The culprit of the deliberate poisoning of a PhD student remains at large and multiple brands of a known to be ineffective paediatric oncology drug are still being prescribed, despite both stories being exposed by journalists. These are two of the stories recalled by their authors at the online event “The Story Behind the Story” which took place last Thursday evening.

The authors are past winners of the ABSW monthly showcase. Freelance writer of over 10 years, Andy Extance gave voice to the chemist poisoned with thallium (July 2023). The investigative journalist Rosa Furneaux exposed the useless and dangerous childhood cancer treatment (January 2023). And Liam Drew, writer and biologist, reported how patients are left alone with their implanted electronic devices when companies go bankrupt (December 2022).

If after exposed, solutions are still to be found, a valid question may well be posed: what spurs the investigators and writers behind such findings to keep going? Liam Drew set an example. The acknowledgement by the board at the World Summit on the Information Society was “a proud moment”. It signified recognition of the tenacity and fight for truth that have fuelled years’ worth of work.

Uncovering the truth, though, may also bring a bitter taste. Rosa Furneaux discussed the moral dilemma of “releasing knowledge publicly that a parent’s only treatment option for their sick child is ineffective when the only other option is no treatment at all”. Also, the success of the stories was to bring attention to such causes, even if it wasn't possible to reap answers or see changes immediately. The path to change is built one brick at a time.

Science can be ruled by money and politics, rather than the core value of bettering people's lives. The works presented restore hope that science writers are willing to put their careers on the line and face the strongest opposition to bring science injustices to light.

The take-home message was clear: breaking news is often a race, but not stories like these. The dedication and perseverance of the three authors, perhaps an attribute of every successful science communicator, continue with efforts in both their current endeavours and future projects. Networking is another tool that should be in every science writer’s kit. Andy and Rosa told how they relied on key relationships for sources of otherwise unattainable knowledge. 

The ABSW acts as a channel for exchanging experiences and resources and hopes to fulfil the role of a networking tool.

Katharine Sanderson chaired the November 21 session which recognised and celebrated the work of these notable authors and ABSW members. The Monthly Showcase is a platform for science journalists to submit their most prided work, extending impact and awareness. The showcase also aims to provide a springboard for scientific discussion between members in turn, creating a place of community and support.

If you are a member and haven’t had the chance to attend the event, you can watch it here. If you are not a member, this is a good time to join ABSW and have access to exclusive content.

The Association of British Science Writers is registered in England and Wales under company number 07376343 at 76 Glebe Lane, Barming, Maidstone, Kent, ME16 9BD.
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