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WCSJ2017 news: headliners, call for proposals

MANCHESTER, UK (JULY 25, 2016) — African science-development activist Thierry Zomahoun and pioneering U.S. biologist Jennifer Doudna will be among the keynote speakers at the 10th World Conference of Science Journalists (WCSJ2017), to be held in San Francisco, California, Oct. 26-30, 2017, organizers announced today.

In a media briefing at the EuroScience Open Forum (ESOF2016), WCSJ2017 Program Chair Deborah Blum, director of Knight Science Journalism at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, revealed the two headliners and urged science journalists to submit proposals for conference sessions on topics of international concern to science journalists—from climate, environment and infectious disease to media manipulation and access to science.

The WCSJ2017 Program Committee, which includes journalists from Asia, Africa, Europe and the Americas, will accept session proposals through Sept. 30.

Ron Winslow, co-chair of the United States-based Organizing Committee, announced that sponsorships covering approximately one-third of the US$2.5 million conference budget have been secured. Johnson & Johnson Innovation has signed on as WCSJ2017’s Diamond Sponsor. Sponsorships will be accepted through August 2017, Winslow said. Winslow is deputy bureau chief for health and science at the Wall Street Journal.

Thierry Zomahoun is president and chief executive officer of the Rwanda-based African Institute for Mathematical Sciences (AIMS), which is developing a network of centers offering advanced training and research opportunities to top students in science and mathematics across Africa. Through AIMS’s programs and his public advocacy, Zomahoun hopes to change perceptions about the potential of Africa’s youth and demonstrate the continent’s capability to be a global hub for science.

In 2013, he founded the AIMS Next Einstein Forum, bringing together leading thinkers in science, policy, industry and civil society in Africa to leverage science to solve global challenges. A native of Benin, Zomahoun managed multiple non-governmental organizations before becoming AIMS’s chief executive in 2011.

Jennifer Doudna is a professor of chemistry and of molecular and cellular biology at the University of California, Berkeley. She was thrust into the international spotlight after she and Emanuelle Charpentier, now a professor at the Max Planck Institute for Infection Biology in Berlin, described their use of a bacterial system of “molecular scissors,” CRISPR-Cas9, to edit a genome.

Research using CRISPR for gene editing immediately took off, spurring patent disputes, the launch of new companies and controversies over the ethical use of the technology. Doudna has been at the forefront of the development of the technology and ethics debates. Elected to the U.S. National Academy of Sciences and Institute of Medicine and as a Foreign Member of the Royal Society, she is the recipient of a large number of prizes for biomedical research.

“Thierry Zomahoun’s work to accelerate Africa’s development by building a global science hub, and Jennifer Doudna’s breathtaking science and commitment to ethical uses of science, are excellent expressions of our conference theme, ‘Bridging Science and Societies,’” said Blum. “Science journalists play a central role in bringing science to readers worldwide so that they can leverage knowledge for public good and hold their institutions accountable. We are thrilled that these pioneers will be able to join us at the next World Conference.”

San Francisco was chosen as the site of WCSJ2017 in 2015 by the board of the World Federation of Science Journalists, an organization made up of 51 membership associations of science journalists around the world. WFSJ’s members hold a global conference every other year and will meet in the U.S. for the first time in 2017. The conference will be hosted by the National Association of Science Writers (NASW), in partnership with the Council for the Advancement of Science Writing and two host universities, the Berkeley and San Francisco campuses of the University of California.

Among the features of the 2017 conference will be an expanded science program and special training opportunities for students as well as Latin American and Caribbean science journalists. More than 1,200 journalists are expected to immerse themselves in Bay Area science and enjoy events at the university campuses, California Academy of Sciences and Exploratorium as well as a public science event organized by the Bay Area Science Festival.

Fundraising to support conference production as well as speaker and attendee travel is being led by CASW and WFSJ. Winslow said the organizers are recruiting support from foundations, corporations and science and journalism organizations and have received commitments totaling $830,000 to date. Applications for travel fellowships for developing-country journalists will be taken beginning in January 2017, and registration will open in May 2017.

Steven Weinberg presents fourth Patrusky Lecture at ScienceWriters2016

Steven Weinberg, a pioneer of elementary particle physics and cosmology and one of the towering figures of science, presented the fourth Patrusky Lecture on October 30, 2016, at New Horizons in Science, CASW’s annual briefing on emerging research and issues in science.

Weinberg (shown at left in the photo, receiving his citation and commemorative sculpture from CASW President Alan Boyle), awarded the Nobel Prize in 1979 for his seminal work on the unification of the weak and electromagnetic forces, a cornerstone of the Standard Model of elementary particle theory, will ask “What’s the Matter with Quantum Mechanics?” In recent work, Weinberg and others have been looking for new solutions to conceptual problems with the quirky body of physical theory known as quantum mechanics. He told his audience he remained unsatisfied with attempts to explain away the problems of a theory that takes deterministic laws as inputs and explains the outputs in probabilistic terms.

He addressed several hundred writers gathered in San Antonio, Texas, for ScienceWriters2016, a conference that combines the New Horizons science program with the professional development workshops of the National Association of Science Writers (NASW).

In announcing the selection of the fourth Patrusky Lecturer, CASW President Alan Boyle, who is aerospace and science editor for GeekWire, said: "Dr. Weinberg is in the perfect position to survey the past and future frontiers of his field, which is the whole point of New Horizons in Science, and the Patrusky Lecture in particular. The fact that we're having this year's conference in the Lone Star State, his adopted home, makes it even better." 

Weinberg is Jack S. Josey–Welch Foundation Chair in Science and Regental Professor at the University of Texas at Austin, where he directs a Theory Group exploring physics at the most fundamental level. He previously spoke at New Horizons in Science briefings in 1977 and 2009.

He shared the 1979 prize with Sheldon Glashow and Abdus Salam and went on to do important work in quantum field theory, laying the groundwork for new theories in areas including quantum gravity and quantum chromodynamics. Weinberg has predicted a number of the phenomena that have since been observed in high-energy colliders.

In addition to the Nobel Prize, Weinberg’s research has been honored with the National Medal of Science, the Benjamin Franklin Medal of the American Philosophical Society, the Dannie Heinemann Prize for Mathematical Physics, and numerous other awards. He has been elected to the National Academy of Science and Britain's Royal Society and other academies, and holds 16 honorary doctoral degrees. He has written more than 300 scientific articles along with six treatises on general relativity, quantum field theory, cosmology, and quantum mechanics.

 

Weinberg is also a prominent public spokesman for science and a lively expositor who enjoys talking to science writers; this will be his third appearance as a New Horizons in Science speaker. His latest book, To Explain the World: The Discovery of Modern Science, was published in 2015. Among his other books for general readers are Dreams of a Final Theory, The First Three Minutes, and two collections of published essays, Facing Up: Science and its Cultural Adversaries, and Lake Views: This World and the Universe. Many of these essays first appeared in The New York Review of Books. His essay writing has earned Weinberg the Lewis Thomas Award for the Scientist as Poet and other awards.

Educated at Cornell, Copenhagen, and Princeton, Weinberg taught at Columbia, Berkeley, MIT and Harvard, where he was Higgins Professor of Physics, before coming to Texas in 1982.

The Patrusky Lectures

The Patrusky Lectures were launched by CASW in 2013 to honor Ben Patrusky, executive director of CASW for 25 years and director of the New Horizons in Science program for 30 years. Patrusky continues his service to CASW as Director Emeritus. In remarks read to Weinberg before the lecture, Patrusky said he was "profoundly honored ... to have his name so directly associated with mine." 

The previous Patrusky Lectures were given by George M. Whitesides of Harvard University; Donald Johanson of the Institute of Human Origins; and Yale microbiologist Jo Handelsman, associate director for science at the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy. Video recordings of all Patrusky Lectures may be found on the Patrusky Lectures page. 

TON and CASW launch "story diagrams" series

Today we’re thrilled to announce a new collaboration that we hope will benefit science writers at all levels of experience, from students to veterans. With support from the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation, CASW and The Open Notebook are partnering to produce a series of annotated stories aimed at shedding light on what makes some of the best science writing so outstanding.

A group of distinguished judges will select stories from among winners of major science-writing awards to be presented as “story diagrams,” or Storygrams. The Storygrams will be featured at TON, along with Q&A interviews with the stories’ authors.

Additionally, they’ll be featured at the soon-to-launch CASW Showcase website, which will republish additional selected award-winning science stories and provide community updates on award programs. Through the Storygrams, both TON and CASW hope to show how tough challenges in science journalism and communication can be surmounted as well as amplify the impact of these exceptional stories.

In the first annotation, coming next week, environmental and science journalist Tom Yulsman, a professor of journalism at the University of Colorado Boulder, dissects science journalist Cally Carswell’s award-winning 2013 High Country News story “The Tree Coroners.” TON and CASW look forward to bringing more Storygrams to the science journalism community soon.

Published May 26, 2016

CASW elects new board members, officers

The Council for the Advancement of Science Writing is pleased to announce that three new members have joined the board, while two continuing board members are rotating into officer slots. Board and officer elections took place during the Council's annual meeting April 30 at the UCSF Mission Bay Conference Center in San Francisco, Calif.

New directors elected to three-year terms (and pictured left to right) are:

With CASW's program agenda expanding and the World Conference of Science Journalists coming to the US in 2017, the election of new members is intended to restore the volunteer board to full strength after a series of recent retirements. Other members recently elected are:

Members newly elected to officer slots at the April meeting are freelance science writer Robin Lloyd, vice president, and National Public Radio science correspondent Richard Harris, treasurer. They succeed Deborah Blum and Tom Siegfried, who have stepped down as vice president and treasurer, respectively, while continuing on the board. Continuing as officers for 2016-17 are Alan Boyle, president, and Charles Petit, secretary. CASW officers are elected annually.

"We're proud to have these leaders in science writing and philanthropy on our team as we take on new challenges, including next year's World Conference of Science Journalists in San Francisco and other programs we'll be launching in the months ahead," Boyle said. "CASW is now in a good position to build on more than a half-century of improving the quantity and quality of science news reaching the public." 

2016-17 Taylor/Blakeslee Fellows distinguished by diverse experiences, accomplishment

Five science-trained journalists who have pursued their passions for science and writing in locations as diverse as Mexico and Yemen have been awarded the Council for the Advancement of Science Writing's prestigious Taylor/Blakeslee University Fellowships supporting graduate study in science writing.

The Fellows will receive a $5,000 award for the 2016-17 academic year, bringing to 151 the number of science writers aided by CASW’s graduate fellowships since 1981.

Chosen from a field of 31 outstanding applicants were:

Matthew Blois (pictured above), a Peace Corps Volunteer based in Guadalajara, Mexico who finds that he “constantly encounters people and ideas that force me to reevaluate how I think about the relationship between humans and the environment. Trained in biology and Spanish at Westmont College, Blois organizes live storytelling events for training and uses a blog to document the stories he encounters. He will pursue a master’s degree in environmental and natural resource journalism from the University of Montana to develop his skill to use varied media to tell stories about science, people and the environment.

Jennifer LuJennifer Lu of Columbia, Missouri. Lu is enrolled in the journalism master’s program at the University of Missouri. Having studied investigative journalism and data reporting this year, she plans to spend her second year applying those skills to science stories specific to Missouri and beyond. Lu holds a master’s degree in biochemistry from Brandeis University and worked as a research technician in Boston-area medical labs before taking up science writing and newspaper reporting. She is currently a science writer at the university's Bond Life Sciences Center.

Raleigh McElveryRaleigh McElvery (@raleighmcelvery) of Mont Vernon, New Hampshire. McElvery's interest in neuroscience was ignited when Alzheimer’s disease struck her grandmother. While completing summer internships as a neuroscience major at Bowdoin College, she found that she preferred translating science to the public to scientific writing.  A communications internship at the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard solidified her enthusiasm for a career as a “courier of knowledge.” McElvery will enroll in the MIT science writing master’s program

Tik RootPathik “Tik” Root (@TikRoot) is a Vermont-based freelancer and Middlebury College graduate. He has reported from Yemen, Rwanda, Spain, Turkey and Russia as a freelance broadcast, newspaper and magazine reporter. While studying and reporting in the Middle East, Root became aware of the critical importance of environmental and resource issues to the stability and sustainability of the modern world. Recipient of a Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting travel grant, he will enroll in Columbia University’s master’s in journalism program, concentrating on science, health and the environment.

Maria TemmingMaria Temming (@mariatemming) of Cincinnati, Ohio. As an undergraduate honors student at Elon University, Temming has double-majored in physics and creative writing and once wrote a class essay that compared obsessive compulsive disorder to a calculus problem, finding the area under a graphical curve with integration. After cutting her teeth writing and producing science stories for Sky & Telescope and Scientific American and a campus blog, she will enroll in MIT’s master’s program in science writing.

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.

 

Science writers head for a science city deep in the heart of Texas

CASW's 54th presentation of the New Horizons in Science briefing will take place in the seventh-largest city in the US this year: San Antonio, Texas. Just ahead of the Día de los Muertos, science writers will descend on San Antonio for ScienceWriters2016, which combines the New Horizons program with the workshops program of the National Association of Science Writers and a program of tours, field trips and lunch conversations with local scientists organized by our hosts. This year's sessions will take place at the Omni La Mansión del Rio on San Antonio's famed River Walk, hosted by a local consortium headed by Texas Biomedical Research Institute and BioBridge Global. A detailed program is posted on the conference website.

Proposals for science + science writing sessions due by March 1

CASW invites science writers to propose a special session for the New Horizons in Science program at ScienceWriters2016. "Science + Science Writing" sessions draw on a current science topic for discussion of challenges or issues in covering science. These sessions are intended to elucidate issues facing science writers covering particular areas of science. They also are intended to provide opportunities for open conversation between scientists and writers. Up to three selected sessions will be interwoven with the New Horizons in Science presentations that take place on Sunday and Monday. For guidelines and more information, see the CASW submission page. Proposals must be submitted by March 1.

 

Special reporting grant awarded to Amy McDermott

(January 21, 2016) Amy McDermott, now studying at the University of California, Santa Cruz’s Science Communication Program and already a prolific reporter, writer and editor, has won a $5,000 special reporting grant from CASW’s Taylor-Blakeslee university graduate fellowships program.

McDermott will travel to Alaska and New Mexico to visit scientists in the field as they monitor communities of sentinel species for signals of forest health, air pollution and climate change. Her project, combining field reporting and photography, is intended to generate magazine articles and blog posts.

A panel of CASW board members chose McDermott's proposal over three other impressive entries, commenting that her plan is not only ambitious but is particularly well focused on a specific, manageable goal. It also is about a fresh topic most lay readers will never have encountered. 

The judges added that McDermott’s plan reveals a deep appreciation for the reporting opportunities of immersing oneself in team research—and showing the public how vital to modern science are the data fed by such studies.

McDermott is one of four graduate students currently supported by Taylor-Blakeslee University Fellowships. With support from the Brinson Foundation, which underwrites the fellowships, CASW invited the Fellows to compete for a follow-up grant to help launch their careers. 

“We set up this competition to challenge our Fellows to propose high-impact enterprise projects that would leverage their graduate training and entrepreneurial talent,” said CASW Executive Director Rosalind Reid. “Every one of them met the challenge magnificently. Although we are able to fund only one project, we hope all of them are undertaken. They are all writers of extraordinary ability and commitment."

McDermott, who holds a master’s degree in evolutionary biology from Columbia University, aspires to a national magazine career as a writer and editor focusing on environmental science. Before joining the UCSC program, she launched the online magazine Hawkmoth.

Video of 2015 Patrusky Lecture available

Yale microbiologist and White House official Jo Handelsman gave a sweeping presentation on microbiome research to science writers attending CASW's 53rd New Horizons in Science briefings at MIT on Oct. 11, 2015.

The Patrusky Lecture was a highlight of ScienceWriters2015, the annual conference that combines New Horizons with the professional development workshops organized by the National Association of Science Writers. Some 800 science writers, a record number, attended this year's conference.

A full video recording of Handelsman's talk is now available on the Patrusky Lectures page.

U.S. science writers announce dates, venue, partners for 2017 World Conference of Science Journalists

CAMBRIDGE, MA (October 10, 2015) — The 10th World Conference of Science Journalists, expected to bring more than 1,200 journalists from around the world to San Francisco, has been scheduled for October 26–30, 2017, two U.S. lead organizations announced today.

The National Association of Science Writers and Council for the Advancement of Science Writing bid together to host the biennial conference of the World Federation of Science Journalists in the United States for the first time. They will work with partners across the Bay Area and the U.S. and around the globe to showcase science and develop a five-day program.

Two preeminent research universities in the Bay Area, the University of California San Francisco and the University of California, Berkeley, will serve as host institutions, supporting the conference and opening their campuses to enrich the WCSJ program with science tours and presentations. In addition to visiting the host institution campuses and other research facilities in the area, WCSJ2017 will coordinate with the Bay Area Science Festival to engage science journalists in public science events and outreach around the Bay Area. San Francisco’s Marriott Marquis has been chosen as the main conference venue.

NASW and CASW officially kicked off organizing and fundraising efforts today at their annual awards gala, held in Cambridge as part of ScienceWriters2015, the annual conference produced by the two organizations and this year attended by 800 science writers. WCSJ2017 will be held in place of the annual U.S. meeting, bringing U.S. writers together with members of some 50 other science journalism organizations in the developed and developing world.

Information about the 2017 World Conference of Science Journalists

DOWNLOADABLE BROCHURE

Website:
http://wcsj2017.org

Twitter:
#wcsj2017

Co-chairing the Organizing Committee for WCSJ2017 will be two senior leaders of the U.S. science journalism community: Ron Winslow, deputy editor for health and science and senior medical and health care writer for the Wall Street Journal, and Cristine Russell, senior fellow at Harvard Kennedy School’s Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs. Both are past presidents of NASW, and Russell is immediate past president of CASW.

“We're thrilled to invite science writers from around the world to participate in our terrific professional workshops and science programs,” Winslow said. “It’s a great opportunity for NASW members, too. The chance to connect with and learn from science-writing colleagues from other countries and cultures can be a life-changing experience.”

Russell added: “We’re proud to be hosting the conference in the U.S. for the first time, with San Francisco likely to attract the largest global gathering of science writers to date. It’s an opportunity to improve science writing and learn about cutting-edge science in an area known for research, innovation and enterprise. California is also facing environmental challenges, such severe drought and water shortages, that mirror problems across the world.”

Winslow said the conference theme, “Bridging Science and Societies,” was chosen to reflect “the vital role science journalists play in connecting audiences to the science that affects their lives” as well as the issues that arise along the interface between the global scientific enterprise and the world’s diversity of cultures. An international Program Committee to build activities around the theme will be chaired by Pulitzer-winning author Deborah Blum, director of the Knight Science Journalism Program at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and vice president of CASW.

“We’re looking forward to working with science journalists both in the U.S. and around the world,” Blum said, “to develop a global program, one that does justice to the ever-changing, fascinating and important role of communication in the way we think about science and society.”

A special focus of the 2017 conference will be programming and financial support to encourage participation and training for Latin American science journalists. The World Federation has focused many of its efforts on capacity-building in developing countries. California’s proximity to Latin America, Winslow said, “will allow us to strengthen existing and emerging networks with Latin American science journalists.”

The organizers have already developed partnerships with the National Academy of Sciences, California Academy of Sciences, American Association for the Advancement of Science and other scientific societies in support of the conference, which will combine professional developing and networking with presentations on leading-edge science patterned after CASW’s 53-year-old New Horizons in Science briefings. “By gathering so many science journalists from around the world, including from many developing nations,” National Academy President Ralph J. Cicerone noted in supporting the U.S. bid, “the WCSJ reflects the increasingly global nature of the research enterprise.”

Russell will head a committee reaching out to foundations and to Bay Area companies and organizations to recruit additional sponsors and partners for the event over the coming year. The organizers hope to create opportunities for international journalists to experience the vibrant research and development environment around the Bay, explore the interplay of innovation and technology that drives Northern California, and enjoy science excursions that expose them to the region’s natural wonders and environmental challenges.

UCSF and Berkeley Chancellors Nicholas Dirks and Sam Hawgood said they looked forward to welcoming science journalists to “one of the world’s great cities... an area known for its international flair and for universities with a true global outlook.”

THE CONFERENCE PARTNERS

CASW: Founded in 1959, the Council for the Advancement of Science Writing (http://casw.org) is a panel of distinguished journalists, science communication specialists and scientists committed to improving the quality and quantity of science news reaching the public. CASW will have the lead role in fundraising to support travel for developing-country journalists, hospitality and conference program expenses.

NASW: Founded in 1934, the National Association of Science Writers (http://nasw.org) is an association of more 2,000 members chartered to “foster the dissemination of accurate information through all media normally devoted to informing the public.” NASW’s programs improve the craft of science writing, fight for the free flow of science news, and honor excellence in science writing. http

WFSJ: The Montréal-based World Federation of Science Journalists (http://wfsj.org) connects science journalists worldwide through conferences, competitions, and networking and encourages strong, critical coverage of issues in science and technology, environment, health and emdicine, agriculture and related fields. Current programs help journalists worldwide learn about infectious diseases including Ebola and the hepatitis C virus. WFSJ offers an online science journalism course in 10 languages.

UCSF and UCB: Founded in 1873 and dedicated to advancing health worldwide, UC San Francisco (http://ucsf.edu) is the leading university in the U.S. exclusively focused on health. Founded five years earlier, UC Berkeley (http://berkeley.edu) is the flagship of the University of California system and places #3 overall among the world’s universities in the latest US News & World Report rankings. Between them the two universities’ faculties have earned 40 Nobel Prizes.

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