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World Conference organizers issue travel statement

Amid debate over new U.S. visa restrictions, organizers of the 10th World Conference of Science Journalists affirmed the conference's determination to welcome journalists from across the globe to the conference. A statement issued February 10 says the organizers "oppose any restrictions that would prevent participants from attending WCSJ2017."

CASW and the National Association of Science Writers are partners with the World Federation of Science Journalists in organizing the conference, scheduled to be held in San Francisco Oct. 26-30. The statement is signed by the co-chairs of the WCSJ2017 Organizing Committee: Cristine Russell, CASW immediate past president, and Ron Winslow, past president of NASW, and was endorsed by current presidents Alan Boyle (CASW) and Laura Helmuth (NASW).

As an additional expression of global welcome, CASW is raising $20,000 in donations to the David Perlman Travel Fellowships, which honor the former CASW and NASW president and longtime San Francisco Chronicle science editor. The fellowships will support travel by conference attendees from any nation. An anonymous donor is matching all donations up to the goal.

In the hope that all colleagues will be able to come to San Francisco, the organizers have also recruited conference partners to help with visa appeals.

The full text of the statement may be found here.

Jennifer Lu wins special CASW grant for investigative project

(January 27, 2017) Jennifer Lu, now studying toward a master's degree in journalism at the University of Missouri, has won a $5,000 special reporting grant from CASW’s Taylor-Blakeslee university graduate fellowships program.

In her final semester of the Mizzou master’s program, Lu is focusing on investigative and data journalism. Her professional goal is to apply these skills to stories about science, health and the environment. She will use the Taylor/Blakeslee Project Fellowship toward reporting on the urgent problems that come with the nation’s aging drinking water infrastructure for the online investigative news group InquireFirst.

The judges noted the urgency and importance of investigative science reporting on the drinking water contamination crises now facing many cities. They congratulated Lu on a reporting plan that will dig into these issues and examine the effectiveness of practice and regulation at the local, regional and national levels.

Lu is one of five graduate students currently supported by Taylor-Blakeslee University Fellowships. The Brinson Foundation, which underwrites the fellowships, provided the follow-up grant to enable a Fellow to undertake a career-launching enterprise project.

In a competition, Fellows approaching graduation were invited to propose high-impact enterprise projects that would leverage their graduate training and entrepreneurial talent. "The submitted projects were all excellent, and we hope these exceptional science journalists will find ways to complete them. The world needs this reporting," said CASW Executive Director Rosalind Reid.

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.

This is the second year of the project fellowship. The first grant went to Amy McDermott, then enrolled in the Science Communication Program at the University of California, Santa Cruz.

Perlman fellowships will bring global science writers to San Francisco for 2017 World Conference

United States science writers have started a special individual donation campaign to bring their international colleagues to San Francisco in October 2017 for the 10th World Conference of Science Journalists (WCSJ2017).

The donations will fund WCSJ2017 travel fellowships named for San Francisco Chronicle Science Editor and former CASW President David Perlman, one of America’s most revered science journalists and surely the longest-serving member of the trade. A mentor to generations of science writers, Perlman has been a globetrotting newspaper reporter for nearly 75 years. Considered the dean of American science writing, he has covered the space race, arms control, the origin and rise of AIDS, earthquakes, genetic engineering, medical progress, human evolution—the works—and is still on the job as he nears age 98. Perlman, who served as a CASW officer in the 1970s, was named a CASW Fellow on his retirement from the Council in 2011.

An announcement of the fellowships may be found on the WCSJ2017 website. Instructions for contributing are also available there. Donations may also be made by following instructions on the support page of this website. CASW, a partner in the conference, will accept and manage donations to the fellowships.

Stories about David Perlman's career:

WCSJ2017 will be organized by NASW and CASW and hosted by the University of California campuses at Berkeley and at San Francisco. NASW is the oldest and largest professional science writing organization in the U.S., with more than 2,500 members. CASW is managing donations and sponsorships for the conference and will accept the contributions. CASW is an educational nonprofit dedicated to enhancing the quantity and quality of science news reaching the public. Opportunities for foundations, other non-profits, businesses, and individuals to support the conference can be found on the website.



Scientists meet science writers at New Horizons 2016

CASW's New Horizons Traveling Fellows have now posted coverage of the 2016 program—including a tongue-in-cheek interactive game simulating the experience of a freelancer getting a travel grant to attend a science writers' conference.

Amy Mayer and Nancy Averett chose to focus on the powerful pair of sessions that focused on citizens and science. Jacob Roberts was taken with Mark Riedl's presentation on creativity and artificial intelligence—and inspired to recap his ScienceWriters2016 experience in the form of game.

The Fellows' contributions can be found in the 2016 New Horizons Newsroom.

Sketch by Rob Frederick, @TheConjectural

In Focus: 

Feature image

Jacob Roberts was inspired by Mark Riedl's talk on creativity and artificial intelligence at the 2016 edition of the New Horizons in Science briefing to create a lighthearted simulation of a freelancer's experience of a science writers' conference. Just for fun, we share Jacob's Science Writing Conference Simulator.

Sketch by Rob Frederick, @TheConjectural

In Focus: 

Feature image

by Jacob Roberts | 

Video of 2016 Patrusky Lecture available



Theoretical physicist Steven Weinberg shared his thoughts about the state of quantum mechanics with science writers attending CASW's 54th New Horizons in Science briefing in San Antonio, Texas on October 30, 2016.

The fourth Patrusky Lecture was a highlight of ScienceWriters2016, 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 Weinberg's talk and the previous Patrusky Lectures is now available on the Patrusky Lectures page.



Liz Szabo wins 2016 Victor Cohn Prize for medical science journalism for work at USA Today

Liz Szabo, whose work as USA Today’s medical reporter combined authoritative breaking-news coverage with dogged investigative journalism, is the recipient of the 2016 Victor Cohn Prize for Excellence in Medical Science Reporting.

Judges cited Szabo, who recently joined Kaiser Health News as a senior correspondent, for outstanding reporting that “embodies the best of medical journalism and the Cohn award: scientific accuracy, fairness, humanity, and most of all, a deep understanding of the complexities of modern medicine.” She is the 19th recipient of the prize, awarded by the Council for the Advancement of Science Writing (CASW) for a body of work published or broadcast within the past five years.

Szabo’s work on the USA Today breaking news team, the judges said, demonstrates that a skilled and determined reporter can explain complex science accurately on deadline, put medical developments in context and provide sustained, incisive coverage of policy issues affecting everyone. They praised her for reporting characterized by “exceptional robustness and commitment.”  

Szabo (shown at left making remarks after the prize presentation and below receiving the prize from CASW President Alan Boyle) was selected from a field of talented nominees whose work epitomized fine medical reporting and writing. The judges found that the work of several of the nominees met the Cohn Prize’s requirement of “uncommon clarity, accuracy, breadth of coverage, enterprise, originality, insight and narrative power.” Szabo stood out in part, they say, because of her tenacious and high-impact reporting from the front lines of medicine and her determination to provide readers an accurate and complete picture.

Among the articles cited by the judges was “Zika could hit people in poverty hardest,” part of Szabo’s extensive reporting on emerging disease threats, which laid out the powerful connections among poverty, environment and health that make it impossible for many poor families to protect themselves against disease.

Her nomination also included some of the articles, illustrations, videos and podcasts Szabo developed for a series, “The Cost of Not Caring,” that exposed the financial and human price that our country pays for neglecting the 10 million American with serious mental illness. This work has been credited with building a foundation for mental health reform legislation now before Congress. In a letter supporting the nomination, Marilynn Marchione of the Associated Press said “The Cost of Not Caring,” along with Szabo’s other work, shows “the impact a writer can have with a high volume of excellent, day-to-day beat reporting, using all sites and platforms available to reach the widest possible audience.”

Doctor accused of selling false hope to families” was one of several articles resulting from Szabo’s months-long investigation of Houston doctor Stanislaw Burzynski, which pulled back the curtain on the inner workings of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and showed how the agency failed to act on longstanding complaints that the physician, who continues to be the subject of controversy, abused patients’ trust by peddling expensive and unproven therapies.

In her nominating letter, Donna Leinwand Leger, USA Today managing editor (breaking news), noted that Szabo “never shies away from the toughest issues.” Leinwand Leger added that Szabo has developed “a vast array of loyal sources whom she can call on, day or night, because they trust her and respect her.”

“In the past few years, Liz has tackled all of the world’s major health stories, from Ebola to Zika, with aplomb,” Leinwand Leger wrote. “She not only covers breaking news, but consistently develops enterprise stories that push our readers to understand the issues behind the outbreaks.”

Szabo received a $3,000 award and certificate at a ceremony in San Antonio, Texas, on Oct. 29, during ScienceWriters2016, a series of presentations, meetings, and workshops jointly organized by CASW and the National Association of Science Writers (NASW). CASW is a not-for-profit organization of journalists and scientists committed to improving the quality of science news and information reaching the public.


Liz Szabo (@LizSzabo) is now an enterprise reporter focusing on acute care and end-of-life issues for Kaiser Health News. She spent 12 years as a health writer at USA Today. “The Cost of Not Caring” has also been honored with a National Headliner Award, an Association of Health Care Journalists award for health policy reporting, and the James Aronson Award for Social Justice Journalism from Hunter College. Before joining USA Today, her investigation of dangerous doctors for The (Norfolk, Va.) Virginian-Pilot won two National Press Club awards and led Virginia lawmakers to tighten state laws for disciplining physicians. She has more than 50,000 Twitter followers

This year’s Cohn Prize entries were judged by Ben Patrusky, CASW’s executive director emeritus; Joann Rodgers, a freelance writer and author, a CASW past president and current board member, and instructor at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health; and Cristine Russell, CASW’s immediate past president and a current board member, freelance writer, and senior fellow at the Harvard Kennedy School.

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; 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; and Mark Johnson of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.

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 wrote a highly regarded professional book, 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 Liz Szabo’s work, visit the USA Today website.

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

To learn more about ScienceWriters2016 (#sciwri16), visit

Photographs by Greg Harrison

Natalie Wolchover wins Evert Clark/Seth Payne Award

The winner of the 2016 Evert Clark/Seth Payne Award, an annual prize for young science journalists, is Natalie Wolchover, senior writer at Quanta Magazine

Wolchover received the award and its $1,000 prize for four stories in Quanta:

The panel of judges cited Wolchover for her great range, for her “masterful” ledes, for her impressive ability to make tough stories enticing (and to explain complex ideas like Bayesian statistics), and for making the people in her stories come alive. “She can really write about physics,” said one judge.

Wolchover earned a bachelor’s degree in physics from Tufts University and studied graduate-level physics at the University of California, Berkeley. Before coming to Quanta, she co-authored several academic papers in nonlinear optics, and wrote for LiveScience, Popular Science, Seed, Make magazine and other publications. Another of her articles was recently honored with the 2016 Excellence in Statistical Reporting Award, presented by the American Statistical Association, and yet another was chosen for inclusion in The Best Writing on Mathematics 2015.


Read Shannon Hall's Q&A with Natalie Wolchover at CASW Showcase

The award was presented by the Evert Clark Fund and the Council for the Advancement of Science Writing (CASW). The ceremony took place on Saturday, October 29, at the Witte Museum in San Antonio, TX, during ScienceWriters2016. The ScienceWriters conference combines the annual meeting and workshop program of the National Association of Science Writers and the New Horizons in Science briefings presented by CASW and will be held in San Antonio from October 28 to November 1.

Judges for the 2016 award were Warren Leary, retired science correspondent for the New York Times, former science writer for the Associated Press, and former CASW board member; Laura Helmuth, health, science, and environment editor at the Washington Post; Eugene Russo, editor of the Front Matter section of PNAS; Elizabeth Pennisi, senior correspondent at Science; and Liz Marshall, project coordinator in the Family Involvement Laboratory at the University of Maryland and former writer for The Scientist. They selected Wolchover from a highly competitive field of 37 entries.

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 manages the submission process and presentation of the award in cooperation with the National Press Foundation, which administers the fund. This is the 28th 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.

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.


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