Council for the Advancement of Science Writing


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CASW appoints Rosalind Reid to new program post

The Council for the Advancement of Science Writing, Inc., has named Rosalind Reid, the former editor of American Scientist magazine and currently executive director of Harvard's Institute for Applied Computational Science, to its newly created program director post. Reid will begin her duties in January 2012.

The new position represents a significant expansion of responsibilities for CASW's current and future programs, including the work of the New Horizons program director, a title that has now been retired. As part of her portfolio, Reid will plan and produce the annual New Horizons in Science briefing held in tandem with the National Association of Science Writers' professional development workshops. In addition, and critically, she will coordinate and manage frequent and robust freshening of the CASW website; and, working as part of a team led by CASW's executive director and members of the board's program committee, develop and execute new Web-based initiatives. These would include webinar updates and other highly integrated projects that extend the reach and impact of New Horizons while also leveraging the CASW brand. Reid will also help recruit partnerships with other organizations and complement fund-raising efforts.

"These initiatives all are aimed at better serving the science writing community as well as other constituencies interested in advancing public understanding of science," said Cristine Russell, president of CASW.

"It's hard to imagine anyone better suited than Ros to take on this new assignment," said Ben Patrusky, CASW's executive director. "Not only is she exceptionally well-informed and conversant with new developments on the frontiers of science  a key prerequisite for anyone tasked with orchestrating the annual New Horizons sessions, but also she is exceedingly knowledgeable about the digital world and, as such, stands ready to help CASW exploit the potential of the Web and digital communication and innovate to maximum effect. Beyond that," Patrusky added, "she possesses just the sort of well-demonstrated organizational and administrative skills that are central to new post's demands."

Reid was editor of American Scientist, the interdisciplinary magazine of Sigma Xi, the Scientific Research Society, from 1992 to 2008. She was selected as the first Journalist in Residence at the Kavli Institute for Theoretical Science at the University of California, Santa Barbara, in 2003 and soon after that took another "science immersion" leave as a fellow at the Harvard Initiative in Innovative Computing. Co-organizer of the MIT/Harvard Image and Meaning workshop series on visual communication of science, Reid is currently assistant dean for external programs at the Harvard School of Engineering and Applied Science and executive director of the School's Institute for Applied Computational Science. She will continue her Harvard work part-time.

Reid did her undergraduate work at Syracuse University, earned an M.A. at Duke and spent eight years writing for newspapers in Maine and North Carolina.  She went on to learn the science beat as a research news editor at North Carolina State University.  Reid joined the CASW board in 2007, the same year she was inducted as an honorary life member of Sigma Xi in recognition of her distinguished service to science and science communication. She will step down from the CASW board to assume her new role.

The decision to establish the new position of program director emerged from an ongoing strategic planning process, begun three years ago, by a special committee of the board. The committee was charged with defining how CASW might best fulfill its mission amidst rapidly changing practices in journalism and in the expectation that CASW's future success will depend heavily on Web-based programs and digital media. 

In announcing the appointment, CASW paid tribute to journalist and author Paul Raeburn for his outstanding contributions as a longtime board member; for his dedicated labors, during the past seven years, as New Horizons program director and for the important role he played in assuring the continued success of the joint NASW/CASW ScienceWriters meeting.

"Paul's efforts clearly enabled and supported a years-long transition for CASW's hallmark program, efforts that have set the stage for the changes and expansion of CASW services envisioned by the board," said Russell. "We are also pleased that he has agreed to continue as a New Horizon program consultant during the transition." That consultancy is to run through May 1, 2012 when planning for ScienceWriters2012, scheduled for the Research Triangle in North Carolina, will be well under way.

50th New Horizons slated for the Research Triangle

Midway between the Outer Banks and the Blue Ridge lies North Carolina's research nexus, the site of the 50th New Horizons in Science briefings Oct. 28 and 29. Science writers will converge on the Research Triangle Oct. 26-30 for ScienceWriters2012, which will incorporate two days of tours (including a trip to the coast!), the National Association of Science Writers annual meeting and workshops and nightly social events in addition to a full slate of New Horizons science presentations.

Rather than being hosted by a single university, this year's activities will be hosted by the Triangle Universities Center for Advanced Studies, Inc., and will incorporate activities connecting the area's three major research universities--Duke, North Carolina State University and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill--plu federal labs and other research sites. At the center will be Research Triangle Park, home to a myriad university, government and industrial research facilities and science organizations, including labs of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences and RTI International (which SCONC notes is larger than most institutions).

Sessions will be held at the Raleigh Convention Center; the City Center Marriott will serve as the conference hotel.

Our local organizers are members of the Science Communicators of North Carolina. SCONC has arranged for TUCASI to be the major hosting sponsor, with additional funds provided by universities and foundations. For more information, visit the New Horizons conference homepage.

For information about the NASW workshop program and for registration and accommodations, be sure to check the ScienceWriters2012 website.


In Focus: 

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From a distance while heading north on Route 89 from Flagstaff, Glen Canyon looks dinky. From atop the dam when you get there, the blue float boats on the Colorado River way down on the south side look dinky too. The river doesn’t look very big either. Ditto for the modest little building down there just above the dam’s base where the penstocks (immense pipes) deliver water to the turbines to turn the generators that can put more than a gigawatt of power into the high tension lines marching off every which way.

In Focus: 

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ScienceWriters 2011, including the 49th annual New Horizons in Science, is now written in the dust of the Arizona desert. My thanks to Peter Friederici, Kirsten Slaughter, Lesley Cephas and Laura Huenneke at Northern Arizona University for their careful planning and wonderful hospitality. And for arranging the spectacular weather.

Ron Winslow of Wall Street Journal receives Victor Cohn medical science reporting prize

Ron Winslow, the New York-based deputy bureau chief for health and science and a veteran medical reporter at the Wall Street Journal, has been awarded the 2011 Victor Cohn Prize for Excellence in Medical Science Reporting. Winslow was cited for the “exceptional breadth, precision and clarity of his coverage about how technological innovation is transforming the world of medicine.”

The annual prize, for a body of work published or broadcast within the past five years, was established in 2000 by the Council for the Advancement of Science Writing (CASW), a non-profit organization of science communicators and educators dedicated to improving the quality of science news reaching the public.

“Ron Winslow has long been at the forefront of authoritative coverage of medical research and its impact on healthcare delivery,” said the judges. They took special note of his ability to consistently provide reliable, nuanced reporting about new developments and to place them within the broader social and economic context. “When I read a Ron Winslow story,” said one of the judges, “I know I’m in completely trustworthy hands.”

The prize committee said that Winslow’s career in journalism has been distinguished by a sterling reputation among scientists and fellow journalists for his fair and enterprising coverage. He is considered by many of his colleagues as the current dean of medical reporting.

In her nominating letter, Stefanie Ilgenfritz, bureau chief of the Journal’s health and science group, called Winslow “a singular journalist whose contributions to the public’s understanding of medical science are unmatched…. It is only someone with Ron’s keen eye for detail and innate sense of story who could weave science, personal narratives and broad economic context into the kind of story that makes even the arcane world of clinical trial protocols compelling to the layman.”

“He’s also got a keen eye for the quirky story, that good read you just can’t resist, “said the AP’s Marilynn Marchione, the 2010 Cohn Prize winner in her letter supporting his nomination. In other letters endorsing his nomination, several reporters noted how influential Winslow has been in encouraging and mentoring young journalists in this field.

The stories submitted by the Journal on Winslow’s behalf included “Major Shift in War on Cancer,” which combined news announcements at a major national cancer meeting with dozens of interviews to yield, as the judges described it, a “compelling, beautifully framed” account of the role of genetics in targeting cancer treatments. Another story, “A New Rx for Medicine,” about the ambitions of two women – a breast cancer patient and her surgeon – to speed up drug testing highlighted Winslow’s masterful feature writing and storytelling skills, the judges said. And a 2007 story, “Opening Arguments – The Case Against Stents,” was well ahead of the pack in questioning the conventional medical wisdom that had led to overuse of the device, they added.

Winslow, a graduate of the University of New Hampshire in Durham, began his journalism career 40 years ago as a reporter for Rhode Island’s Providence Journal, and later, while teaching English and journalism at the University of New Hampshire, continued to write as a freelancer for The New York Times and The Boston Globe magazines among other publications. He joined The Wall Street Journal in 1983 as a reporter covering electric utilities and nuclear power. Two years later he was named assistant national news editor, in charge of the paper’s science and energy section, and a few months later, news editor. He returned to reporting as a senior special writer in 1989, covering healthcare and medicine. He subsequently also served as health and science news editor of the paper, before his appointment in 2008 as deputy bureau chief for health and science. His work has been recognized by the American Heart Association and the National Alliance for the Mentally Ill.

The $3,000 Cohn Prize will be presented on October 15, 2011, in Flagstaff, Arizona at an awards banquet held in conjunction with ScienceWriters2011, a joint meeting of CASW and the National Association of Science Writers (NASW). The annual gathering includes NASW’s professional workshops and CASW’s New Horizons in Science briefing for journalists, this year to be held at Northern Arizona University.

The judges for the 2011 prize were Ben Patrusky, CASW’s executive director; Cristine Russell, a freelance science writer and senior fellow at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government; Joann Rodgers, a freelance writer and faculty scholar at the Johns Hopkins Bioethics Institute; and Matt Clark, former medicine editor of Newsweek magazine.

This year marks the 12th presentation of the Cohn Prize for Excellence in Medical Science Journalism. The inaugural award in 2000 was shared by Laurie Garrett of Newsday and Lawrence K. Altman of The New York Times. Subsequent recipients, in addition to Marchione of The AP, were Jon Palfreman, a public television documentarian; Dan Q. Haney of The Associated Press; Shannon Brownlee, a widely published magazine and newspaper journalist; Michelle Trudeau of National Public Radio; Rick Weiss of the The Washington Post; Jerome Groopman of The New Yorker; Geeta Anand of The Wall Street Journal; Joe Palca of NPR; and Denise Grady of The New York Times.

The award honors the late Washington Post medical writer and health columnist Victor Cohn, who distinguished himself by the effectiveness of his reporting during a 50-year career. He was also a co-founder in 1959 of the Council for the Advancement of Science Writing.

ScienceWriters2011 update from New Horizons Program Director Paul Raeburn

[Updated Oct. 9] Registration for ScienceWriters 2011, to be held at Northern Arizona University Oct. 14-18, is now closed. We are now uploading background information for the New Horizons in Science briefings and looking forward to seeing you at the conference.
This year’s New Horizons sessions will focus more on the local landscape and people than the last six programs I’ve put together. That’s partly because I was overwhelmed with the majesty of Flagstaff, the Grand Canyon, and the surrounding desert and forests. And it’s partly because that’s where many of the researchers at Northern Arizona University, our host, do their research. 

The NAU anthropologist Miguel Vasquez, for example, studies the culture and customs of the Hopi. NAU’s Jut Wynne has identified new genera and species of arthropods in caves in the Southwest. (He’s also used his expertise to help NASA determine ways to identify caves on Mars.) And Jane Marks will tell us about effort to dismantle a hundred-year-old dam in a way that will enhance the local environment. (It turns out that you can’t just pull these things down.) And Thomas Sisk will talk to us about a fascinating experiment in which environmentalists are trying to manage ranches on public land in a sustainable way.

Moving away from the landscape for a bit, we’ll also hear from a magician and a pair of neuroscientists who will explain how magicians are so easily able to fool us (a session I scheduled for late Monday afternoon, when we all will need a little lift), and from a gun-control expert, Garen Wintemute, who will tell us whether Arizona’s gun-control laws are worse than everyone else’s, or not. In the wake of the assassination attempt on Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, I was eager to find somebody whose research could help us understand what happened there.

I’ve also made notes of my own favorites among the NASW workshops, which seem to be getting better every year. This is the seventh year that the workshops and scientific sessions have been held together as part of the annual science writers’ meeting. If you haven’t attended, I think you’ll be pleased by how nicely everything fits together.

We're looking forward to a fascinating conference—and to exciting field trips on the land, and on the Colorado River.


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