Science Writing Careers: Science Journalism

Organizations for Science Writers
Information and Advice
Fellowships and Awards
Degree Programs

Organizations for Science Writers
Many countries and regions have science writer associations, most of which require some sort of credentials to join. Some of the sites have useful information for those interested in becoming a science writer.

National Association of Science Writers. The U.S. organization for science writers. Lots of information here--one interesting section to check out is the listing of NASW members' web sites. Visiting these personal sites provides a look at the diverse background of science writers, what they do, and where they get published. For scientists contemplating a career change to writing, take a look at this fascinating and contentious archived on-line discussion of a polite query for advice from a wannabe scientist writer.

International Science Writers' Association. The ISWA has a front page at the science press releases site sponsored by AAAS, EurekaAlert. "ISWA is of particular value to individuals who do not have a national association of science writers in their home countries. ISWA hopes to serve as a means for science communicators everywhere to share in the mutual benefits of a professional organization and as a bridge between scientists and communicators on an international scale."

Association of British Science Writers. "The ASBW seeks to improve the standard of science writing in Britain by putting members in touch with each other and with sources and markets for their work; by providing chances to meet leading scientists and policy makers in an informal setting, and by organising visits."

European Union of Science Journalists' Associations. There may be some useful links on the EUSJA "Resources for Science Writers" page, including the quarterly newsletter, which may have articles of interest.

Association of Health Care Journalists.

Society of Environmental Journalists.

Information and Advice
Changing course. Jim Kling, ex-chemist and current science writer, tells the story of his career transition. My favorite "advice" link, Kling's piece is packed with practical tips for how to get started in science writing. (Note: this article is found at the HMS Beagle web site, which requires a password to get in. But, registration is free, and this article is well-worth the extra minute of your time.)

A Field Guide for Science Writers. The table of contents and a chapter on using the internet for science reporting are excerpted from the NASW's excellent book.

So you want to be a Science Writer. This online copy of the ASBW's brochure provides useful information on how to get started as a science writer, formal training, freelancing, and fellowships.

Tracking the Elusive Internship: Frustrated in Philly. Entertaining tale of a beginning science writer's (unsuccessful) quest to snag a covetted science writing internship. This story is located at the HMS Beagle web site, which is free but requires a password to get in.

How Does an Electronics Engineer get to be a Science Journalist? Personal essay.

Dr. Reporter? Essay about the growing number of Ph.D. scientists seeking to become science writers and the reasons behind this trend. (Story is located at the HMS Beagle web site.)

Scientists Can Help Keep The Media's Take On Research Closer To Reality. Science writer and ex-geneticist Ricki Lewis gives her perspective on the challenges of communicating science to the public. Article located at The Scientist web site; may require free registration to access.

Science writing offers a model for critical thinking. Essay from the Society of Environmental Journalists. You must download the Spring 1996 issue of SEJournal to access this article.

Science Journalism Center. Located at the University of Missouri, the SJC "serves as national resource for journalists covering science and biomedical stories." Unfortunately, many of the center's resources are not yet on-line, but watch in the future for web access to Sci-Find, their resource library of science stories from leading newspapers. The SJC also publishes Inquiry, a newsletter for science journalists, which is also not on-line when I first checked (8/98) and is still not on-line (9/00).

Interview with Denise Casey, Science Writer and Editor at the Human Genome Management Information System.

Fellowships and Awards
AAAS Mass Media Fellowships. AAAS offers fellowships for science graduate students and Ph.D.s in science reporting at mass media organizations throughout the U.S., including newspapers, magazines, and TV and radio networks. The chosen fellows, usually about 25 per year, complete an orientation in Washington D.C. before beginning their ten-week internships. An article in Science Magazine (June 97), "Venturing from Researcher to Reporter," describes the program and provides more information than the short paragraph you will find at the AAAS site. Fellowships are open to graduate students as well as postdocs, but most recent recipients have been students. The Mass Media Fellows program has been operating since 1975. About half of past fellows have chosen to continue with media-related careers; many of the rest have remained in more traditional science careers. Several scientific societies sponsor fellows from among their members. For example, the American Physical Society Mass Media Fellowships are awarded yearly to two physics students to participate in the AAAS program. Physics graduate students are given priority for these awards, but outstanding physics undergraduates and postdocs may also apply. Award recipients receive $4000 plus a $1000 travel allowance. Read the details on the first two award recipients, both of whom had substantial prior writing experience. Other scientific societies sponsoring fellows include the American Mathematical Society (AMS), the American Geophysical Union, the American Physiological Society, and the American Sociological Society. Read about the Experiences of AMS-AAAS Mass Media Fellows in a pdf file.

British Association for the Advancement of Science Media Fellowships. Up to ten fellowships are awarded each year to practicing scientists and engineers. Fellows spend 4-8 weeks in a media organization learning how the media work and how to better communicate science to the public. Past placements have been at the BBC (radio and TV) and The Guardian as well as other media organizations.

British Association for the Advancement of Science Young Science Writer Awards. Contestants submit a 700 word article on a science-related topic. Winners are published in The Daily Telegraph and are awarded trips to both the annual AAAS and British Association annual meetings. Entries are limited to people aged 16 to 28.

Science-in-Society Journalism Awards. For outstanding writing about science and its impact on the quality of life. Sponsored by NASW.

Evert Clark/Seth Payne Award. For young science journalists (under 30). Includes $1000 and a trip to the annual AAAS meeting.

Rennie Taylor/Alton Blakeslee Fellowship Program for Graduate Study in Science Writing. Professional journalists and outstanding students with degrees in either science or journalism may apply for this fellowship of $2,000 from the Council for the Advancement of Science Writing. Applicants must already have been accepted into a graduate-level science writing program.

Victor Cohn Prize for Excellence in Medical Science Reporting. Includes $3000 award plus trip to annual New Horizons in Science Briefing conference. Sponsored by the Council for the Advancement of Science Writing.

Awards for Science Writers. A listing of awards for people who are already science reporters, but can be interesting and a good source of links for scientists trying to break into the field.

Grants and Fellowships for Science Writers. Again, this listing is geared to people who are already science writers.

Degree Programs
Directory of Science Communication Courses & Programs in the U.S. (by no means comprehensive).

Boston University Program in Science Journalism. Masters degree.

Science Communication Program at the University of California, Santa Cruz. One year graduate certificate programs in Science Writing and Science Illustration.

Science and Environmental Reporting Program at New York University. Graduate program for students having bachelor's degrees in the natural sciences. Takes about 1 1/2 years to complete.

Science and Environmental Writing Program at Lehigh University. Bachelors degree and minor option available.

Science and Technology Journalism at Texas A&M University. Two year program leads to the M.S. degree. Program began in 1996.

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Last updated September 21, 2000.


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