From the climate impact of massive hydroelectric dams in Amazonia to the future of the space program, critical decisions for society top the program for the 56th edition of CASW's New Horizons in Science briefings, scheduled to take place Oct. 14-15, 2018 on the campus of George Washington University in Washington, DC.
This year's program will be part of ScienceWriters2018, the annual conference presented jointly by CASW and the National Association of Science Writers. The conference begins Friday, Oct. 12 with preconference activities and a welcome reception given by GW, the 2018 host institution. NASW will present its annual workshop program on Oct. 13, and tours and other activities organized by GW—including the popular Lunch with a Scientist—will take place Oct. 15-16. Registration for the meeting continues through Oct. 1 at https://sciencewriters2018.org.
Program Director Rosalind Reid drew on the host institution's strengths in archaeology, neuroscience and public health in building this year's program of research briefings. In addition, the program will feature a record four special "science + science writing" sessions, delving into issues on the interface between science writing and the research community it covers. These sessions will consider two anniversaries: the 20th anniversary of the isolation of human embryonic stem cells, and the 50th anniversary of the moment when Apollo astronauts first left earth's atmosphere and headed for the moon. A third looks at the special challenges of communicating quantum physics to the public.
The fourth special session focuses on Brazil's ambitious program to build enormous hydroelectric dams throughout Amazonia (photograph: the Jirau dam during construction in 2014, courtesy Divulgação / Outubro 2012: Programa de Aceleração do Crescimento Brazil), an effort that is reshaping the region and will most likely alter global climate patterns. That session is part of a focus on Latin America that continues a theme from the 10th World Conference of Science Journalists, jointly organized by NASW and CASW and held in place of the regular U.S. conference in 2017. Special travel support for Latin American and Caribbean journalists, carried over from WCSJ2017, will bring a dozen writers to Washington as ScienceWriters2018 International Travel Fellows.
"Meeting in Washington, D.C. gives us an opportunity to present a program that is especially topical, policy-relevant and international," Reid said. "There will be plenty of 'hard' science stories to dig into, but we will devote equal time to hard questions facing science, society and science journalism today. The participation of colleagues from throughout the hemisphere will help us frame those questions in an international context and broaden our perspective. I'm looking forward to a large and exciting conference."
Other topics on the 2018 science program include differential privacy, the algorithmic technique that is coming into wide use to protect personal data; lessons being learned from the current eruption of Kilauea; and the new understanding of the historic and economic impact of the slave trade that is emerging as maritime archaeologists examine wrecked slave ships.