Falling walls conference and press trip to Berlin - Gemma Milne reports
I recently returned from the Falling Walls conference and press trip for Berlin Science Week, made possible through the ABSW and EUSJA. Both the conference itself and the gathering of journalists from all over Europe - and indeed, the world - were well worth my time and, simply, a great reminder of why I love to write about science.
The trip consisted of a press day on the Wednesday, followed by two days of the Falling Walls conference - in its 10th year, a global multidisciplinary gathering of high level scientists and up and coming innovators.
For the press day, there were 10 EUSJA journalists (the delegation I was a member of) and 10 Falling Walls Journalism Fellows (journalists from all over the world, who had applied for a similar scheme, directly through the conference). This meant that there were 19 fellow science writers, from Brazil and India, to the US and Russia, to swap stories with and generally get to to know while we toured some of Berlin's science and technology institutes - including the Natural History Museum.
The science and tech on offer during the tour wasn't as much of personal interest to me (considering my beat) - it's quite hard to curate a day which covers all of the areas all science journalists are interested in, to the level of detail we'd be looking for. However, we did have a Berliner who gave us a potted history of Berlin's industrial and academic journey over the last 100 years, which was priceless. In the afternoon, we also were very privileged to have a workshop organised for us, ran by Mariette DiChristina, Editor-in-Chief of Scientific American, about how science journalism is changing. This was a highlight of the trip, as we were able to get to know one another better and learn from different experiences around the globe, as well as pick Mariette's brain about her long career in science journalism.
The first day of the conference, we had the choice of 3 tracks - academics, science communicators, or science communicators - I chose the academics track. There were 100 young academics from all corners of the globe, presenting for 3 minutes alone (they literally got chased off stage if they stayed too long) their work. It was a fab way for working out what the latest was in almost every area of research - this was my favourite part of the conference. For the second day, it was a more standard multidisciplinary conference, with TED-like talks from leaders in fields of AI, robotics, psychology, social sciences, physics and many others. There wasn't much 'news' presented as they weren't focusing on announcements - however as press we were given the opportunity to set up interviews with any of the speakers to dive a little deeper.
All in all, the trip was extremely enjoyable - the best part was meeting so many other great writers from all over the world. We've got a Whatsapp group on the go, many of us were swapping editor connections, and as most of us were freelancers, we shared the ups and downs of self employed life! I'd highly recommend the trip to anyone considering applying - I'd go again in a heartbeat.
Keep an eye on the ABSW email discussion list, twitter, facebook and website for future press trip opportunities.
Technology & Science Writer
Co-Founder // Science: Disrupt