The Science Reporter

 

 

 

 

 

The Science Reporter is our newsletter. Delivered directly to your inbox up to six times a year, it contains news, features, gossip, debates, books by members, jobs, trips and special offers.

Use the links below to read each issue


In this issue...

 

Editorial
Features
News

Columns
Hall of Shame
Events

 

Ediorial:

Science journalists - a dying breed?
A friend of mine is an investigative journalist for a major American newspaper. He's a fine writer, winning some of the highest awards for his work, and one of those great journalists many of us aspire to be. In the few films where the journalist is the hero for uncovering some great injustice, he'd be that journalist. But his Facebook photo is of a dodo....
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Features:

Rude Health
Did a recent report on the state of science journalism miss the point? Paul Rodgers is a journalist for a national newspaper but is also completing a science journalism course, making him ideally placed to examine the state of science journalism.
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Eureka: an inspired decision?
Print journalism is in a state of flux, beset by declining circulation and digital innovation. Despite this wider uncertainty, eight months ago The Times launched Eureka - a science magazine aimed squarely at the intelligent layman. So how much of a risk has it been? Antonia Senior, Editor of Eureka, answers.
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So you want your first science journalist job?
Intro..Every year dozens of students complete science communication courses – but are there enough science journalism and writing jobs to go round? We asked recent graduate Mico Tatalovic for his experiences in trying to make money from science journalism.
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How to: Audioboo
Audioboo is a social networking service that allows you to upload and share audio files. Think of it an audio version of Twitter but without being limited to 140 characters (unless you speak very, very slowly).
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News:

Times Paywall for online content
Intro...The Times Online, the web counterpart of the News Corp.-owned print newspaper, is about to begin charging users for access to its content. Hannah Devlin, The Times' science journalist, says the paywall will encourage a smaller, more strategic readership.
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ABSW member to mentor journalists in Africa and the Middle East
Nature’s Online News Editor and ABSW member Ananyo Bhattacharya has been selected to serve as a mentor for the World Federation of Science Journalists outreach programme Science Journalism Cooperation Program.
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UK Science Journalism conference takes shape
Plans for the first ever UK Conference of Science Journalists (UKCSJ) are now taking shape with an outline programme agreed last month. Plenary sessions will include the provocatively titled 'ClimateGate: Were Journalists asleep at the Wheel?' Exploring the story of the leaked University of East Anglia e-mails, the relationship between scientists and science journalists, and between journalists and their news desk/editors.
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Nanotech up close
Nanotechnology is an interdisciplinary field, at the interface between biology, chemistry and physics. As such, researchers at the LCN - a collaboration between University College London and Imperial College London - have set themselves the challenging goal of redefining scientific fields to have an impact on the world. And ABSW members got to see their efforts first hand on a recent field visit
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Columns:

ABSW-L Buzz Feb-May 2010
Fabrication, misquotation, Brits vs. Yanks, the April Fool's Balrog and imaginative pedants. All in a few months' chat on ABSW-L...
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Fabian's World
What Fabian thinks about a set of guidelines for anyone making sci-fi films or programmes, the most important one being: "only one major transgression of physics permitted."
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Hall of Shame:

Making you proud to call yourself a science writer
No prizes for guessing which newspaper this story comes from: "Simply turning on a light at night for a few seconds to go to the toilet can cause changes that might lead to cancer."
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Events:

Out and About
Instead of shivering in a pub garden, why not come along to one of these scintillating events?
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Copyright (C) 2010 ABSW All rights reserved.

 

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The Association of British Science Writers (ABSW)

In this issue...

 

Debate
Features
News
ABSW News
Columns, Editorials and Events
Hall of Shame
Jobs

 

Debate:

Should there be less science news?

FOR: John Rennie, science writer and former Editor in Chief of Scientific American.
Science news as we know it typically consists of formulaic stories on a handful of discoveries airing concurrently in top-tier journals or at conferences. Why the media would default to pack journalism based on that 'exciting paper of the week' model is obvious, but audiences and science reporting would both be better off with less of it.

Jenny Leonard, editor of Futurity, an online research magazine highlighting discoveries from leading research universities in the United States and Canada.
Research discoveries and scientific breakthroughs are not on the decline, but news coverage of those discoveries is declining. Without that coverage we risk losing public engagement in science and public support of research.
Read the rest of this debate online




Features:

Where were the science writers?
Should UK science journalists be ashamed that they missed a major story? John Travis suggests some of us might be too preoccupied with dinosaurs to conduct serious journalism...
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The new website is here at last... so use it!
In October 2009, we launched a new website. Having asked our members what they wanted, we began the arduous task of actually building it. One of the things we’re trying hard to do is move towards a one stop shop website: somewhere you can find out about the ABSW, keep your details up to date, see member profiles, read our news, keep up to date with our events and much more - all in one place. We hope you like the results. Please do e-mail with any feedback. In the meantime, here are a few pointers in case you're having trouble finding your way round....
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How to...Twitter
Twitter continues to make the news and continues to confuse ABSW members. Are you baffled by all this Twitter-talk? What the heck is a hashtag? And how do I get started? Jo Brodie and Mun-Keat Looi guide novices through their first tweets and provide some tips for the more experienced....
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News:

Simon Singh granted permission to appeal libel verdict
Science writer Simon Singh has been granted permission to launch a full appeal challenging the High Court’s decision against him in his ongoing libel case initiated by the British Chiropractic Association (BCA) back in May....
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The Futurity of Science News?
A group of leading US universities have set up an online 'news channel' to showcase their latest research. But the move has sparked criticism from science journalists who fear it blurs the boundaries between PR and journalism....
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Researcher archive could offer free access to papers
ResearchGATE, a science networking site to help researchers collaborate with each other, has launched a self-archiving repository that gives the public free access to full-text journal articles. This could offer a useful resource for science writers often left frustrated by publication paywalls asking for up to $40 for access to a single article....
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ABSW News:

And our survey said...
The results of the recent ABSW member survey are probed and the Executive Committee's plans to address your concerns are explained...
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Annual 'Away Day' planned
The extremely positive feedback from this year’s World Conference of Science Journalists shows a clear desire and need for science journalists to get together and discuss issues affecting the profession...
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Embargoes working party update
The ABSW working party on embargoes is soon to hold an informal consultation seeking members views...
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ABSW-L Buzz
Editors, scientists and Ben Goldacre. The knives were out this month on ABSW-L...
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New Members
Another healthy crop of new recruits to the ABSW...
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Books
Got a new book coming out? To have your book listed in the next issue, please e-mail the following by 8 January 2010: title, author, blurb, art, publisher and publication date, with number of pages and price if known....
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Columns, Editorials and events:

Time for a new editor: could it be you?
Towards the beginning of 2009, Natasha Loder asked me to take over the role of editor of The Science Reporter and to demonstrate that an electronic publication would not just be cheaper than the printed version, it could be better. Judging from the survey, I think we can say we proved our point. Having done the job I was asked to do for almost my full term of a year (I'll finish in January), I think it's important that the job go to someone else who has the ideas, enthusiasm, creativity, and time to devote to it....
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My ABSW
This isn’t meant to be a self-help page, but I will offer one sound nugget of advice and that is to join the ABSW if you haven’t done so already. My justification for this, above and beyond the usual draw of parties and general connection with like-minded individuals, are the benefits and opportunities that might just get tossed in your direction from the high table of the great and successful in science communication...
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Fabian's World
The usual eclectic round-up of esoteric ephemera...
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Out and About
As the nights turn chillier and breath turns to steam in the air, what better way to save money (and the environment) by heading out to a public science event instead of sitting at home in front of Strictly Go X-rated Ice Dancing with the heating on?
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Hall of Shame:

Most bizarre and pointless extrapolation
Oh, the humanity. Have a look at this...
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Most pathetic attempt to stoke controversy
Putting the "mental" in environmental - Rocket backfires!
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Jobs:

For the latest Jobs, please see our website

Got a position to fill? Pay us just £50 to advertise it: contact This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. for more details.


Deadline for the next issue is 8th January. Issue due out in time for AGM in late January

You're receiving this newsletter because you are a member of the ABSW.
Not interested anymore? This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

You can contact us at:
The Association of British Science Writers (ABSW)
Wellcome Wolfson Building,
165 Queen's Gate,
London, SW7 5HD
United Kingdom

Copyright (C) 2009 ABSW All rights reserved.

 

 

Email not displaying correctly? View it directly through your browser online
 
The Association of British Science Writers (ABSW)

In this issue...

 

Debate
Editorial
News
Features
ABSW News

Columns
Hall of Shame
Jobs
Events

 

Debate:

Does the irrationality of religion make it an enemy of science?

FOR: Sunny Bains, outgoing Editor of The Science Reporter
There are two incompatible ways of looking at the world. One is the scientific way: you ask questions about how the world works, hypothesise, and then make observations/perform experiments to support, contradict and/or refine your ideas. The other is to accept a world-view imposed by a cleric or ancient book: religion. Of course, this is a massive over-simplification when applied to a world of complicated people...

AGAINST: Michael Hanlon, Science Editor of The Daily Mail
All anthropological evidence points to religion being hardwired into the human psyche. No truly atheist societies have ever emerged (when supernatural gods are absent, such as in North Korea, deified humans are called in as substitutes). Indeed, some scientists have argued that proto-religious behaviour can be glimpsed in chimpanzees and there is no reason to suppose that our extinct hominid cousins would not have possessed what we could call a ‘spiritual’ side...

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Editorial:

Sex discrimination, really?
I remembery vividly hearing Susan Greenfield on BBC Radio 4's In the Psychiatrist's Chair back in 2000. I was painting my living room and didn't really have an opinion about her at that time. I'd read her book The Human Brain: A Guided Tour and, although I didn't absolutely adore it, I thought it was pretty good. So if anything I was pre-disposed to like her...
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News:

Scientific American announces first female editor-in-chief
Scientific American has appointed Mariette DiChristina as its Editor–in-chief. The announcement, made in December 2009, marks the first time a woman has served in the role in the magazine’s 164-year history.
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Libel reform campaign makes progress
Jack Straw, Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State for Justice, has announced a formal review of libel legislation in England and Wales after mounting pressure from various campaigns. A working group consisting of lawyers, academics and newspaper editors will review the legislation and propose any reforms they see as necessary.
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Copenhagen coverage fails to ride waves made by 'Climategate'
The leak of confidential e-mails from the University of East Anglia's Climate Research Unit (UEA) dropped a bomb on the climate change agenda just weeks before the COP15 summit in Copenhagen, Denmark. Media outlets all over the world picked up the debris.
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News aggregator claims linking freedoms under threat
A new campaign aims to fight the introduction of regulations against linking.
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Features:

Making chemistry cool
When university departments are closing and your subject seems to have lost even its mad-scientist cachet, how do you regain public and media interest? Brian Emsley knows...
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Thinking skeptically
Cures, breakthroughs and wonder drugs—who can science journalists trust and how skeptical should we be? Wendy Grossman offers some advice….
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How to... Write a conference review
Conference reviews are a fact of life, but can be more interesting for the writer than the reader if not thought through carefully. Sunny Bains explains...
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ABSW News:

ABSW 2009: A year in review
Chair Natasha Loder looks back on the ABSW's achievements and her first six months in charge.
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ABSW-L Buzz
2010 may be upon us, but the same pedantic troubles keep us warm on ABSW-L...
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Member's Books
Check out two new books by members: Bouncing Bomb Man: The Science of Sir Barnes Wallis by Iain Murray, and An Introduction to Ionic Liquids by Michael Freemantle.
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Columns:

My ABSW
In the spring of 1997, I found myself in Strasbourg at the first meeting of Euroscience. I'm a young research student, disillusioned with academia, and I've been paid to come and moan about how miserable life is for postgraduates. During a break, I wandered over to a balcony to drink my nasty black euro-coffee. Somehow I ended up chatting to a bearded man who turned out to be a journalist.
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Fabian's World
A skeptic's view of recent events...
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Hall of Shame:

Most shameless use of a dead genius to sell Live luggage
Sir Isaac Newton is being used to sell something called an anti-gravity handle. Sigh.
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Jobs:

For the latest Jobs, please see our website

Got a position to fill? Pay us just £50 to advertise it: contact This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. for more details.


Events:

Out and About
After the excitement of Christmas and the sparkle of New Year there is precious little to warm a science writer's heart as the bleak, grey days stretch out for what seems to be an eternity. And, if you're anything like me, you're skint. Rather than shiver at home, scraping a fork morosely through a Pot Noodle, it's time to find some events to go to. Some of them might even be free...
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Next issue: due out the week of April 2010.

You're receiving this newsletter because you are a member of the ABSW.
Not interested anymore? This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

You can contact us at:
The Association of British Science Writers (ABSW)
Wellcome Wolfson Building,
165 Queen's Gate,
London, SW7 5HD
United Kingdom

Copyright (C) 2010 ABSW All rights reserved.

 

 
 
 
Next issue DEADLINE: 19 October 2009, to come out the week of 2 November 2009.

DEBATE: Is the mainstream media's science coverage broken, misleading, dangerous, lazy, venal, and silly?

FOR: Ben Goldacre, doctor and author of the Bad Science column (in the Guardian) and book
Discussions on this problem could easily descend into banal lists of examples. As a starting point, here is my banal list of examples. The irresponsible reporting on MMR – which continues even now – is this profession’s flagship of shame...

AGAINST: Steve Connor, Science Editor, The Independent
Ben Goldacre’s columns are often entertaining and in the public interest – two ingredients of good journalism. They are welcomed in the battle against anti-science and the mountebanks of disinformation. I thought we were on the same side in this struggle...

Read the rest of this debate online.


EDITORIAL: Call me the awkward squad
You'll see a piece about the Templeton Fellowship in this issue, and I don't feel I can let it stand without at least some comment...
Read the rest of this article online.


NEWS: The Creative Rights Alliance recovers
Despite the sad passing of its chairman, The CRA continues to tackle issues of paramount importance to writers, such as digital copyright and a European Commission attempt to clamp down on any recommendation of rates....
Read the rest of this article online.


NEWS: Free help for investigative journalism projects
A new initiative from City University, London, will supply investigative researchers from its Science Journalism Masters Course to working journalists who apply...
Read the rest of this article online.


NEWS: 'PRs have morals,' says study funded by PRs for PRs
Public relations professionals have higher morals than surgeons, businessmen and accountants, claims a study (and its press release)...
Read the rest of this article online.


FEATURE: Faith, reason and the Templeton Fellowship
The Science Editor of the Daily Mail, Michael Hanlon, gives his take on the Templeton Journalism Fellowships...
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FEATURE: Straight Statistics
Director of Straight Statistics, Nigel Hawkes, on the battle to unearth the truth from the numbers...
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ABSW: Science journalism in crisis? BIS expert group seeks our input
The Department for Business Innovation and Skills (BIS) has announced an 'expert group' to look at the state of science and the media in the UK. Your input is sought for an ABSW submission to the panel...
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ABSW: Funding now available for regional groups
The ABSW Executive Committee is setting aside funds to help establish regional groups for members outside of London...
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ABSW: Tell us what your rates are
A new online pay survey should help freelancers determine their worth...
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COLUMN: Fabian's World
Crystal gazing: A strange and startling art work in the form of a council flat in South London totally covered in copper sulphate crystals has been attracting 200 people a day...
Maths and cells: Recent TV programmes about maths and cells share the same desperate desire to amuse the viewer...
One stumbling step: It appears that the famous “One small step for man…” might have had its origins in a Brit...
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COLUMN: My ABSW
Reflections on the World Conference of Science Journalists...
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COLUMN: ABSW-L Buzz
Some serious stuff: just watch out for the clichés. All the latest natter on ABSW-L...
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COLUMN: Out and about
An incomplete and rather random guide to forthcoming events...
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Hall of Shame
Awards this issue for innovative use of dubious research to promote a company, for hype above and beyond the call of duty, for the most breathtakingly obvious conclusion and for cut and paste journalism.
See who's been named and shamed.


From the Blog
New Scientist seeks science graduates for new blog... More
John Rennie (fomerly editor of Scientific American) calls for less science journalism. (One of the highlights of the WCSJ -Ed)... More
Post on WCSJ features useful links to podcasts and other resources... More
See more opinion, musings, reports and job adverts posted regularly at the ABSW Blog.


Members' Books
Professor Stewart's Hoard of Mathematical Treasures
Read full details online.


New Members
Paul Rodgers, Nadya Ascomb, Philippa Pigache, Evelyn Harvey, Emily Baldwin, Bella Williams, Terry Knott, Marianne Freiberger, Barry Gibb, Helen Jamiso, Will Greenacr, Michael Regnier, Ollie Christopher, Zoe McDougall, Dr Ed Sykes, Tom Sheldon, Katrina Nevin-Ridley, Philip Connolly, and Mico Tatalovic.
Read full bios online.


Jobs
Nuffield Council on Bioethics seeks board member
Got a position to fill? Pay us just £50 to advertise it: contact This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. for next issue.


You're receiving this newsletter because you are a member of the ABSW.
Not interested anymore? This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

You can contact us at:
The Association of British Science Writers (ABSW)
Wellcome Wolfson Building,
165 Queen's Gate,
London, SW7 5HD
United Kingdom

Copyright (C) 2009 ABSW All rights reserved.

 

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