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Programme of last UKCSJ held in 2010

When: Friday 23 July, London

Where: Royal Society, Carlton House Terrace, London, SW1Y 5AG

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(NB: for session descriptions and speakers scroll down)

09:00- 09:30 Registration and coffee

09:30 – 10:30 Opening Plenary: ClimateGate: Were journalists asleep at the wheel?

10:40 – 11:40 Parallel sessions 1 and 2

  • 1: The Future of Genomics (part 1)
  • 2: Meet the Editors

11:45 – 12:45 Parallel sessions 3 and 4

  • 3: The Future of Genomics (part 2)
  • 4: Straight Statistics

12:45 – 14:00 lunch

14:00 – 15:00 Parallel sessions 5 and 6

  • 5: Creative Feature Writing 
  • 6: Peer Review [Video]

15:10 – 16:10 Parallel sessions 7 and 8

  • 7: Multiplatform Working
  • 8: Business as usual? 

16:10 – 16:40 coffee

16:40 – 17:40 Closing Plenary: Is free news killing good science journalism?


ClimateGate: Were Journalists Asleep at the Wheel?

The plenary will explore how the story surrounding the leaked e-mails at University of East Anglia played out, examining the relationship between scientists and science journalists, and between science journalists and their news desk/editors.

Speakers: Myles Allen (University of Oxford), Tom Clarke (C4 News), Oliver Morton (The Economist), James Randerson (The Guardian), Professor Robert Watson (Chief Scientific Advisor, DEFRA). Chair: Gabrielle Walker (writer, broadcaster).

Is free news killing good science journalism?

The Times and Sunday Times online should be sat behind a pay wall by the time of the UKCSJ.  Other UK national newspapers are, for the time being, sticking with the free model.  But is the free model sustainable, and what effect has free access, and the 24 hour news cycle had on standards in science reporting.  Should good journalism be ‘given away’ or does quality always come at a price?  

Speakers: George Brock (City University) Martin Robbins (The Lay Scientist)  Joanna Geary (Web Development Editor, The Times). Chair: Jeremy Webb (Editor-in-Chief, New Scientist).

Parallel sessions:

The Future of Genomics: A personal introduction

This session runs for two hours, however there is a programmed short break after the first hour so that you can if you wish take part in either the first or second part of the session in order to attend the other sessions that run in parallel (these are one hour only). Scroll down for details of running order.

The cost of sequencing a human genome has plummeted from hundreds of thousands of dollars to about $20k today.  In parallel, there has been an explosion of ‘genotyping’ services that scan your genome and interpret the results for a few hundred dollars.  In this session, attendees will hear from experts across this spectrum about the stories that are likely to emerge in the coming year, from cancer research to ethics and of course personal genomics.  The ABSW has secured a number of personal genome testing kits from the leading providers for use by attendees of the conference and we hope to hear about the experiences in this session. 

Sponsor: Oxford Nanopore Technologies, developing a new generation of DNA analysis technology.


Mark Henderson

Science Editor, The Times and author of 50 Genetics Ideas You Really Need to Know. Mark Henderson has followed the development of genomic science keenly, including undergoing a number of personal genetic tests.  Mark will chair the Future of Genomics session, including providing an overview of the stories that writers might expect to see emerging in the next year.

Daniel Macarthur

Daniel Macarthur is a renowned blogger on the science, technology and policy of genomics, with a particular interest in personal genomics (  He is a researcher at the UK’s Wellcome Trust Sanger Centre. 

Dr Christine Patch

Chair, British Society for Human Genetics and Consultant Genetic Counsellor and Manager, Guy’s Hospital, London

Dr James Brenton

Cancer Research UK - Dr Brenton’s research of cancer genomics focuses on why some cancer treatments are more effective, or less toxic, in some patients. His area of expertise is ovarian cancer.

Alison Hall

Project Manager, Law and Policy, PHG Foundation.

Session Structure:

PART ONE (approx one hour)

Introduction: Mark Henderson

Introduction to personal genomics – Daniel MacArthur, blogger on consumer genomics and broader genomic issues.  Wellcome Trust Sanger Centre

Genetics 101: what is a genome, what is genetic variation and how does it relate to susceptibility to disease/potential treatment. What is a SNP, what other types of variation are there?  The basics of personal genomics – quick overview of recent developments in the field and looking forward, what else is likely to be available in the next 3-5 years.

Genetic counselling: Christine Patch, Guy’s Hospital

How genetic counselling works today, communicating risk to patients and their opinion on the balance between personal freedom to information and counselling support.  Where the field of genetic counselling will need development for the future eg segue from monogenic disease to more complex scenarios, number of counsellors.

Personal experiences: panel presentations and discussion.

Three journalists are invited to present and be interviewed on their experiences with their personal genome profile.  Round-table discussion with Christine Patch and Daniel Macarthur. Personal genome testing kits have kindly been provided by,, and

Richard Hollingham is one of the delegates who has been allocated a kit - hear his initial thoughts here:



Future applications of personal genetic information – what will the future stories be?

Mark Henderson – the general landscape for genomics stories.  Quick synopsis of landscape of future stories eg risk management for common disease, pathogen genomes, also non-human genomes.

Focus on Cancer:  James Brenton, Cancer Research UK.

How genomics is influencing the study of cancer and examples of how this is translating into new clinical practices.  Overview of developments that might be expected in the next year, for example the establishment of CRUK ‘treatment centres’, use of personal whole genome data for Cancer treatment.

Legal and social implications of personal genomics - Alison Hall, PHG Foundation.

Review of the current ethical, legal and social issues that surround genomics. Brief review of the current consumer genomics space.  Moving on to the more complex issues that are arising, for example in large scale genome research projects and the challenges that will be faced if/when personal genome sequence data becomes a routine part of clinical medicine in the UK (insurance moratorium, privacy, logistical issues, formation of future-proofed guidelines).

Journalist resources

A conclusion to the session with a review of the future potential stories and lists of places and people that journalists can go to for information.


Meet the Editors

One of the most popular sessions held at last year’s WCSJ will see commissioning editors meeting freelancers and other journalists to outline their editorial priorities and direction.

Speakers: Robin McKie (Observer); Kim Shillinglaw (BBC); Graham Lawton (New Scientist), Mark Peplow (Nature), David Rowan (Wired UK), John Travis (Science-International). Chair: Jacqui Thornton (freelance journalist).


Multiplatform working

Multiplatform working is now a reality for all so a session has been programmed to explore the many different ways in which ‘stories’ can now be published.  What are the success stories, what are the pitfalls?  With this rush to multiplatform working have basic creative skills been forgotten?

 Speakers so far: Andy Bull (author of "Multimedia Journalism"), Richard Hollingham (freelance science journalist and radio presenter) Lisa Sargood
(Multiplatform Commissioning Executive, BBC Vision), Stuart Arnott (Director, Spark). Chair: Connie St.Louis (City University)

Creative feature writing

How to write compelling features that will keep readers hooked. Learn the secrets of creative writing with James Meek and Graham Lawton.

Speakers: Graham Lawton (Features Editor, New Scientist), James Meek (British Writer and Journalist). Chair - Alok Jha (Guardian).

Straight Statistics

Numbers and statistics can easily confuse - sometimes deliberately, often by accident. Averages can be chosen to prove a point, targets selected so they can't be missed, random clusters of events given a significance they don't deserve, and corrections for confounding either ignored or used to draw conclusions where none are justified. Nigel Hawkes provides examples of all these statistical tricks and explains how to avoid being taken in by them

Speakers: Nigel Hawkes (Straight Statistics) 

Nigel Hawkes is a science and health journalist. He graduated from Oxford with a degree in metallurgy in 1966, and has written about science, health and international affairs in a career that began on the staff of Nature and included long spells at The Observer (1972-90) and The Times (1990-2008). He retired from The Times in 2008 after eight years as Health Editor, and is now a columnist for British Medical Journal and Director of a new pressure group, Straight Statistics, which campaigns for the honest presentation and use of statistical data by government, media, and others.

He has written a number of books, including Structures, a book about building and civil engineering, and more than 40 science and technology titles for children and teenagers. He was appointed CBE in 1998 for services to the newspaper industry and science, and was the Medical Journalists Association health writer of the year in 2007.

Peer Review

 How can journalists be constructive critiques of peer review? What role do bloggers have in creating their own form of peer review?

Speakers: Peter Aldhous (New Scientist), Philip Campbell (Nature), Brian Deer (freelance investigative reporter), Fiona Godlee (Editor, BMJ), Tracey Brown (Director, Sense About Science). Chair: Connie St.Louis (City University).

Business as usual?

What does recent research say about science journalism in the UK, is it business as usual or have a new breed of science journalists established a ‘new science journalism’ in the blogosphere? Who is right in the heated debate over whether bloggers are journalists and has the distinction between blogging and journalism become a meaningless and semantic debate in the internet age? Do the changes in science reporting herald a new golden age for accuracy or the triumph of bad science? 


Martin Bauer (LSE)

Andy Williams (Cardiff University)

Andy Williams is the RCUK Research Fellow in Risk, Health and Science Communication. He has a number of research interests which intersect journalism studies and cultural studies. His current major research interests relate to news sources and the influence of public relations on the UK media, especially in the area of science, health and environment news.

Ed Yong (Not Exactly Rocket Science)

Fiona Fox (Science Media Centre)

Chair: Pallab Ghosh (BBC)

Read Bauer’s report ‘The sense of crisis among science journalists’ (PDF)
Read Williams' report 'Mapping science journalism' (PDF)

Podcasting practical session

NB: This session needed to be pre booked and is now fully booked.

Delegates will be briefed on how to podcast and then get straight down to the job of creating a podcast based on UKCSJ sessions. This session needs to be pre-booked and will entail you working throughout the day and missing some sessions in order to undergo briefing and feedback.  

Trainer/Session leader: Richard Scrase


Any enquiries regarding the event should be directed to Conference Directors, Julie Clayton and/or Sallie Robins via This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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