UK Conference of Science Journalists

Day One: Tuesday 13 October

11:45 Opening Ceremony (15 mins)

ABSW Chair Andy Extance and ABSW President Pallab Ghosh


12:00 The changing language of climate (90 mins)

Session moderator: Bob Ward

Panel: Damian Carrington (The Guardian), Tom Clarke (ITV News), Nada Farhoud (Daily Mirror), Dr Catherine Happer (University of Glasgow) Roger Harrabin (BBC News), Kyle Pope (Columbia Journalism Review)

The words we use to describe the changing climate have never been more important. Some argue that we need new terms: ‘climate crisis’, or ‘global heating’. Others argue that such terms align journalists too closely with activism and make some audiences switch off. So, what language should and shouldn’t we be using to describe climate change? What do audiences expect from us? And how does the language of science help or hinder communication?


13:40 Free money! How to secure grants (70 mins)

Session moderator: Fiona Broom

Panel: Ben Deighton, Lou Del Bello, Mohamed Elsonbaty, Sonali Prasad

There’s funding out there to be bagged if you know how, from fellowships to foundation grants. But what should you know before you apply in order to craft a successful application? Can there be downsides and strings attached to this money? And how do you ensure you deliver on the grant requirements? We hear from experienced grant- and fellowship-winners about how they did it. 


15:00 The craft of science writing (60 mins)

Keynote speaker: Siri Carpenter

Moderator: Andy Extance

Siri Carpenter, the co-founder and Editor-in-Chief of The Open Notebook, will reflect on what she has learnt while curating one of the world’s primary resources for science journalists and aspiring science writers for the last decade. 

This year, The Open Notebook published The Craft of Science Writing (Feb 2020), a collection of articles that distill essential lessons for science writers, from how to find and report science stories, to how to think critically about science, to how to address issues of diversity and equity in science journalism. Siri will draw out the key lessons and stories she has absorbed from bringing together all this knowledge, and how it applies to science journalism in 2020.

Summary of The Craft of Science Writing: “Science journalism has perhaps never been so critical to our world – and the demands on science journalists have never been greater. On any given day, a science journalist might need to explain the details of genetic engineering, analyse a development in climate change research, or serve as a watchdog helping to ensure the integrity of the scientific enterprise. And science writers have to spin tales seductive enough to keep readers hooked to the end, despite the endless other delights just a click away. How does one do it? In The Craft of Science Writing, some of the most skillful science journalists working today offer their experience and advice. The book offers a crew of accomplished, encouraging friends to whisper over your shoulder as you work.”


16:10 Quiz the finalists: Part One (90 mins)

Session moderator: Mun Keat Looi

Panel: Victoria Gill (BBC), Amit Katwala (WIRED UK), Michael Le Page (New Scientist), Gayathri Vaidyanathan (freelance)

Features categories in the ABSW annual awards are always inundated with entries, so how do you write one that will stand out from the rest? 

Four of this year’s shortlisted entrants will talk about what made their articles special – from dreaming up the idea to nailing the right interviews; and from crafting the narrative to working synergistically with the editor. 

Please read these masterpieces beforehand (for PDFs, see attachments at the bottom of this page) then come and quiz the panel:

Victoria Gill (BBC): Chernobyl: The end of a three-decade experiment

Michael Le Page (New Scientist): Beating cancer: how viruses are being used to infect and kill tumours

Amit Katwala (WIRED UK): Global insect populations are collapsing

Gayathri Vaidyanathan (freelancer - Nature): India’s tigers seem to be a massive success story

The discussion will be moderated by former Mosaic features editor Mun Keat Looi, now international features editor of the BMJ

Reminder: please read the four features to prepare for the session - you'll also find them in the attachments at the bottom of the page


17:50 Writing a killer newsletter (90 mins)

Session moderator: Matt Warren

Panel: Flora Graham (Nature), Gemma Milne (freelance), Akshat Rathi (Bloomberg News) 

What does a good newsletter look like in 2020? How do you build an audience? And could you even make money from it? In this session, we’ll hear from different people pioneering new styles and new ways of communicating with their subscribers.


19:40 Film screening: Picture A Scientist (97 mins plus 40 mins panel discussion)

Directed by Ian Cheney and Sharon Shattuck

Picture A Scientist is a new feature-length documentary film chronicling the groundswell of researchers who are writing a new chapter for women scientists. 

A biologist, a chemist and a geologist lead viewers on a journey deep into their own experiences in the sciences, overcoming brutal harassment, institutional discrimination, and years of subtle slights to revolutionize the culture of science. 

From cramped laboratories to spectacular field stations, we also encounter scientific luminaries who provide new perspectives on how to make science itself more diverse, equitable, and open to all. 

The panel discussion after the screening will be moderated by Angela Saini and will include science journalist Michael Balter, who has written extensively on sexual harassment in science, and physicist Emma Chapman, member of campaign organisation The 1752 Group which works to end staff sexual misconduct.

This screening is organised in association with Global Health Film

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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