Council for the Advancement of Science Writing

Joshua Sokol wins Evert Clark/Seth Payne Award

The winner of the 2018 Evert Clark/Seth Payne Award, an annual prize for young science journalists, is freelance writer Joshua Sokol.

Sokol received the award and its $1,000 prize for four stories:

The panel of judges cited Sokol for his compelling storytelling; his deep reporting from such far-flung locations as Japan, Mexico, and Namibia; his impressive diversity of topics; and his ability to clearly convey how science is done.

Sokol was selected as the winner from a record-high number of submissions—56 in total.

Growing up in Raleigh, NC, Joshua had an early exposure to science. “My mom always took me fossil hunting and out to see meteor showers,” he recalls. “By the time I was in school, I was already sold on doing something in science—it just took me a while to figure out what that might be.” He earned a bachelor’s degree in astronomy and in English literature from Swarthmore College, then worked as a data analyst for the Hubble Space Telescope’s Advanced Camera for Surveys, before moving on to get a master’s degree in science writing at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where he was a CASW Taylor/Blakeslee Fellow.

The award was presented by the Evert Clark Fund and the Council for the Advancement of Science Writing (CASW) as part of ScienceWriters2018 Awards Night on Saturday, October 13 at the Washington Marriott Georgetown during ScienceWriters2018, held October 12-16 in Washington, DC. (At left, Sokol poses after the presentation with CASW President Alan Boyle.)

Judges for the 2018 award were:

  • Warren Leary, retired science correspondent for the New York Times, former science writer for the Associated Press, and CASW board member emeritus.
  • Laura Helmuth, health, science, and environment editor at the Washington Post
  • Liz Marshall, Editorial & Project Manager at the Society for Public Health Education, and a former editor at The Scientist
  • Richard Harris, science correspondent at National Public Radio, CASW board member, and author of Rigor Mortis: How Sloppy Science Creates Worthless Cures, Crushes Hope, and Wastes Billions
  • Gene Russo, Editor of the Front Matter section of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS)

The Clark/Payne Award was created to encourage young science writers by recognizing outstanding reporting in all fields of science. It is given each year in honor of journalist Ev Clark, who offered friendship and advice to a generation of young reporters. The annual judging is organized by John Carey, former long-time senior correspondent for Business Week and colleague of Seth Payne, who raised money for the award in memory of Ev Clark. CASW now administers the fund and manages the submission process and presentation of the award. This was the 30th year of the award.

Entrants must be age 30 or younger. The deadline for submissions is the end of June each year. For more information, please see the Evert Clark page at casw.org.

CASW launches website to showcase great science writing

The Council for the Advancement of Science Writing announces the launch of CASW Showcase (http://showcase.casw.org), a website that provides an up-close look at award-winning science journalism to provide inspiration and insight to science writers, especially those who are learning the craft.

“CASW celebrates excellence in our profession,” said CASW President Alan Boyle. “Each year, dozens of science writers donate their time to awards programs, combing through publications, websites and broadcasts to find examples of exceptional reporting and writing about science and its impact on society. We want to amplify the impact of those programs, celebrate great science journalism and provide a resource for everyone who aspires to be a great science writer.”

CASW board members and other senior science writers will serve as curators for the site, selecting exemplars from among recent winners of science journalism competitions. Over time, Showcase will become an in-depth archive for many different reports, showing how award-winning journalists have tackled the challenge of writing compelling stories about science for diverse audiences.

Features planned for Showcase include:

 Storygrams, or “story diagrams,” which are professional annotations of great stories to highlight how writers have tackled the challenges of covering science. Six Storygrams per year will be produced through a collaboration of CASW and The Open Notebook, which will co-publish them and add an author interview.

  • A calendar showing the deadlines for, and the announcements from, award programs for science writing. 
  • A blog, “The Envelope, Please,” which will provide site updates, news and commentary from the world of science writing awards.
  • A Suggestion Box inviting nominations of award-winning science writing from all over.

Initially Showcase will present, with permission, selected stories that have been published since 2013 and honored by either CASW’s awards programs or three other science writing competitions: the AAAS Kavli Science Journalism Awards, presented by the American Association for the Advancement of Science in cooperation with the Kavli Foundation; the Science in Society Journalism Awards, presented by the National Association of Science Writers; and the Keck Futures Initiative Communication Awards, presented by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine with the support of the W. M. Keck Foundation. CASW presents the Victor Cohn Prize for Excellence in Medical Science Reporting and manages the Evert Clark/Seth Payne Award for Young Science Journalists.

CASW Executive Director Rosalind Reid said Showcase will broaden its collection over time to include other awards programs and work selected for science-writing anthologies. As funding and technology allow, CASW hopes to add multimedia, stories that have won awards outside the U.S., and writing in languages other than English.

Freelance science journalist Shannon Hall has managed the development of the site and will serve as Showcase’s editor and blogger. Hall holds a master’s degree in astronomy from the University of Wyoming and a master’s degree in science journalism from New York University. She freelances for Scientific American, Discover, Sky & Telescope, New Scientist and other publications.

The project took flight after the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation awarded CASW a three-year, $90,000 grant in December 2015. Additional support has come from an initiative called PressForward, funded by the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, and additional contributions to CASW. Showcase uses PressForward software to facilitate the judging, selection and republishing process.

Showcase is the brainchild of CASW’s immediate past president, Cristine Russell, who advocated a larger role for CASW as a provider of resources for science journalism and communication. During strategic planning in 2014, CASW’s board focused on the needs of aspiring and student science writers. The board asked Reid and CASW’s Next Horizons Committee, chaired by freelance writer Betsy Mason, to develop a site that would provide examples of great science writing for this audience.

“Showcasing prize-winning science journalism can help those entering the field, as well as more experienced writers. There is no magic formula for what makes a great science story. But reading and dissecting some of the best articles can help inspire better science journalism,” said Russell.

About CASW

The Council for the Advancement of Science Writing is committed to improving the quality and quantity of science news reaching the public. Directed and advised by distinguished journalists and scientists, CASW develops and funds programs that encourage accurate and informative writing about developments in science, technology, medicine and the environment. CASW was incorporated in 1959 as a nonprofit educational organization.

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Published July 12, 2016

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#GivingTuesday: A chance to support CASW

On Giving Tuesday 2018 (Nov. 27), CASW is joining other charities in offering donors a chance to have their gifts matched.

CASW invites colleagues and friends to join in helping sustain our awards, fellowships and travel grants, all of which would not be possible without donations. These programs support training for young science writers, our awards celebrating young science journalists and excellence in medical science reporting, and international networking and capacity building in science writing. Just as important, contributions give CASW the capacity to develop new programs and plan for an uncertain future in challenging times.

A donor has pledged to match up to $5,000 in donations made by Dec. 31 through our Facebook fundraiser, via the Donate button on our Support page, or by check or bank draft. Pick your method, and double your impact. Please join us in advancing excellence in science writing!

Shirley Tilghman presents the sixth Patrusky Lecture

Shirley M. Tilghman, a mammalian developmental geneticist who served as the 19th president of Princeton University, presented the sixth Patrusky Lecture on Sunday, October 14, 2018, during CASW's New Horizons in Science program at ScienceWriters2018 at George Washington University in Washington, D.C.

Tilghman chose "Righting the Ship: Systemic Flaws in the Biomedical Research Enterprise" as the theme of her address to science writers. Her talk celebrated the promise of remarkable new methods in biomedical science while pointing to structural problems that may prevent society from reaping their benefits. She gave her view of the roots of this dilemma and offered some solutions. A video recording of her talk is available on the Patrusky Lectures page.

Along with leading scientists Bruce Alberts, Judith Kimble and Harold Varmus, Tilghman is currently engaged in a project called "Rescuing Biomedical Research," which advocates reforming the U.S. research system in order to encourage creative and innovative research and boost basic science.

Shirley TilghmanIn a 2014 essay and 2015 opinion piece in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the U.S., Alberts, Tilghman, Varmus and Marc Kirschner of Harvard University decried logistical, administrative and conceptual logjams resulting from the hypercompetitive environment of U.S. biomedical science, the burden of grant writing and administration, the distorting effects of the publishing and government funding systems, and the nearly two decades of training now required to become an independent investigator.

About Shirley M. Tilghman

It was not Tilghman's first appearance on CASW's New Horizons in Science stage. During her earlier research career, she studied the way in which genes are organized in the genome and regulated during early development and was a member of the team that cloned the first mammalian gene. She was one of the founding members of the National Advisory Council for Human Genome Research. 

A member of the Princeton faculty since 1986, she was named president of the university in 2001. She returned to teaching in 2013.

As the sixth Patrusky Lecturer, Tilghman was presented a certificate and crystal sculpture, one of many honors bestowed upon her. She is an Officer of the Order of Canada and the recipient of a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Society for Developmental Biology, the Genetics Society of America Medal, and the L’Oreal-UNESCO Award for Women in Science. She is a member of the American Philosophical Society, the National Academy of Sciences, the National Academy of Medicine and The Royal Society of London. She serves as a trustee of Amherst College, the Institute for Advanced Study, the Simons Foundation, and the King Abdullah University of Science and Technology. She also serves on the Science Advisory Board of the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative, is a director of The Broad Institute and is a Fellow of the Corporation of Harvard College.

About the Patrusky Lectures and Ben Patrusky

Patrusky Lecture prism and certificateTilghman joins a list of distinguished scientists invited to give an authoritative and expansive address at the annual ScienceWriters meeting, which combines the workshop program of the National Association of Science Writers with CASW's New Horizons in Science briefings. Previous lectures, all available on video here, were given by George M. Whitesides of Harvard University (2013), Donald Johanson of Arizona State University and the Institute of Human Origins (2014), Jo Handelsman of Yale University and the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (2015), Steven Weinberg of the University of Texas at Austin (2016), and Susan Desmond-Hellmann of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation (2017). 

Ben Patrusky embarked on his science-writing career in the early 1960s after earning a degree in electrical engineering from City College of New York and winning a science-writing fellowship at Columbia. After a dozen years as the research writer and science editor for the American Heart Association, in 1975 he embarked on a freelance science-writing career and took charge of the New Horizons in Science briefing program for CASW, becoming executive director in 1988. He has also orchestrated science journalism seminars for, among others, the National Academy of Sciences, Research to Prevent Blindness, the Kellogg Foundation, and the Ford Foundation.

Widely published and the author of two books, he is the recipient of the Science Journalism Award from the American Institute of Physics and the American Chemical Society’s Grady-Stack Award. He is an honorary member of Sigma Xi, The Scientific Research Honor Society, and for 18 years, until 2008, served as a member of the board of trustees of Science Service (now the Society for Science and the Public), publisher of Science News. Ben is a long-time member of the board of governors of one of the nation’s oldest press clubs, The Society of the Silurians.

Freelance journalist Laura Beil awarded 2018 Victor Cohn Prize for Medical Science Reporting

Freelance medical writer Laura Beil, a career journalist whose work combines gripping narrative and dogged reporting to illuminate issues of personal concern to a wide range of readers, is the recipient of the 2018 Victor Cohn Prize for Excellence in Medical Science Reporting. The prize is awarded annually by the Council for the Advancement of Science Writing (CASW).

Judges cited Beil for the often-breathtaking, “grab-you-by-the-throat” quality of her writing, the “extraordinary diversity of both the subject matter she strives to illuminate and the audiences she reaches,” and the “remarkable utility of her reporting.” Her stories, they noted, stood out among a number of strong nominations for the deep and detailed richness of their reporting, and the enterprise and personal commitment evident in each one.

Beil, who lives in Cedar Hill, Texas, is only the second freelance writer to be awarded the Cohn Prize since its inception in 2000. She is the 21st recipient of the prize, given for a body of work published or broadcast within the past five years.

Letters from colleagues in support of her nomination noted Beil’s ability to discover and relentlessly pursue important untold stories, and to convince editors of diverse publications to publish them. “Her forte is finding issues that everyday people care about, angles that others may miss, and questioning authority and dogma,” wrote AP medical writer and Cohn Prize laureate Marilynn Marchione. Marchione also pointed out Beil’s emphasis on personal stories. “While some writers use patients as anecdotes, almost like window dressing or a mandatory ingredient,” she wrote, “Laura makes them the stars of her stories. She explains medicine through the people experiencing it. Her style of personal storytelling is so powerful that it propels people to read to the end, science and all.”

Tom Siegfried, who as science editor of The Dallas Morning News and later as editor in chief of Science News worked with Beil, wrote that Beil “finds stories that no one else finds, and routinely spots trends and upcoming issues before other writers.” He added that her work has provided great benefit to her readers. In one case documented on a television broadcast, Siegfried recalled, a mother of a dying child read Beil’s story about a deadly form of E. coli and “recognized that doctors had missed the diagnosis, leading to proper treatment and the child’s survival.”

In selecting Beil, the judges drew particular attention to a story she wrote for Men’s Health on mental health issues in the military. To tell the powerful and tragic story of Eddie Routh, a troubled veteran who killed Navy SEAL Chris Kyle and another man after failing to get vital help from an overwhelmed Veterans Administration, she wrote repeatedly to Routh’s family and overcame a judge’s gag order on the family. Published in late 2013 while the case was fresh, “Who Killed Chris Kyle?” was later expanded into an e-book.

Other stories published in Science News, Reader’s Digest and Texas Monthly tackled questions about widely used surgery and drugs, vaccination hesitancy, and obesity among high school football players. The judges noted that Beil has also published medical reporting in The New York Times and Cosmopolitan. About the latter, Beil said, “few things make me happier than knowing that someone has been introduced to the complexities of medical science while getting their hair done.”

These recent examples cap a long reporting career that began at the Dallas paper. It was during her 15 years as a medical writer there, Beil told the judges, that she had “first read the copy of [Victor Cohn’s book] News & Numbers I keep to this day.”

Beil (shown at left with CASW President Alan Boyle at the presentation) received a $3,000 award and certificate and was honored in Washington, D.C., on October 13, as science writers gathered for ScienceWriters2018, a conference jointly organized by CASW and the National Association of Science Writers (NASW). CASW, a not-for-profit organization of journalists and scientists committed to improving the quality of science news and information reaching the public, produces the annual New Horizons in Science program at each annual conference.

LAURA BEIL

Laura Beil (@ljbeil) began her career at The Dallas Morning News, where she was the medical reporter from 1992 to 2006. Since leaving the world of daily journalism, she has written mostly for magazines. While specializing in health and science, she has also written about gun-toting liberals for D Magazine and was the writer-reporter of the “Thugs” episode for the NPR series This American Life. She has been a contributor to Men’s Health and is a correspondent for Science News. Most recently, she released a six-part podcast about a neurosurgeon in Dallas who left most of his patients in pain, paralyzed or dead. (At the time of this announcement, "Dr. Death" was #1 on the podcast charts and had received almost 7,000 five-star reviews.) The Victor Cohn Prize is the latest of several recent recognitions. Beil was the recipient of the 2012 June Roth Award for Medical Journalism and won the American Society of Journalist and Authors (ASJA) award for Reporting on a Significant Topic in both 2013 and 2014. In 2015 her story “What’s Wrong with Robotic Surgery?” for Men’s Health was chosen Best Consumer Feature by the Association of Health Care Journalists (AHCJ). She was a National Magazine Award finalist in 2016. She is a member of NASW, AHCJ and ASJA.

THE VICTOR COHN PRIZE

This year’s Cohn Prize entries were judged by Christie Aschwanden, lead writer for science at FiveThirtyEight and a member of the CASW Board; Ben Patrusky, CASW’s executive director emeritus; Joann Rodgers, former national science correspondent and columnist for the Heart Newspapers, longtime executive director of media relations and public affairs for Johns Hopkins Medicine, and former CASW president; and Cristine Russell, freelance journalist, senior fellow and lecturer at the Harvard Kennedy School and immediate past president of CASW.

The inaugural Victor Cohn Prize for Excellence in Medical Science Reporting in 2000 was shared by Laurie Garrett of Newsday and Lawrence K. Altman of The New York Times. Subsequent recipients were Jon Palfreman, a public television documentarian; Daniel Q. Haney, medical editor, The Associated Press; Shannon Brownlee, a noted magazine writer and book author; Michelle Trudeau of National Public Radio; Rick Weiss of the Washington Post; Jerome Groopman of The New Yorker; Geeta Anand of The Wall Street Journal; Joe Palca of NPR; Denise Grady of The New York Times; Marilynn Marchione of the Associated Press; Ron Winslow of The Wall Street Journal; Jon Cohen of Science magazine; John Fauber of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel; freelance health reporter and former NPR correspondent Joanne Silberner; Elisabeth Rosenthal of The New York Times; Mark Johnson of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel; Liz Szabo, health writer for USA Today and senior correspondent for Kaiser Health News; and Sharon Begley, senior science writer at STAT.

The award honors the late Washington Post medical writer and health columnist Victor Cohn, known as the dean of medical science reporting. He distinguished himself by the clarity and effectiveness of his reporting during a 50-year career that began with outstanding coverage of early “wonder” drugs and the polio vaccine, as well as the dawn of the modern space age. Late in his career, Cohn started a Post column called “The Patient’s Advocate,” and authored News & Numbers: A Guide to Reporting Statistical Claims and Controversies in Health and Other Fields. Cohn, who died of cancer in 2000, was a co-founder in 1959 of CASW.


To read Laura Beil’s work, visit her website.

To learn more about CASW (Twitter: @sciencewriting), the Cohn Prize and past recipients, visit this page.

To learn more about ScienceWriters2018 (#sciwri18), visit https://sciencewriters2018.org/.


 

12 Latin American Fellows receive grants to attend ScienceWriters2018

Twelve science writers from eight Latin American countries have been selected to receive the first Regional Travel Fellowships to attend ScienceWriters2018, the annual conference of U.S. science writers, scheduled for October 12-16 in Washington, DC.

Mónica Baró Sanchez Nora Bär
Pablo Correa Eduardo Franco Berton
Henrique Kugler Rodrigo Pérez Ortega
Helen Mendes Lima Jessica Maes
Sebastián Rodríguez Laura Vargas-Parada
Michelle Soto Mendez Alexa Vélez Zuazo

Selected from 38 highly competitive applications for the 2018 travel fellowships were:

Nora Bär (@norabarArgentina) Nora is the science and health editor of the major daily La Nación and producer of the radio program “El Arcón” on science, health, and technology.

Mónica Baró Sanchez (Cuba) As a reporter and editorial board member of Periodismo de Barrio, Mónica covers stories about the environment, gender violence and public health.

Pablo Correa (@pcorrea78, Colombia) Pablo is a science, health and environment reporter and editor for the newspaper El Espectador. He also created Infoamazonía Colombia, a data journalism initiative to disseminate information about the Colombian Amazon rainforest.

Eduardo Franco Berton (@edufrancobertonBolivia) Eduardo writes for Mongabay Latam and the Earth Journalism Network and is the founder of the Environmental Information Network, a digital news and information service about the environment, science and conservation.

Henrique Kugler (Brazil) A freelance journalist, Henrique has written for Physics World, SciDev.net and Folha de São Paulo, Brazil’s largest daily newspaper. He has a special interest in sustainable agriculture and is currently a Fellow with the Paraná Reference Centre for Agroecology.

Jessica Maes (Brazil) A former writer and editor for the Federal University of Paraná, Maes writes for HypeScience.com and contributes magazine pieces to Gazeta do Povo, Brazil’s fourth largest newspaper.

Helen Mendes Lima (@iamhelenmendesBrazil) Helen is editor of the Ideas section of Gazeta do Povo and presents the newspaper’s weekly podcast.

Rodrigo Pérez Ortega (@rpocisv, Mexico) Currently a student in the Science Communication Program at UC Santa Cruz, Rodrigo is a freelancer who has worked for Nature and Medscape en Español and has been an Early Career Fellow with The Open Notebook.

Sebastián Rodríguez (@sebas211297Costa Rica) Sebastián is a staff journalist at the national newspaper Semanario Universidad, reporting for the Ojo al Clima section. He also does freelance reporting on climate, biodiversity and sustainability issues for SciDev.net and other outlets.

Michelle Soto Mendez (@michellesoto80, Costa Rica) Michelle is a freelance writer with varied experience, including staff positions with the national publications Perfil and La Nación. She currently writes chiefly on environment and geology.

Laura Vargas-Parada (@lavapa, Mexico) Laura is the founding director of the Science Communication Office of the Center for Complexity Sciences at UNAM, Mexico’s national university. She also teaches science journalism at UNAM and contributes to the newspaper El Economista and Medscape en Español.

Alexa Vélez Zuazo (@alexavz, Peru) An investigative journalist with 15 years’ experience, Alexa is Senior Editor for Mongabay Latam. She has worked in television and founded a production company.

The recipients will participate in the professional development workshops presented by the National Association of Science Writers (NASW) and attend CASW’s New Horizons in Science briefings. In response to a call for session proposals, Eduardo Franco Berton and a Peru-based colleague have organized a special session on rapid hydroelectric development in Amazonia and the challenges and opportunities for writers interested in covering the continuing environmental crisis in the region. Fellows will also attend a bilingual preconference workshop in successful story-pitching for freelance writers.

These special fellowships were made possible by donations from U.S. science writers and additional sponsors who contributed to the travel fund for the 10th World Conference of Science Journalists, organized by NASW, CASW and World Federation of Science Journalists (WFSJ) and held in San Francisco, CA in October 2017.

The WCSJ2017 organizers awarded 72 professional and 22 student travel fellowships to support international attendance. Cost savings allowed some of the donated funds to be rolled over to support travel to the 2018 conference to continue the regional network-building that began at the World Conference.

Judges for the 2018 Regional Travel Fellowships were Iván Carrillo, a Mexican science journalist who anchors the national television program Los Observadores-TV Azteca; Robin Lloyd, a New York freelance journalist who is vice president of CASW and chaired the WCSJ2017 Fellowships Committee; Debbie Ponchner, a Costa Rican freelance journalist and consultant, CASW board member and former editor of Scientific American en Español; Angela Posada-Swafford, a Miami-based freelance science writer, documentary producer and author; Valeria Román, an Argentinian science journalist and former board member of the World Federation of Science Journalists; and Emily Willingham, a California scientist, journalist and blogger and member of the NASW board.

Selected as alternates to receive fellowships if any of the selected fellows are unable to attend were Lucy Calderon Pineda, a Guatemalan freelance journalist covering environment and health; Débora Gutierrez of Universidad Diego Portales in Chile; Argentinian freelance journalist Federico Kukso; Carlos Andrés Urrego Zuluaga, a Colombian newspaper and magazine editor and instructor; and Sergio Villagrán, a Chilean biologist and freelance writer working for the biology communication agency Divulgociencia.

Rosalind Reid, executive director of CASW, thanked the judges for their work and extended special thanks to the individuals who donated to the David Perlman Travel Fellowships fund for WCSJ2017 and to Mexico’s Fundación Ealy Ortiz.

“One of the goals of WCSJ2017 was to enable full participation by our Latin American and Caribbean colleagues, who made significant contributions to the conference,” said Reid. “We’re thrilled that U.S. science writers who were not able to attend last year’s conference will be able to meet and learn from these accomplished journalists and communicators at ScienceWriters2018.”

 

Diane McGurgan retires from CASW after four decades of service to science writing

May 24, 2018 — Diane McGurgan, whose unparalleled service to the science writing community spans more than four decades, will retire as administrator of the Council for the Advancement of Science Writing at the end of this month. At its recent annual meeting in Washington, D.C., CASW’s board joined in a fond salute to McGurgan for her “invaluable and extraordinary contributions to our community.”

Board secretary Charlie Petit read “A Resolution To Mark the Regrettable but Inevitable Retirement of Diane McGurgan,” commemorating her 31 years of service to CASW as well as her additional service to the National Association of Science Writers.

The resolution noted that Diane, assisted by her husband Buddy, had “schlepped, moved, stored, ordered up, arranged for and managed uncountable quantities of paper, badges, tickets, restaurant reservations, bar bills and food trays,” that she has “refined the capacity to herd cats, soothe egos and meet crises to a fare-thee-well,” and that her name is woven into the fabric of the science writing community through the annual Diane McGurgan Service Award, which is given by NASW each year in recognition of extraordinary volunteer service.

McGurgan became NASW’s secretary in 1978. Nine years later, she was recruited to the CASW staff by then-President Barbara J. Culliton, who had earlier been president of NASW.

After her retirement from NASW in 2009, McGurgan continued to serve as CASW’s administrator — working with CASW Executive Director Ben Patrusky until his retirement in 2013, and since then with his successor, Rosalind Reid.

McGurgan has managed CASW’s awards and fellowship programs and handled the council’s governance and financial affairs. She played an indispensable logistical role in CASW’s signature program, the annual New Horizons in Science briefings, which are now part of the annual ScienceWriters conference.

Her final year was marked by one of CASW’s biggest undertakings, the 10th World Conference of Science Journalists, which was organized jointly with NASW and took place in San Francisco in October 2017.

With McGurgan’s retirement, CASW will move its headquarters from Hedgesville, West Virginia — which became home base after Diane and Buddy relocated there from New York — to Seattle.

Sylvia Kantor, a Seattle-based freelance writer and editor, will become CASW’s administrator and communications manager on June 1. McGurgan will continue in a consulting role through November 2018, and is looking forward to the ScienceWriters2018 conference in October.

Leadership Tributes

“There is simply no way CASW could have accomplished all that it has over the past four decades without the extraordinary ministrations of Diane – not without her unflagging energy, her heart, her immense generosity, her attention to detail and the needs of others, her improvisational skills, her spirit of fun, her loyalty and, at the root of all, her abiding commitment to all practitioners of the science writing craft,” said Patrusky, who joined the CASW board in the salutes at its spring meeting. “In my years serving with her, I was never other than in her thrall, dazzled by her unfailing ability to soothe, to persuade, to anticipate and to analyze, grapple and help solve any problem or challenge that may have come CASW’s way.  She’s a phenom, a gift, for whom I and CASW will be forever grateful.”

NEW ADDRESS

As of June 1, CASW’s address will be P.O. Box 17337, Seattle, WA 98127.

Telephone: (206) 880-0177.

Email: [email protected]

CASW President Alan Boyle added: “Every organization worth its salt needs a Diane McGurgan: someone who seems to know everything and everyone in the community, who has the grit to do what needs to be done, and who has the heart to help others unselfishly.” Even though she’s retiring from her administrative duties, we want her to know we’ll never let her retire from our friendship.”

Executive Director Reid thanked Diane for postponing her retirement to ensure a successful World Conference and administrative transition. “CASW is an organization whose work is built on long and warm relationships, and the link in all those relationships is Diane, “ Reid said. “Her devotion to the work and needs of the community is simply unparalleled, and she will be missed by science writers from sea to sea. It has been my privilege to know Diane and to be able to rely on her intelligence, dedication, good sense and unique talents ever since I joined the CASW board more than a decade ago. What a remarkable career. What a deserved retirement!”

In their unanimously approved resolution, CASW’s board members expressed heartfelt gratitude for Diane’s invaluable and extraordinary contributions, and added a wish on behalf of the entire science writing community: “May her most-deserved retirement, and all the adventures still in store for her, be marked with health, happiness and the certain knowledge that her multitude of friends and colleagues will always remember The Essential Diane.”

Sylvia Kantor

CASW’s new administrator and communications manager, Sylvia Kantor, began working with CASW in 2017 during planning and fundraising for the World Conference of Science Journalists. She joined the staff part-time in early 2018 to edit a new donor newsletter, CASW Spotlight, and assist McGurgan and Reid with the administrative transition.

Kantor’s career includes stints as an agriculture science writer, research associate and extension educator at Washington State University from 1999 to 2016. Today she divides her time between her CASW work and independent writing and editing. She is a member of NASW, the Northwest Science Writers Association (NSWA), and the Northwest Independent Editors Guild.

Kantor holds a bachelor’s degree in anthropology from the University of California at Berkeley and a master’s degree in forestry from the University of Washington. In Seattle, she balances her digital life by making things with her hands, tending her garden, and attuning to the natural world on foot, by kayak, or on skis.

2018-19 Taylor/Blakeslee Fellows bring varied backgrounds to science writing

Five women with backgrounds ranging from astronomy, mathematics and biology to investigative journalism and film have been awarded prestigious Taylor/Blakeslee University Fellowships from the Council for the Advancement of Science Writing supporting graduate study in science writing.

The Fellows will each receive a $5,000 award for the 2018-19 academic year, bringing to 161 the number of science writers aided by CASW’s graduate fellowships since 1981.

Chosen from a field of 28 outstanding applicants were:

Erika Carlson (@erikakcarlson). Carlson, who will finish her master’s degree in astronomy at the University of Wisconsin–Madison in May, earned her bachelor’s degree in physics at Pomona College in 2015. “I want to write compelling, multifaceted feature stories that capture the human aspects of science, that touch my readers and stay with them in some way,” she told the fellowship judges. Interested in writing science news as well as magazine features, Carlson will enter the science communication graduate program at the University of California at Santa Cruz in the fall.

Susan D'AgostinoSusan D’Agostino (@susan_dagostino). D’Agostino was a mathematics professor at Southern New Hampshire University and has served on the New Hampshire Governor’s STEM Education Task Force. She was motivated to pursue science writing after learning about and managing a medical condition she experienced and is particularly interested in the interplay between medicine and society. “As part of my coursework, I am eager to engage with doctors, biomedical researchers, and medical journalists at the Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore for a medical writing residency called Medicine in Action,” she said. D’Agostino has a doctorate in mathematics from Dartmouth College, an MFA in nonfiction from Southern New Hampshire University, a master’s in teaching mathematics from Smith College and a bachelor’s in anthropology from Bard College. She begins her medical writing residency this summer and the science writing graduate program at Johns Hopkins University in the fall.

Eva FrederickEva Frederick (@evacharlesanna) graduated from the University of Texas at Austin in 2017 with bachelor’s degrees in biology and journalism. As a student she worked in a lab studying the bacteria living in the guts of honeybees and wrote for The Daily Texan, UT’s student newspaper. She also served as The Texan’s science and technology editor and managing editor. Frederick is currently teaching children about native plants at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center in Austin. “Through a career as a science journalist I want to encourage scientific literacy in people of all walks of life,” she said. “I want to promote the ability to understand and contextualize science principles and concepts, because this is invaluable to a healthy, informed society.” She plans to enroll in the graduate program in science writing at MIT. 

Susan NeilsonSusie Neilson (@susieneilson). After graduating from Northwestern in 2015, Neilson published stories in NautilusNewsweek, and The New Yorker on topics ranging from the psychological impact of wearing a prison uniform to the drug-like benefits of noise. “I aim to be a journalist who uses science to produce impactful, institution-challenging stories,” she said. “In particular I want to document the impact that unbridled growth and consumerism has on the environment and public health.” Currently pursuing a master’s in journalism at UC Berkeley, she will spend the summer completing an internship with the science investigation team at the Center for Investigative Reporting.

Emily PontecorvoEmily Pontecorvo (@emilypont). Pontecorvo is a writer and multimedia producer based in New York City. She graduated from Wesleyan University in 2011 with a degree in film and worked in the film industry for five years before deciding to pivot to journalism. As a science writer, she hopes to advance public literacy around environmental issues and climate change. “I believe that narrative is the best tool we have to teach and to learn, to challenge the most firmly held beliefs and inspire change,” she told the judges. She is currently a podcast producer at Gizmodo and begins the graduate program in science writing at MIT this fall. 

CASW's graduate fellowships are underwritten by a grant from The Brinson Foundation, a Chicago-based philanthropic organization. They honor the late Rennie Taylor and Alton Blakeslee, science writer and science editor respectively for the Associated Press. More information may be found on this page.

WCSJ2017 partners launch international program fund

May 7, 2018—The organizers of the 10th World Conference of Science Journalists are pleased to announce plans for a suite of activities to extend the impact of the October 2017 conference in San Francisco by strengthening training, networking, and knowledge-sharing among science journalists worldwide.

A new fund, the WCSJ International Program Fund, has been established by the Council for the Advancement of Science Writing in partnership with the National Association of Science Writers to support these efforts through the use of generous donations from WCSJ2017 conference sponsors. The funds were made available through judicious management of conference costs that resulted in savings of more than 10% of the conference budget. In keeping with the wishes of WCSJ2017 sponsors and the organizers, these funds will be used to support science journalism through post-conference activities organized by the partners and coordinated with the World Federation of Science Journalists.

Roughly half of these conference proceeds were returned to the WFSJ, CASW and NASW in the form of program support and to recoup costs incurred during the planning and production of WCSJ2017. Each of the three organizations invested significant staff time and other resources to produce the conference.

The remaining proceeds will be managed by the organizing partners to support important new initiatives intended to continue building connections between US and international science journalists in the years to come.

“Enormous staff and volunteer effort went into making sure travel, hospitality, logistics and programming for WCSJ2017 were covered largely by sponsorships so that we could enable the broadest possible participation, providing a record number of travel fellowships and keeping registration fees below past conferences,” said Cristine Russell, co-chair of the WCSJ2017 Organizing Committee. “Many of our sponsors did not want to support only the conference; they wanted the conference to have a lasting impact on global science journalism. To our donors we can now say ‘yes, we can do that!’ We are excited to be able to leverage our savings to give WCSJ2017 that extra impact.”

“We met our fundraising goals, and we were thrilled at the support of an array of sponsors who all embraced science journalism as extraordinarily important in the 21st century. In the end, we were able to reduce costs through NASW’s skillful management, the work of a large cadre of volunteers, the funded travelers who shared rooms and found other sources of support, and the donated facilities and support of generous hosts including UC San Francisco and UC Berkeley,” Russell said.

“We all congratulate the executive directors of NASW and CASW, Tinsley Davis and Rosalind Reid respectively, for their extraordinary management, which made the new initiatives possible,” said Ron Winslow, co-chair of the WCSJ2017 Organizing Committee. “And thanks to the generosity and commitment of our sponsors, we have an unprecedented opportunity to build on the spirit, energy and ideas generated in San Francisco. This is a huge benefit for science journalism around the globe.”

Among the activities intended to be supported by the new international fund are: translation of WCSJ2017 session videos to Spanish and French; sustained development of the regional network of Latin American and Caribbean science journalists launched at WCSJ2017; knowledge transfer to future conference hosts; a joint diversity initiative; support for efforts to locate a future conference in a developing country; future conference travel grants; and a networking platform. A steering committee of WCSJ2017 organizers and leaders of partner organizations will provide advice on the management and use of the fund.

The organizers of WCSJ2017 are grateful to WFSJ for its key role in conference fundraising and workshop programming, as well as the hosts and sponsors whose support made possible not only the conference but the follow-on activities, first among them WCSJ2017’s Diamond Sponsor, Johnson & Johnson Innovation, and host universities, UC Berkeley and UC San Francisco. The amount of funds available for programs will be known when the conference books are closed and a final report issued in coming weeks.

 

CASW names two distinguished Fellows

 WASHINGTON, DC--The Council for the Advancement of Science Writing (CASW) has honored two pioneering women science writers who have worked tirelessly to improve the communication of science to the public through leadership of CASW and decades-long service on its board. Barbara J. Culliton, of Washington, DC, and Joann E. Rodgers, of Owings Mills, Maryland, were named CASW Fellows on April 20 as the 58-year-old organization gathered for its annual business meeting.

Culliton and Rodgers served as back-to-back presidents of the National Association of Science Writers (NASW) and CASW. Culliton retired from the CASW board in 2014 after 38 years as a member and officer; Rodgers stepped down at the 2018 meeting after 41 years on the board, including multiple officer roles.

Culliton has been a writer, editor and teacher throughout her distinguished career, including serving at Science as correspondent at large, news editor, and news and comment editor. She also worked in international science publishing as the deputy editor of Nature, where she launched the journals Nature Genetics, Nature Structural Biology and Nature Medicine. In 1989, Culliton was elected a member of the National Academy of Medicine. She also directed the graduate writing program at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore from 1990 to 1998. Culliton is currently a scholar-in-residence at Florida State University in the College of Communication and Information. She headed NASW in 1981-82, and in 1985 became CASW’s first woman president, serving in that role for four years.

Rodgers, an award-winning science journalist, author, editor and communications consultant, served as NASW president in 1983-84, succeeding Culliton, and succeeded her also as CASW President, serving from 1989 to 1997. Rodgers directed Johns Hopkins Medicine’s science communications, media relations and public affairs division for 25 years, and later served as a faculty scholar and strategic communications adviser to the Johns Hopkins Berman Institute of Bioethics. Earlier, Rodgers spent nearly two decades as a reporter and columnist for the Hearst newspapers and magazines. She is the author of seven books, including Sex: A Natural History, and has been a contributor to numerous magazines. Rodgers (shown in photo with CASW President Alan Boyle; Culliton was unable to attend the presentation) is also a reviewer for healthnewsreview.org, a peer-review service for health-related stories and releases.

“There can never be praise enough for these two remarkable women and their extraordinary contributions and unrelenting labors on behalf of CASW during their decades-long service as board members,” said CASW Executive Director Emeritus Ben Patrusky. “Under their brilliant leadership and sway, CASW continued to make great strides in its never-ending search for new opportunities to address the changing needs of its core constituency, the growing community of science writers and the public it serves.”

“It was a pleasure to work with both Joann and Barbara from early in my science-writing career, as mentors, colleagues and friends,” said Harvard Kennedy School fellow Cristine Russell, also a former president of NASW and CASW. “They helped clear the way for other women in American science writing, which has been more equal than many other fields of journalism.” She noted that Culliton and Rodgers served NASW at a difficult time, helping to pull the dues-based membership organization back from near-bankruptcy and put it on stronger financial footing. “We sat around Joann’s kitchen table, trying to right the ship after belt-tightening and cutting back on staff,” said Russell.

Another memorable moment was when Culliton, on behalf of NASW, and the San Francisco Chronicle’s David Perlman, then president of CASW, led a delegation of U.S. science writers that visited China in 1979 under the aegis of the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

With the addition of Culliton and Rodgers, CASW's distinguished Fellows total only four, including Perlman, “the dean of American science journalism,” and the late Earl Ubell, the first president of CASW.

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