanding their own messages. In collaborating with peers, stakeholders, friends and adversaries. And they will need to take responsibility for their communicational behaviour.

My new agency, Semiotics, is there to assist, to advise and to guide people and organisations in bringing out their messages in a changing world, in “building” identities in an evolving environment.

We at Semiotics, we have a “lab”. We gather once a week. Sometimes we invite friends – depending on what is on the menu. The rest of the week we use “clouds” and “virtual communities” while we are on the road, travelling or working at our home offices. Because I firmly believe that this way of “practical working” is the future (too).

Confucius also said: “Wherever you go, go with all your heart”. This is exactly what I and we at Semiotics will be doing. If you want to meet up with us, let us know! We’re looking forward to the fun!


Progress is a nice word. But change is its motivator.”

Robert Kennedy once said: “Progress is a nice word. But change is its motivator.” We agree on that.

For the European Scientific Working group on Influenza we have created a brand new concept to enhance public health security: the Multiparty Group for Advice on Science (MUGAS). The idea of MUGAS is to stimulate scientific debate over unsolved issues that seem to hamper public health guidance. After all, the best health policy measures are based on undisputed scientific data. Still, MUGAS meetings are quite different from similar initiatives taken by individual research institutes, companies or leading academics, as MUGAS explicitly calls upon all parties involved to share their views and have their voices heard. In other words, the MUGAS concept has been designed to bring benefit to society, in an open and transparent environment that allows in-depth discussion based on the latest scientific knowledge. MUGAS meetings on “hot” topics can therefore be initiated by any scientist or research institute that aims to improve public health in Europe. ESWI will be organizing the first MUGAS on the explicit request of Professor Ab Osterhaus (Erasmus MC Rotterdam), Professor Arnold Monto (University of Michigan/School of Public Health), Professor Menno de Jong (Academic Medical Center Amsterdam) and Professor Rich Whitley (University of Alabama at Birmingham) who engaged in a partnership to organize a Multiparty Group for Advice on Science meeting that will review oseltamivir data and develop a statistical analysis plan.

Our translational “Science Policy Interface”(SPI) programme at scientific conferences enjoys growing international attention and interest. While we are shaping the concept into a “SPI 2.0” for the Fifth European Influenza Conference in Riga, Latvia (2014), the organizers of the One Health meeting (2015) invited us to implement the concept at their conference. Needless to say we are very enthusiastic about it!

Meanwhile, our work for the Viroscience lab in Rotterdam is in full progress. We developed a portal site for their educational work – yes: it is a lab that takes its responsibility towards society very seriously! Have a look at And we continued to give science a “face” and to bring it closer to the people: check the lab’s spoken annual report at and have a look at SEQUENCE, the brand new lab magazine.

Oh, and we are moving! Literally. I’m writing this blog while surrounded by moving boxes. Our new address: Zevensterstraat 1, 9270 Laarne, Belgium.

Keeping the words of Robert Kennedy in mind: we might change our pink trademark any time now – will be made clear when we launch our new website! While travelling, I often think about the words of Richard Branson: “A business has to be involving, it has to be fun and it has to exercise your creative instincts”. Cheers!