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Executive Board Election Results 2015

Executive Board Election Results 2015 

There were no contested posts in the 2015 elections, and in accordance with the process decided on and approved in conjunction with the election tellers, the candidates standing were approved by the AGM held on Thursday 26th March 2015.   The candidates took up post immediately after the AGM and will decide on co-opted members at their first meeting in April, to enable student and associate members to be represented on the Board.

Welcome to your new Executive Board

President

Martin Ince

Nominated by: Victoria Parsons & Wendy Barnaby

Supporting Statement: I am president of the ABSW and have previously been board/committee member and treasurer. I was finance director of the World Conference in London in 2009. Very few branches of writing or journalism in the UK have a professional association as capable as the ABSW. It's an honour to be president. I would very much like a further year in office and promise if elected to make time for this important commitment. The ABSW is now well-run and in good financial shape. Its members benefit from a growing range of activities such as the UK Conference of Science Journalists, and can win broader recognition via our flourishing awards scheme. Both of these have attracted sponsorship, and the awards are being expanded with the addition of new categories. I have several priorities for the next stage of the ABSW's development. One is to strengthen your board with new members. Another is to take forward a mooted scheme for mentoring entrants to the profession, an idea that has come from members and which we are planning to take forward. Yet another, arising from an idea by board colleagues, is a Summer School for ABSW members in years when we do not run a complete UKCSJ. In addition, we are looking at ways of working more effectively with colleagues elsewhere in Europe and with the Ugandan science journalists, our partner organisation in the global south.  I'd very much like your support to continue this work for a further year, and would be happy to answer any questions you may have.    

Vice President

Mico Tatalovic

Nominated by: Martin Ince & Josh Howgego

Supporting Statement: ABSW today is a successful association that organises great events for its members, from the annual awards to the UK conference – and most recently a summer school for science journalism. It is also at a cutting edge of developments in the sector with its generous fellowship for investigative science journalism and playing a part in reinvigorating science journalism at the European level (through a new award for the best European science writer, and through its work to establish a new European federation of science journalists). It also supports science journalism in developing nations (By twinning with Uganda’s USJA and by co-organising investigative journalism fellowship for the developing world with SciDev.Net).  In my three years or so on the ABSW committee I have seen it become more ambitious. I would like to help keep steering it towards doing good things for its members and for science journalism in general.  As before, I am keen to keep trying to make the board more responsive to its members and press on with supporting student and early-career members as well as with a more prudent use of resources, by actually increasing spending on activities our members want to see.  

Treasurer

Victoria Parsons

Nominated by: Martin Ince & Harriet Bailey

Supporting Statement: I started on the ABSW board as student representative, and have also helped with events. As our current Treasurer must step down I would like to offer myself as the new Treasurer. I am keen for the ABSW to expand as an organisation and continue its excellent work in supporting its membership of science journalists and communicators. The Executive Board posts elected annually and an outline of the responsibilities of each posts are as follows (please scroll down for more on the actual nomination process and the nomination form).

European Representative

Connie St Louis

Nominated by: Beki Hill & Harriet Bailey

Supporting Statement: Over the last year I have continued to work on behalf of the ABSW with other European Associations to form a new European Federation of Science Journalism (EFSJ). You may remember at the last AGM; the ABSW board was given a mandate by members to leave EUSJA, which was not fit for purpose in the areas of governance and finance. During the year preparations have been made create to a European Federation of Science Journalism. The Swiss and Dutch Association have also left EUSJA and a number of other associations including Italy, Germany will be asking their members to join to become founding members of this new federation. It is hoped that the ABSW membership will support plans to continue with this new formation.

General Executive Board Member (7 posts available)

Wendy Grossman

Nominated by: Martin Ince & Mico Tatalovic

Supporting Statement: I am a long-time board member originally coopted to assist with the adoption of new technologies such as the website. I help represent ABSW in the Creators Rights Alliance and generally contribute ideas and problem-solving.

Beki Hill

Nominated by: Ehsan Masood & Martin Ince

Supporting Statement: I have held the position of ABSW member (in charge of events) for a number of years, and would like to stand again for the next term. I have experience of organising science outreach events and have organised a number of successful ABSW events during my time. I would like to stand again to continue to organise events. I would also like to engage with ABSW members in organising the events, and would welcome help and suggestions for event topics.

Joshua Howgego

Nominated by: Mico Tatalovic & Beki Hill

Supporting Statement: I am an early career science editor, currently at SciDev.Net. I'm interested in representing people similarly at the beginning of their careers. And I would like to see the ABSW work to help open up new routes of entry into the profession for people from diverse backgrounds.  

Katharine Sanderson

Nominated by: Bea Perks & Richard Van Noorden

Supporting Statement: I have been a member of the executive board for the past year, and would love to continue my involvement with the continuing work of ABSW. I’m a freelancer, having previously been on staff at Nature and Chemistry World.   I'm particularly interested in ways that ABSW can support freelancers, young writers and those who aren't based in London.

 

 

 

ABSW Expresses Concern Over Changes to Civil Service Code

The ABSW has signed a joint letter to the Rt Hon Francis Maude MP Minister for the Cabinet Office and Paymaster General expressing concern about revisions to the Civil Service Code that could prevent scientsts responding to the needs of journalists. 

The letter has been signed by:

Martin Ince, President, ABSW

Sir Colin Blakemore, Honorary President ABSW

Fiona Fox, Chief Executive, Science Media Centre

Dr Ed Sykes, Chair of Stempra

The Guardian have now taken up the story:

http://www.theguardian.com/science/2015/mar/27/francis-maude-warned-by-scientists-over-chilling-effect-of-new-media-rules

As have Science

http://news.sciencemag.org/europe/2015/03/u-k-government-scientists-hit-media-restrictions

The Medical Journalists Association has also sent a letter to Rt Hon Francis Maude

 

 

 

ABSW Members win in British Press Awards

Congratulations to ABSW members Andrew Gregory (winner) and Steve Connor (highly commended) in the British Press Awards Science and Health Category:
 
Science and Health Journalist of the Year – sponsored by L’Oreal
Winner: Andrew Gregory – Daily Mirror
Highly commended: Steve Connor – The Independent and i
 
Press release and full list of winners can be found here:
 

Apply for funding to attend World Conference of Science Journalists in Seoul

The Korean Association of Science Journalists and the conference sponsors are allocating $240,000USD to bring journalists to Seoul (WCSJ 8-12 June, Seoul, Korea 2015). The travel scholarship fund will be used to bring:
 
30 science journalists from developing countries,
10 science journalism students from anywhere,
and 10 working science journalists from developed countries where media organizations would not cover travel.
 
Applicants will have to show how they will benefit from attending the conference, how it will strengthen science journalism in their country, where they will report their stories gleaned from the conference and this time, we are also asking for some indication that they are members of a WFSJ association, if applicable, and how they see their role in the association. Some of the journalists who get to Seoul may be asked to be part of a panel on their country’s association.
 
Deadline for applications is March 31, 2015 and the result will be announced on April 13, 2015. Those wish to apply should download the application form from the official homepage of WCSJ 2015 (www.wcsj2015.or.kr) and submit them in accordance with the guidelines.
 

AGM Agenda 2015

ABSW AGM AGENDA

Date and time: Thu 26 March 2015, 19:00 onwards
Venue: AG01 College Building, City University, St Johns Street, EC1V 4PB  
 
Invited: All ABSW members
 
Drinks and canapés will be available during the AGM
 
NB: Only full and life members and the Honorary President may vote. Quorum for the meeting is 10 voting members
 
1 Apologies for Absence
 
2 Minutes of the Last ABSW AGM held on 27 March 2014
 
3 Matters Arising
 
4 President’s Report - Martin Ince
 
 
 
7 Proposed Amendment to the ABSW Standing Orders - Martin Ince/Pete Wrobel/Michael Kenward
 
At the request of the ABSW appointed auditors the AGM 2014 suggested that a change to the standing orders should be made to clarify the role of the ABSW auditors.   The suggested wording, agreed with the auditors, to add to the standing orders is as follows (NB: changes to the standing orders must be approved by the AGM):
 
Role of the Auditors
The auditors elected at the AGM are ABSW members, not audit professionals. Their role is to act on behalf of the members and to reassure them of the governance, management and financial base of the ABSW. In particular, they should 
 
(a) assure the members that the accounts that the Treasurer presents at the AGM are a fair record of the Association’s finances;
 
(b) ensure that the procedures followed and strategies put in place by the Executive Board are appropriate to protect the Association and its finances; and
 
(c) report on these issues to the AGM.
 
Action Required:
The AGM is asked to consider approving this change to the standing orders. 
 
8 Election of Executive Board - Martin Ince
 
All posts on the Executive Board are elected annually at the AGM. This is the second year in which the Board has run its election process on line. In accordance with the Standing Orders nominations opened on 26 January 2015 and closed on 23 February 2015.  The following individuals stood for election:
 
Martin Ince – President
Mico Tatalovic – Vice President
Connie St Louis – European Representative
Victoria Parsons – Treasurer
Beki Hill/Wendy Grossman/Katharine Sanderson/Joshua Howgego – general post on the Board (7 maximum available)
 
There are therefore no contested posts and no candidates for Secretary.  There is no specific guidance in the Standing Orders on procedure where posts are not contested or no nominations received.   The Executive Board agreed the following procedure and this was approved by the appointed election tellers (Andy Coughlan/John Bonner)
 
Action Taken/Required:
Details of the nominations were placed on the ABSW website earlier this month and the AGM is now asked to ratify these individuals to comprise the new Executive Board.  At the first meeting of the new Executive Board after this AGM the Board will consider co-opting individuals to cover vacant posts 
 
The ABSW would like to express its thanks to Harriet Bailey (Treasurer) who has now left the Executive Board.
 
9 Appointment of Auditors - Martin Ince
 
Action Required:
The AGM are asked to approve the appointment of Pete Wrobel and Michael Kenward as the auditors for the financial year 2015. 
(NB: Auditors for 2014 were Pete Wrobel and Michael Kenward)    
 
10 Appointment of Life Members - Martin Ince
 
The ABSW Board has no nominations for Life Members in 2015
 
11 Date of Next AGM - March 2016
 
12 Any Other Business
 

 

After the ABSW - Creators' Rights Alliance Survey

At the end of 2014 the ABSW conducted a survey amongst its membership, looking at their experience of  contracts for writing and other creative work. This was part of a drive by the Creators’ Rights Alliance, of which the ABSW is a member, to secure parliamentary support for fairer contract practices.
 
Mike Harrison reports the outcome of the survey.

 

After the ABSW-CRA survey

What to make of the returns from our recent anonymous survey of contract experiences?
 
Of an ABSW membership exceeding 400 only 32 responded. Given that the questions allowed for quick tick-box responses amounting to ‘quite happy thanks’ the only safe conclusion is that there’s nothing statistically significant to be mined from so poor a turnout.
 
However, the survey asked for some narrative evidence and that did provide a partially coherent picture. Respondents told a variety of woeful tales, ranging from being strong-armed in negotiations, steady deterioration in contractual relationships and fees, and demands for expensive and sometimes impossible guarantees of the probity of their work.
 
A number of freelance writers complained of practices amounting to restraint of trade, with attempts to bind them to a particular publisher or agent. One said, “Agencies have asked me to sign contracts that forbid me to solicit or accept work of any kind from any of their clients, past or present. In one case this restriction was to last for two years after my work for them – a single article!”
 
A staff writer complains, “My contract states that I am not allowed to work for any competitor for six months after terminating my employment with my current company. As a science journalist, that's impossible.”
 
Then there’s the frequent gripe about indemnity clauses. In the past it was safe to assume that responsible publishers carried adequate legal insurance and would be willing to back a writer in any dispute. But modern contracts frequently require that the writer guarantees the accuracy of their copy and agrees to indemnify the publisher against all costs associated with litigation.
 
In most cases, the publisher also retains the right to decide how an action is handled and, given that it is at someone else’s expense, there’s a risk that they’ll extend the fight – and legal costs – to preserve their own image before the possibility of a quick apology and settlement out of court. A sustained action for defamation could seriously damage a writer’s finances so insurance is essential. And, remember, the softening of UK defamation law achieved by Simon Singh’s lobbying still doesn’t extend to Northern Ireland.
 
The NUJ’s Freelance branch’s own indemnity insurance scheme offers one of the more affordable solutions for writers put at risk by such clauses, though NUJ Freelance Organiser John Toner reports (at the time of writing) that so far there have been no claims against it.
 
That appears to confirm the rarity of defamation actions against publishers, further suggesting a thoroughly mean-spirited mindset amongst commissioning bodies. Adding defamation cover to their mandatory, and already comprehensive, public liability insurance would be a cheap addition, assuming they don’t already have it.
 
However, lest anyone takes that as a case for not bothering with insurance, John Toner also points out that the free legal advice that goes with the NUJ policy is well-used, suggesting freelances’ decreasing trust in their clients.
 
The indemnity demands being made on writers are not illegal but they don’t foster a very congenial working relationship and lead to strongly partisan ‘them and us’ negotiations. A few writers simply refuse to sign them, as did two of the survey respondents, sometimes losing jobs as a result.
 
There was evidence in the survey results of an occasional split of attitude between editorial and legal staff within big publishing organisations. Editors seem to show more sympathy for the plight faced by jobbing writers faced with corporate lawyers’ boiler-plate contracts.
 
One ex-news editor for a science magazine reported he was routinely required to ask freelancers to sign a contract which included a clause on indemnity. “A few freelancers (rightly) pushed back, and I willingly deleted the clause from their contract, but most simply accepted it. Now, as a freelancer, I often face similar clauses in the contracts I receive. I always ask for them to be removed, but on two occasions when the editor has refused (both with US publications) I have had to accept the situation, otherwise I would have lost them as clients.”
 
The dichotomy in corporate thinking is underscored by a writer and editor who reported contract negotiations which were initiated after most of the work had been done – an increasingly common complaint. “I was frankly gobsmacked by the doublethink involved – I was asked to trust the publisher completely not to exploit the indemnity clause, while at the same time they argued that, without it, I would have no ‘incentive’ to do a proper professional job!”
 
Right at the top of the writers’ gripe chart, mentioned in most of the narrative comments, is the near-universal demand for ‘all rights’ in copyright material. The practice denies a writer participation in any residual revenue stream and a refusal to sign over all rights without additional payment usually leads to no contract and no job.
 
However, for all the sense of a thoroughly debased marketplace for freelances, there were some glimmers of optimism in the returns. One respondent said: “In general I've been lucky in having reasonable employers – who take the attitude that they own the copyright to the published version of my work, but if I change the wording of the piece, it's a 'different' article, so I am free to use it as I like. As a result, I am often able to reuse and re-write material originally prepared for one publication for other purposes – and both sides are happy with this arrangement.”
 
But looking at the overall experience of freelancing today, another respondent summed up a very despondent feeling: “The system seems to try to destroy writers rather than try to help them get established. There are few entry jobs, so the least experienced are forced into pitching for freelance jobs, which are often offered at a low cost, full rights given basis. Too often even 'respected' publishers lie, cheat and abuse freelancers with unfair contract terms, verbal assurances and promises which never materialise.”
 
Freelances in other media are reporting similar bad experiences and an overwhelming sense that they’re being denied a proper share in the prosperity of the UK’s booming publishing markets. If ever there were a case for a code of conduct for freelance creative contracts, the survey seems to confirm it.
 
Increasingly, freelancing is the only stepping-stone into the media creativity markets. So my personal fear is that without some improvement in commissioning relationships, fewer and fewer talented folk will risk a life of struggling against what feel like unfair odds.
 
The formation of a new generation of creators will dwindle and the publishers who have profited from earlier resources will realise they’ve shot the golden goose. A lose-lose-lose situation if you even begin to consider the public who depend on the stuff for news, information, entertainment and the bed-rock of a national culture.
A snapshot of the survey results
 
• Thirty-two of the ABSW’s 400+ members responded
• The majority of respondents work self-employed as freelances or self-publishers. A majority are in a creative, rather than a managerial or research role. There’s a sprinkling of PhD students with sidelines in freelance writing.
• Roughly half said they had had some experience of bad contract practices, and for most it had happened more than once. Their experiences spread over a number of years. A few had successfully negotiated the deletion of what they saw as an unfair contract clause.
• Only eight respondents said they owned copyright in their most recent work. Worryingly, six said they don’t know who owns it.
• Similarly thirteen said they had given a licence to all rights on their latest work, only six limiting them, and nine opting for ‘don’t know’.
• Narrative comments make several references to agencies acting as middle-man suppliers to publishers while applying heavily restrictive terms to freelances to prevent direct access to clients.
 
Mike Harrison
 

Martin's Update: January 2015

Martin’s Update

January 2015

Here is my regular update on the issues discussed at our latest ABSW Board meeting:

Membership of the ABSW

It’s that time of year again when we ask you to renew your membership.   Many thanks to those of you who have already renewed. At the end of January we will update our records and send confirmation of membership to you all, and a friendly reminder to those who have yet to pay.

Membership of the ABSW is the sign that you are a serious member of this profession, and lets you connect to other science journalists, writers and communications professionals  as well as to events and to training and work opportunities.  Nearly 100 new members joined last year. I do hope you will renew your membership, and take an active part in your association this year. 

ABSW Board Elections

One way to become more involved is to consider standing for the ABSW Board.   Nominations are now open until 23 February for Board membership and for our various officer posts.   I have already thrown my hat in the ring to stand for a further term as President.   Full details of the posts available, the responsibilities and likely workload are all on the website along with links to the nomination form.   So do please consider joining the Board in 2015. You don’t have to be in London for the meetings. We have finally managed to get Skype and other technology for remote participation.  http://www.absw.org.uk/about-us/executive-board-election-process-2014.html

Sexism in Science Journalism

Last year the ABSW commissioned research into the issue of sexism in science journalism.   The subject was also discussed in the opening plenary session of last year’s UK Conference of Science Journalists.   Video, audio and reviews of this session are all available in our UKCSJ archive, http://www.ukcsj.org/edition-2014/sexism-in-science-plenary.html  The Board is eagerly awaiting the final report from this research in order to assess what actions might be usefully taken by the ABSW, in conjunction with bodies such as the NUJ, to tackle sexism in science journalism.

Investigative Science Journalism

The Board developed and promoted an Investigative Science Journalism Fellowship scheme last year, and put aside funds to pay for it. So we were disappointed to find that no applications were received.   Connie St Louis has been exploring why, and will soon be publishing an article on the issue that will let us promote the more scheme widely.  For further details and to apply, please visit the website: http://www.absw.org.uk/news-and-events/absw-news/absw-investigative-science-journalism-fellowship.html

ABSW Summer School

The ABSW is planning a summer school on Thursday 25 June at the Royal Society to provide skills training and networking opportunities for people starting out in the business.   Summer school is intended to fill the gap between our biennial UK Conference of Science Journalists with a skills-based and practical event in the intervening year.  It is at the planning stages and if you have any thoughts on useful content for it, do please contact Sallie Robins who is drawing up the programme in consultation with the Board.  This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Press Cards for ABSW members

The ABSW is finally making progress towards issuing members with press credentials via one of a number of official issuers.   Many of you already have such credentials gained through your employer or the NUJ, but other members have told us that an ABSW card would be extremely valuable to them.  I am working with Board member Wendy Grossman and the UK Press Card Authority to determine costs and processes for ABSW members to receive this benefit, and will keep you updated on progress.

Key Dates:

Saturday 31 January – membership fees for 2015 should have been paid

Wednesday 11 February – ABSW Science Writers’ Awards for Britain and Ireland open for entry

Monday 23 February - nominations for ABSW Board close

Friday 27 February – nominations close for British candidate for European Science Writer of the Year

Week beginning 2 March 2015 – online voting for contested Board posts commences

Wednesday 18 March - ABSW Science Writers’ Awards for Britain and Ireland close for entry

Thursday 26 March – AGM venue tbc (London)

For more on all these, visit our website www.absw.org.uk. And while there, don’t forget to transplant the ABSW button to your own corner of cyberspace. Even with my html skills, it only took a moment, and it looks great.

 

Best wishes,

Martin Ince

President of the ABSW

 

 

 

UKCSJ Dragon's Den winner wins Wellcome Trust's Science Writing Prize

The ABSW has discovered that last month, Kate Széll was judged the winner of the Wellcome Trust’s science writing prize in category B for “anyone with a non-professional interest, including undergraduates”. 
 
In June this year Kate successfully pitched a story idea at the UK Conference of Science Journalists Dragon’s Den session.   Kate went on to have her idea commissioned and published by Research Fortnight.  
 
Read Kate’s Wellcome Trust article
Read Kate’s article for Research Fortnight (p21)
 
Congratulations to Kate - obviously a name to watch!
 

The 'missed the deadline' ABSW Xmas Party

The Traditional 'Missed the Deadline' ABSW Xmas Party is set for Thursday 15 January 2015:
 
Thursday 15 January 2015
18:30 onwards
The Somers Town Coffee House (don't worry it is a pub)
Food/drinks/gossip ..sorry I think it's called networking these days 
 
 
An invite has been sent to all members.   If you can make it do RSVP.
 

Pallab Ghosh wins Science and Technology Journalist of the Year

From today's Press Gazette, news that Pallab (ABSW member and former President of the Association) was awarded Science and Technology Journalist of the Year last night:
 
Science and Technology Journalist of the Year (sponsored by Astellas) – Pallab Ghosh, BBC
 
The BBC’s Pallab Ghosh won the science and technology award for his reports exposing the failure of the Government’s badger culling programme.
 
The judges said: “This was one of those stories where if it wasn’t for people like Pallab the Governnent would have got away with doing what it wanted and ignoring the advice of its own scientists.
 
“There had been previous work where scientists had expressed concerns about the badger culls, lots of journalists were following this up. But Pallab was the only one to get hold of Defra’s own unpublished report showing that the culls were ineffective and inhumane.”
 
Read the full story in the Press Gazette
 

In Conversation with Mark Walport - ABSW and Science Museum Lates Event Report

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