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New Horizons 2012 science stories told in posts and pictures

 CASW’s New Horizons in Science 2012 is sure to be remembered for lab coats, lemurs, zombies—and Sandy, the Frankenstorm that sideswiped our meeting.

There was also some remarkable new science.

Officially, 517 science writers signed up for ScienceWriters2012, a cornucopia that featured New Horizons science, Halloween festivities, NASW workshops, science tours, Lunch with a Scientist and a gala awards reception in North Carolina’s Research Triangle October 26–30.

By the time the NASW meeting got under way in Raleigh on the 27th, the wind already was whipping sponsor logos off the lab coat worn by the Sir Walter Raleigh statue outside the Raleigh Convention Center. (Sir Walter had been dressed by members of the Science Communicators of North Carolina, our hardworking and endlessly creative local organizers.)

[ibimage====undefined==undefined==undefined==undefined]East Coast-based writers and scientists were pacing, searching and phoning in pursuit of flights home.

The many who stayed were rewarded with New Horizons science talks that lit up the blogosphere. Dispatches on New Horizons 2012 science can be found at Wired Science (Maryn McKenna’s Superbug piece on Steve Wing’s session on hog production and human health,Science News (Tanya Lewis’s coverage of Katherine Freese’s proposal for using DNA to detect dark matter particles and NBCNews.com (Alan Boyle’s recap of David M. Rothschild’s talk on election prediction).

University science writers shared news from talks by Greg Wray, the opening speaker; Linda Kah, a Mars Science Lab mission scientist, physicist Mark Kruse, who spoke about the Higgs particle, and others. 

Twitter users feasted on ScienceWriters2012 posts. Between the start of New Horizons on the 28th and Nov. 7, 3,189 tweets were posted using the #sciwri12 hashtag. A Taghive analysis showed that 2,500 #sciwri12 tweets reached more than 6.7 million people during the period Oct. 24–29. A substantial number focused on New Horizons topics, including:[ibimage====undefined==undefined==undefined==undefined]

  • industrial hog production and health (also tagged #scihog)
  • the Mars Science Lab mission (#scimars, #MSL)
  • voter expectations, social networks, markets and election prediction
  • revolutionary ideas in science
  • supernovas and robot telescopes
  • genetic manipulation and pests (#scipest)
  • dark matter detection (#scidark) and dark stars (#scistar)
  • neuroprosthetics (#scirobot)
  • games for studying cognitive aging (#sciage)
  • vaccines in soybeans (#scisoy)

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And this year our "science scribe," Perrin Ireland, both provided and inspired novel forms of New Horizons coverage as she sketched selected science sessions. Her visual summaries were incorporated into Storify archives that curated visual and written social media coverage.—Rosalind Reid, CASW Program Director

Photographs by Amy West (statue), David Jarmul (Greg Wray talking with attendees) and Karl Bates (Steve Wing session).

See also:

Attendees who log into their member accounts can find updated background materials by navigating to session pages in the New Horizons program.

 

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Jon Cohen, a contributing correspondent for Science magazine, was presented the 2012 Victor Cohn Prize for Excellence in Medical Science Reporting at the annual awards ceremony held Saturday, October 27 in conjunction with ScienceWriters2012, a joint meeting of CASW and the National Association of Science Writers (NASW).   

ScienceWriters2012: the NC scouting report

What happens when an agrarian state stakes pretty much everything it’s got on science, technology and higher education? The answer is North Carolina’s Research Triangle, where science writers will converge in October for ScienceWriters2012.
 
It was my job, as organizer of this year’s New Horizons in Science briefings for CASW, to scout North Carolina for science speakers. I had lived in the Research Triangle for 30 years, working as a science writer and editor most of that time. Since moving away in 2007, I’d kept in touch with the vibrant Triangle science-writing community. When I returned to the area for the ScienceOnline un-conference in January and again to interview prospective speakers, I expected to find a familiar science landscape.
 
Instead I've found that the Triangle has plenty of surprises and delights, even for an old Raleigh hand like me.
 
First and foremost, there’s the energy, intelligence and spirit of SCONC, the Science Communicators of North Carolina. SCONC’s members collaborated to submit a powerhouse bid to host ScienceWriters2012. They’ve raised funds, negotiated with universities, federal agencies, foundations and corporations, and corralled buses, boats and venues. The result is a nonstop program of activities and entertainment that wrap around the combined conference.
 EPA facility RTP
SCONC’s red carpet rolls out from the convention center to the campuses, the labs of Research Triangle Park, Raleigh’s nightlife venues and its new Nature Research Center. It stretches east to the coast and west to the N.C. Research Campus.
 
Karl Leif Bates, the fearless and endlessly creative leader of SCONC’s sponsor activities, has even made arrangements to shuttle folks to and from Raleigh-Durham International Airport on the welcome and tour days (Friday and Tuesday). The social/foodie braintrust of SCONC will make sure that you laugh, smile and eat exceedingly well before you head home.
 
The next surprise is what’s happening on the campuses. The Research Triangle is anchored by Duke University and N.C. Central University in Durham, the University of North Carolina’s flagship campus in Chapel Hill and N.C. State University in Raleigh. Not far away are the technology hub at UNC-Charlotte and the medical powerhouse of Wake Forest University. In the middle of the Triangle are the industrial and federal laboratories, organizations such as the National Institute of Statistical Sciences and the booming contract research organization RTI International, formerly the ResearNCSU Centennial Campusch Triangle Institute. (That's the EPA's RTP facility on the right.) SCONC is drawing all of these organizations into ScienceWriters2012.
 
When I began talking with local scientists, I found that many of them were delighted to be working in a collaborative environment that so celebrates science. I was also struck by their determination to make their work useful to people. North Carolina is working hard to turn its research into products, technologies and jobs, and so you’ll see much applied science on the New Horizons program.
 
R/V Susan HudsonThe message, dear reader, is that you’re going to need to allow some serious time to savor what your fellow science writers have cooked up for Oct. 26-30. In addition to what NASW and SCONC are concocting, CASW is packing more than 20 science sessions into two days for the New Horizons briefings, and punctuating them with a trip to N.C. State (above left) for SCONC’s Lunch with a Scientist program.
 
The NASW workshops, on Saturday the 27th, will be followed by a sparkling awards party showing off the spiffy Nature Research Center. But to fully appreciate what SCONC has in store, you’ll want to come a day earlier for lab tours, a welcome reception, free airport and hotel transport and afterglow partying. You’ll want to bring a Halloween costume to participate properly in SCONC’s Sunday night spooktacular, and stay on past New Horizons for the selection of field trips (at right, R/V Susan Hudson plies the N.C. coast) on Tuesday the 30th.—Rosalind Reid

News & Numbers

"News & Numbers"—a guidebook for reporting statistical claims and controversies in health and other fields—is now available in a third, updated edition. CASW played a major role in supporting the late Victor Cohn, a veteran Washington Post science writer, when he produced the first edition in 1989.

This sourcebook for science writers explains how to judge all types of scientific studies, with the emphasis on clear thinking rather than the math.

This latest edition has expanded sections on how to judge risk assessments, health costs and many other types of numbers-in-the-news. These range from political polls, to environmental assessments, to hot-button issues like tax spending for sports stadiums.

The book is chock-full of examples, with an emphasis on the questions that journalists should ask. It also is used as a college journalism textbook.

Lewis Cope, a science writer who wrote for the Minneapolis Star-Tribune and now serves on the CASW board, worked on both the second and this latest edition.

Cohn was one of the founders of CASW, which presents the annual Victor Cohn Prize for Excellence in Medical Science Reporting. Cohn's daughter, Deborah Cohn Runkle, helped with the latest edition.

The book is published by Wiley-Blackwell. The third edition is available in paperback, hardback and an electronic edition, from Amazon and other sources.

New edition of science writing career guide now available

Prompted by the enormous changes that continue to ripple through and transform the media landscape, CASW has produced and posted a thoroughly new and timely edition of its highly popular primer for aspiring science writers, “A Guide to Careers in Science Writing.”
The updated rendition deals with the new realities and challenges confronting anyone wishing to become a professional science communicator and provides practical counsel about how best to achieve that goal and identifies job prospects and opportunities in this post-digital age.  Among the highlights is a section on salary expectations, based on a newly completed survey of print, broadcast and digital journalists as well as public information officers. The complete guide is available here.

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