In February 2010, the first meeting with the SCENE (Separation and Closeness Experiences in the Neonatal Environment) group was held, although we had not constituted ourselves as a group at that time. The goal for the first meeting was to define common research interests for future collaboration.

This multi-disciplinary group of researchers from Belgium, England, Finland, Italy, Norway and Sweden now constitutes the Steering Group. Since 2010, the SCENE group has expanded and now comprises researchers and clinical staff with different professions in Europe (Sweden, Norway, Finland, Denmark, Iceland, England, Ireland, Belgium, the Netherlands, Spain, Italy, Croatia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuenia and Estonia), Australia, Canada, USA, and South-Africa. All members of SCENE participate in conducting studies as part of, or closely linked to, the SCENE programme of work.


The rationale for SCENE is that several studies and benchmarking projects have shown that performance of neonatal care of preterm infants differs between units in such major outcomes as mortality and neonatal complications of prematurity. Even more marked differences are found in breastfeeding rates, maternal depression and long-term outcome of the children.

There are large and systematic differences related to cultural and contextual issues, such as parental involvement, family-centred care and staff practices that might influence these differences, which emphasize the need for more exploratory work. Hence, we need to understand the key influences in neonatal care on separation (physical and emotional) versus closeness (physical and emotional) between infant- parents and the potential effects of separation/closeness for the infants and the parents.


The overall aim with the SCENE programme of work is
  • to seek empirical evidence for why parent-infant physical and emotional closeness varies in neonatal units, within and between countries in Europe;
  • the short- and long-term effects of experienced closeness/separation on infants, parents and the infant-parent dyad;
  • to identify, construct, implement and evaluate best practice guidelines in supporting physical and emotional closeness during neonatal care.

The structure and organisation of SCENE

The SCENE programme of work is directed by the Steering Group, for which Anna Axelin is the leader and coordinator. Projects within SCENE have a PI within the Steering Group. Currently, three projects are undertaken: The 2nd International Closeness Survey (ICS) with PI (Principal Investigators) Liisa Lehtonen and Anna Axelin, Metasynthesis: Mothers’ experiences of breast milk feeding their preterm infants with PI Renée Flacking and Metasynthesis: Parents’ needs for and experiences of emotional support in the neonatal environment with PI Gill Thomson.