Council for the Advancement of Science Writing

CASW launches website to showcase great science writing

The Council for the Advancement of Science Writing announces the launch of CASW Showcase (http://showcase.casw.org), a website that provides an up-close look at award-winning science journalism to provide inspiration and insight to science writers, especially those who are learning the craft.

“CASW celebrates excellence in our profession,” said CASW President Alan Boyle. “Each year, dozens of science writers donate their time to awards programs, combing through publications, websites and broadcasts to find examples of exceptional reporting and writing about science and its impact on society. We want to amplify the impact of those programs, celebrate great science journalism and provide a resource for everyone who aspires to be a great science writer.”

CASW board members and other senior science writers will serve as curators for the site, selecting exemplars from among recent winners of science journalism competitions. Over time, Showcase will become an in-depth archive for many different reports, showing how award-winning journalists have tackled the challenge of writing compelling stories about science for diverse audiences.

Features planned for Showcase include:

 Storygrams, or “story diagrams,” which are professional annotations of great stories to highlight how writers have tackled the challenges of covering science. Six Storygrams per year will be produced through a collaboration of CASW and The Open Notebook, which will co-publish them and add an author interview.

  • A calendar showing the deadlines for, and the announcements from, award programs for science writing. 
  • A blog, “The Envelope, Please,” which will provide site updates, news and commentary from the world of science writing awards.
  • A Suggestion Box inviting nominations of award-winning science writing from all over.

Initially Showcase will present, with permission, selected stories that have been published since 2013 and honored by either CASW’s awards programs or three other science writing competitions: the AAAS Kavli Science Journalism Awards, presented by the American Association for the Advancement of Science in cooperation with the Kavli Foundation; the Science in Society Journalism Awards, presented by the National Association of Science Writers; and the Keck Futures Initiative Communication Awards, presented by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine with the support of the W. M. Keck Foundation. CASW presents the Victor Cohn Prize for Excellence in Medical Science Reporting and manages the Evert Clark/Seth Payne Award for Young Science Journalists.

CASW Executive Director Rosalind Reid said Showcase will broaden its collection over time to include other awards programs and work selected for science-writing anthologies. As funding and technology allow, CASW hopes to add multimedia, stories that have won awards outside the U.S., and writing in languages other than English.

Freelance science journalist Shannon Hall has managed the development of the site and will serve as Showcase’s editor and blogger. Hall holds a master’s degree in astronomy from the University of Wyoming and a master’s degree in science journalism from New York University. She freelances for Scientific American, Discover, Sky & Telescope, New Scientist and other publications.

The project took flight after the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation awarded CASW a three-year, $90,000 grant in December 2015. Additional support has come from an initiative called PressForward, funded by the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, and additional contributions to CASW. Showcase uses PressForward software to facilitate the judging, selection and republishing process.

Showcase is the brainchild of CASW’s immediate past president, Cristine Russell, who advocated a larger role for CASW as a provider of resources for science journalism and communication. During strategic planning in 2014, CASW’s board focused on the needs of aspiring and student science writers. The board asked Reid and CASW’s Next Horizons Committee, chaired by freelance writer Betsy Mason, to develop a site that would provide examples of great science writing for this audience.

“Showcasing prize-winning science journalism can help those entering the field, as well as more experienced writers. There is no magic formula for what makes a great science story. But reading and dissecting some of the best articles can help inspire better science journalism,” said Russell.

About CASW

The Council for the Advancement of Science Writing is committed to improving the quality and quantity of science news reaching the public. Directed and advised by distinguished journalists and scientists, CASW develops and funds programs that encourage accurate and informative writing about developments in science, technology, medicine and the environment. CASW was incorporated in 1959 as a nonprofit educational organization.

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Published July 12, 2016

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Experience WCSJ2017 through videos and student stories

January 11, 2018—Although the 2017 World Conference of Science Journalists is history, the experience and content of the conference continues. CASW was pleased to join with our conference partners in ensuring that the conference is shared worldwide through video recordings, translations and student coverage

A sampling of plenary and breakout sessions and a sponsored luncheon program given were recorded. over three days, October 26-28, 2017. The videos can be viewed at CASW's YouTube channel or through the video page on the WCSJ2017 website

“As the conference approached, we thought about the many science writers who would not be able to join us in San Francisco. We hope these videos will give them a chance to experience much of the conference over the internet,” said CASW immediate past president Cristine Russell and Ron Winslow, co-chairs of the WCSJ2017 Organizing Committee. “And we hope conference attendees from around the world will share these videos and the student stories about the sessions with colleagues back home.”

Alberto Cairo's presentation at WCSJ2017The organizers also hope that colleagues around the world will contribute video subtitles so that the sessions can be experienced in languages other than the original English.

The videos are also embedded in session pages on the wcsj2017.org website, along with student coverage of the sessions.

Student journalists produced 52 reports from the conference through a special Student Travel Fellowship program organized by CASW and the National Association of Science Writers. Support to CASW from the William K. Bowes Foundation, the Heising-Simons Foundation, and the American Association for the Advancement of Science provided travel grants for 22 students (from the US and other countries shown on the graphic above, created by student Anjela Djuraskovic) and technology for the student project.

Videos online include:

Additional videos are in production.

To contribute an English transcript or a translation, navigate to the video on YouTube and find the “Add translations” link. Volunteer-uploaded translations will be published after review by the WCSJ2017 organizers. CASW board member Debbie Ponchner and other members of the WCSJ2017 Regional Committee for Latin America and the Caribbean are coordinating translations by Spanish-speaking science writers.

WCSJ2017, the 10th World Conference of Science Journalists and the first to be held in the United States, was organized by NASW and CASW in partnership with the World Federation of Science Journalists and with the participation of the University of California San Francisco, UC Berkeley and the Association of Health Care Journalists. Nearly 1,400 attendees from more than 70 nations converged on San Francisco October 26-30 for program sessions, workshops, sponsored events and field trips organized around the theme of “Bridging Science and Societies.”

Accomplished journalist Sharon Begley awarded 2017 Victor Cohn Prize for Medical Science Reporting

Sharon Begley, a seasoned medical reporter who is senior science writer at STAT, is the recipient of the 2017 Victor Cohn Prize for Excellence in Medical Science Reporting.

Judges cited Begley for the remarkable authority, authenticity, precision and confidence of her writing and praised the exhaustive investigative work evident in each piece of reporting. Her articles are distinguished by “a propulsive force, an accuracy and a sharpness” that are the hallmarks of a knowledgeable reporter and polished writer, they said.

Begley joined STAT, the life sciences publication of the Boston Globe, in 2015 following stints as health and science correspondent for Reuters, science editor and columnist at Newsweek magazine, and science columnist at The Wall Street Journal. In a letter nominating Begley for the Cohn Prize, Managing Editor Gideon Gil recalled that she was the first science writer hired when STAT was launched. “One person after another told us she was the best medical science reporter around. Hiring her would bring our startup instant credibility. She has.”

Begley is the 20th 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.

In selecting Begley, the judges drew attention to “Behind a Cancer-Treatment Firm’s Rosy Survival Claims,” a 2013 Reuters special investigative report on the Cancer Treatment Centers of America for which Begley did the bulk of the reporting and the writing. Seasoned with interviews and gripping stories, the article presented a thorough examination of the data behind the center’s remarkable success claims, presenting ample evidence that CTCA cherry-picks its patients and reports results selectively.

Another notable piece was Begley’s November 2016 report for STAT on gene drives, “Gene Drive Gives Scientists Power to Hijack Evolution.” That story, the judges said, provided an extraordinarily clear, thorough and dramatic explanation of the science and societal issues associated with gene drives, a genetic technology that forces introduced genes to spread through a population. Gene drives have been proposed as a way to stop the spread of disease by insects such as mosquitoes.

Begley’s nomination also included her report on the potential of personalized cancer vaccines using “neoantigens,” a story showing how a lack of resources may be holding back work on a cure for sickle cell disease, and an investigation into Myriad Genetics’ attempts to discredit rival labs’ tests for breast cancer genes.

In the nomination letter, Gil praised Begley’s “remarkable range and versatility,” noting that she “breaks news, explains cutting edge advances, investigates corporate and government malfeasance, profiles scientists, and busts myths,” writing expertly about basic science one day and workplace wellness the next. Begley’s regular column, Gut Check, systematically reviews the science behind popular claims and punctures hyped studies.

“What really sets Sharon apart from most other science writers,” Gil wrote, “is that she combines probing, original reporting with a crime reporter’s metabolism... she craves the adrenaline rush of daily journalism and getting scoops.” And the stories that she breaks are skillfully told, packed “with context, insight and prose that captivates readers."

Begley will receive a $3,000 award and certificate and be honored in San Francisco on Oct. 26, the opening day of the 10th World Conference of Science Journalists, which this year replaces the annual ScienceWriters meeting jointly organized by CASW and the National Association of Science Writers (NASW). CASW, a not-for-profit organization of journalists and scientists committed to improving the quality of science news and information reaching the public, is organizing WCSJ2017 with NASW and the World Federation of Science Journalists.

SHARON BEGLEY

The Victor Cohn Prize is one of many honors earned by Sharon Begley (@sxbegle) since she joined Newsweek upon her graduation from Yale University. In 25 years at Newsweek she served as science columnist and editor and as a contributing writer at the magazine and its website, The Daily Beast (2011). From 2002 to 2007, she was a science columnist at The Wall Street Journal, and from 2012 to 2015 she was the senior health and science correspondent at Reuters (2012–15). She is co-author (with Richard J. Davidson) of the 2012 book The Emotional Life of Your Brain, author of the 2007 book Train Your Mind, Change Your Brain, and co-author (with Jeffrey Schwartz) of the 2002 book The Mind and the Brain. She has been honored with an honorary degree from the University of North Carolina at Asheville for communicating science to the public and the Public Understanding of Science Award from the San Francisco Exploratorium. She has spoken before many audiences on the topics of science writing, neuroplasticity, and science literacy.

THE VICTOR COHN PRIZE

This year’s Cohn Prize entries were judged by Ben Patrusky, CASW’s executive director emeritus; Barbara J. Culliton, an investigative reporter, instructor and consultant who served as news editor of Science and deputy editor of Nature; and Richard Harris, National Public Radio science correspondent and CASW treasurer.

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; Daniel Q. Haney, medical editor for the Associated Press; 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; Mark Johnson of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel; and Liz Szabo, health writer for USA Today and senior correspondent for Kaiser Health News.

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 Sharon Begley’s work, visit her website.

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

To learn more about the 10th World Conference of Science Journalists (@wcsj2017), visit http://wcsj2017.org.


Eric Boodman wins Evert Clark/Seth Payne Award

The winner of the 2017 Evert Clark/Seth Payne Award, an annual prize for young science journalists, is Eric Boodman, a reporter at STAT.

Boodman received the award and its $1,000 prize for four stories in STAT:

The panel of judges cited Boodman for his highly original topics, his meticulous and deep reporting, his ability to use vivid characters to tell memorable stories, his “lovely” writing and “fun” details, and his knack for slipping complicated science and medical ideas into compelling narratives that painlessly educate readers while captivating and entertaining them.  “A writer like Boodman can potentially broaden the audience for, and the appeal of, science writing,” said one judge.

The judges and the screeners also said that quality and number of submissions for the 2017 award were extraordinarily high, with 48 submissions and 12 finalists—and that selecting one winner from among the top finalists was particularly challenging.

Originally from Montréal, Boodman graduated from Yale in 2015, where he studied journalism and the history of science. While still a student, Boodman wrote for the Montreal Gazette, the Montreal Review of Books and the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. He joined STAT in August 2015, and reports that he likes playing traditional Québécois fiddle music and looking at insects.

The winner will be honored by the Evert Clark Fund and the Council for the Advancement of Science Writing (CASW) during the 10th World Conference of Science Journalists. The conference, organized by CASW and the National Association of Science Writers in partnership with the World Federation of Science Journalists, will be held in San Francisco from October 25 to October 30.

Judges for the 2017 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
  • Susan Milius, life sciences writer at Science News
  • Richard Harris, science correspondent at National Public Radio, CASW treasurer, and author of the new book, Rigor Mortis: How Sloppy Science Creates Worthless Cures, Crushes Hope, and Wastes Billions
  • Dr. Gary B. Ellis, research review specialist at the Congressional Research Service, former director of the Office for Protection from Research Risks at the National Institutes of Health, and former AAAS Mass Media Fellow

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 administers the fund and manages the submission process and presentation of the award. This is the 29th 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.

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After almost seven decades at The San Francisco Chronicle, former CASW President David Perlman will finally close his reporter's notebook on August 4, retiring at the age of 98 after an accomplished career that made him a legend among science journalists. CASW colleagues took the occasion to recall some of their professional encounters over the years with the Dean of Science Journalism, who served as CASW's vice president 1973-76 and president 1976-80.

2017-18 Taylor/Blakeslee Fellows aim to 'elevate the public conversation about science'

Five writers with varied backgrounds in crime and business reporting, science and education 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 2017-18 academic year, bringing to 156 the number of science writers aided by CASW’s graduate fellowships since 1981.

Chosen from a field of 33 outstanding applicants were:

Fatima Husain (pictured above right). Husain, who is completing a bachelor's degree in geology and chemistry at Brown University, began pitching her writing to magazines as a high school student. In college she continued to pursue her interest in writing, serving as science editor for The College Hill Independent, a weekly Providence newspaper coordinated by undergraduates at Brown and the Rhode Island School of Design. Involvement in climate research sparked Husain's concern about sensational, agenda-driven writing and misinformation. She will attend the MIT graduate program in science writing and looks forward to getting lab experience in an unfamiliar field.

Heather Mongilio (@HMongiliocompleted her bachelor’s degree in journalism and psychology at American University in 2015 and went to work covering crime and courts for the Carroll County Times in Maryland. Having taken a course in health and environmental reporting, she found herself looking for ways to incorporate medicine and science into her reporting. Her dream job is as a science or medical reporter with a major daily. She will also enter the MIT graduate program in science writing and hopes to study neuroscience while at MIT.

Jeremy RehmJeremy Colin Rehm (@jrehm_sciearned a bachelor’s degree in biology at Brigham Young University and pursued graduate studies in ecology and evolutionary biology at Brown University, where he is completing a master's degree. His science studies have taken him into the western states and to Panama and Belize, and his involvement in science education has taken him into the communities around campuses and as far afield as Tanzania. Along the way, he has captured science in context through essays, profiles, blogging and multimedia productions and even a planetary science book written as a holiday gift for his family. Rehm will polish his skill at writing for the general public by attending the science communication graduate program at the University of California, Santa Cruz.

Elizabeth WhitmanElizabeth Whitman (@elizabethwhitty) has reported from the United Nations and written feature stories about Syrian refugees, public health, medicine, climate change and women’s rights from the Middle East. She currently reports on the health care industry. In March, her writing for Modern Healthcare was recognized with the Jesse H. Neal Award for Best Range of Work by a Single Author. A 2011 history graduate of Columbia University, she is heading back to Columbia for a master’s degree in science journalism. In her fellowship application, Whitman wrote: “Now is a critical time for elevating the public conversation about science…. Journalists share the responsibility for fostering an informed discussion of what we know and how we know it, and for bringing the public into this conversation through ethical, accurate writing about scientific findings and developments.” 

Charlie WoodAfter completing a bachelor’s degree in physics at Brown, Charles Wood (@walkingthedot) headed for Korea, Mozambique and Japan as a teacher of English and physics. Landing afterward at the Christian Science Monitor as an intern, he found that writing about science combined his passion for explaining with his love of science. He will join the Science, Health and Environmental Reporting Program (SHERP) at New York University. “I hope to become a skilled science journalist who can acknowledge the context surrounding each new development," he explained in his application, "while conveying to the public a nuanced but engaging picture of what’s going on in the lab or out in the field.” 

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.

 

WCSJ2017 program outline, additional speakers announced

Program themes, additional plenary sessions and fundraising progress were described by the organizers of the 10th World Conference of Science Journalists (WCSJ2017) at a press conference during the Annual Meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science in Boston, Mass. Feb. 16.

CASW is organizing the WCSJ2017 science program—an international edition of New Horizons in Science—and co-managing sponsor recruitment for the conference, to be held October 26-30 in San Francisco, Calif. Travel fellowships to bring international journalists to the conference have been established in honor of David Perlman, veteran San Francisco Chronicle science editor and past CASW president. CASW is conducting a donation campaign to fund the fellowships.

Cristine Russell, immediate past president of CASW, co-chairs the Organizing Committee with Ron Winslow, a past president of the National Association of Science Writers.

Conference registration opens May 1. The full text of the announcement may be found at the WCSJ2017 website.

 

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.

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