Council for the Advancement of Science Writing

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Registration opens for ScienceWriters2013

CASW and NASW are pleased to invite science writers of every stripe—working, studying, aspiring, retiring—to join us in Gainesville, FL Nov. 1-5 for a cornucopia of science sessions, tours, professional workshops and social and networking events organized by science writers for science writers. CASW's New Horizons in Science briefings, presented Nov. 3 and 4, are a cornerstone of the annual joint event, hosted this year by the University of Florida.

UPDATE: Registration has closed. Thanks to the more than 400 who have registered!

Registration is now open at the ScienceWriters2013 meeting site. The New Horizons briefings, along with all ScienceWriters2013 social events and most campus tours, are all free of charge, although registration is required. (Registration closes Oct. 16.) There are fees for the NASW workshops and off-campus tours, and some have limits; early registration is a way to ensure your choice of activities. All New Horizons sessions will take place at the meeting hotel, the Hilton University of Florida Conference Center Gainesville. Travel information and room reservations at the special meeting rate are available through the meeting site.

Watch the New Horizons program pages on this site, the meeting site, Twitter posts with hashtag #sciwri13 and the meeting Facebook page for updates as the meeting approaches!

ScienceWriters2013 scouting report: Lively science amid palms and pines

I’d just landed from Boston, fleeing the long New England winter, and all my hosts in Gainesville could do was apologize about the weather. Weather? Right. A cloud or two in the sky, a hint of a raindrop.

It was mid-March, and I’d come to scout the ScienceWriters2013 conference site and interview prospective speakers for this year's New Horizons in Science program. I didn’t know what I’d find in this patch of Florida. Sinkholes, maybe.

In fact, five days in Gainesville gave me a lively taste of the abundant science of the place, not to mention the hospitality of Gator Nation. Science writers who come to Gainesville for this year’s NASW workshops, New Horizons science program and local science tours and adventures Nov. 1-5 will return home, as I did, with pleasant memories and a notebook stuffed with unexpected science.

A sprawling, bustling research university

This is the first time the New Horizons science-for-science-writers program will be held in Florida, and I hadn’t realized what a research powerhouse has grown up in Gainesville. According to the latest report (2011) from the Center for Measuring University Performance at Arizona State, the University of Florida ranks 21st in the nation in total research expenditures—eighth among public research universities. It’s especially active in the life sciences—more than 70 percent of UF’s federally sponsored research. UF does about $650 million in sponsored and contract research annually; it awards about 900 PhDs annually, making it one of the top five US research universities in PhD production.

Vacationers may have spotted Gainesville on the map—it’s north of Disney World and Tampa-St. Pete and west of St. Augustine. To reach the campus by flying, you can either get a direct flight to Gainesville (free shuttle to the hotel), drive up the turnpike/interstate from Orlando, or brave the speed traps by driving from Jacksonville. There are airport shuttles and even an express bus from Atlanta.

As you approach, you’ll find a sandy terrain dotted with palms, pine forests and citrus groves and softened by Spanish moss. Florida’s springs and limestone caves are nearby, and there are a few places where the karst plateau has dramatically collapsed: right in Gainesville, the Devil’s Millhopper is a 120-foot-deep sinkhole that started forming 10,000 to 15,000 years ago. Since then countless critters have met their end there, leaving a valuable fossil record in what is now a geological state park.

The vastness of this major state university strikes you right off. UF enrolls more than 50,000 students in 16 colleges on a 2,000-acre campus that forms Gainesville’s southwest quadrant. It includes a golf course, experimental fields and greenhouses, a lake (Lake Alice, shown above, is the best place to find actual gators on campus) and barns that are home to a huge bat population. Our meeting venue, the university-affiliated Hilton University of Florida Conference Center Gainesville, sits on the western edge across from the Florida Museum of Natural History and its lush Butterfly Rainforest. Buses loop by, moving students in and out of the older, relaxed central campus, where vehicles are not allowed. Artwork featuring a UF scene decorates every guestroom in the comfortable, sunny Hilton.

What grows in Florida

Butterfly collections at the University of FloridaNASW’s Tinsley Davis and I checked out the fine facilities at our conference and social event venues—the Hilton, the natural history museum and the neighboring Harn Museum of Art—as well as the excellent dining options in laid-back downtown Gainesville. (Gainesville has its share of college-town hipness. Most of the football faithful will be in Jacksonville when we arrive, watching the Gators in their annual interstate clash with the Georgia Bulldogs. But 300+ indie bands and fans will be converging on Gainesville for the 12-venue FEST 12.)

Then Joe Kays and Melissa Blouin took me into the belly of the UF scientific enterprise to interview prospective speakers for this year’s New Horizons.

The trip was a reminder of me how vivid science can be when it’s right in front of you. Florida is a state of growers, and they represent the U.S. food system’s first line of defense against pests and pathogens from tropical regions of Africa and Latin America. Not surprisingly, UF is known for the inventiveness of its plant scientists and geneticists and the quality of its plant pathologists, microbiologists and entomologists.

Into the greenhouses and labs I plunged. I met creative scientists using novel approaches to improving the productivity, nutritional value, resilience and sensory qualities of fruits, vegetables and horticultural products. Others were just back from expeditions around the globe or into the atmosphere; astrobiologists were examining plants brought back from the International Space Station. (Florida has an unusual concentration of space biologists, thanks partly to the proximity of the Kennedy Space Center.) There were plenty of scientists concerned with animals too, including humans; UF is a major medical research center, with basic and clinical research programs focusing on neuroscience, cancer, aging and genetics.

The Gatorade effect is one of the threads strengthening the fabric of UF research. Other institutions may be emphasizing entrepreneurship these days, but UF was famously ahead of the game, having earned millions in annual licensing revenue annually from Gatorade since the product was introduced in 1965. UF, which had $34 million in total patent and licensing revenue in 2011, reinvests that money in new research that, in turn, may bear dividends. The Florida Innovation Hub, an incubator for science-based ventures and a spot that will host one of our social events, is home to about 15 new companies. A new Institute for Plant Innovation is fueled mostly by intellectual-property revenues that faculty are encouraged to plow back into research.

It was terrific to see that the land-grant institution tradition is alive and well in Florida. Along with an agricultural communications program, UF has a major journalism school; a j-school professor has signed up to help prep the UF speakers, and ScienceWriters2013 will be swarming with student journalists.

Heading out of Gainesville, I had to taste UF’s latest invention. I swung by a Publix store and grabbed a package of the newest Florida fruit. As science writers learned at this year’s AAAS meeting, UF sensory scientists have figured out that intense volatiles, not sugar, create great old-fashioned tomato taste. And UF plant breeders have created a tasty new crossbreed that also satisfies the requirements of growers without sacrificing flavor.

I didn’t care which kind of scientist came up with the new tomato, I just wanted to get back to Boston and see what it tasted like. In a word: scrumptious. (And my juicy package made it past the TSA luggage inspectors!) Come to Gainesville, and you can have one too.

About that weather… storm chasers will remember that ScienceWriters2012 was the meeting dominated by an uninvited guest named Superstorm Sandy. This year's attendees will get a better-controlled serving of wild weather: UF’s hurricane and tornado simulation lab (wind machine, right) can generate torrential rain and winds over 200 mph, and a new wind tunnel is being prepped. Hold onto your sunhat: Gainesville will be a blast.—Rosalind Reid, CASW program director

Rosalind Reid to succeed Ben Patrusky as Executive Director of CASW

New officers elected; Patrusky to retire after more than 38 years of service to CASW

The Council for the Advancement of Science Writing, which presents the nation’s longest-running series of annual seminars for science writers, has named Rosalind Reid to become the organization’s executive director effective Sept. 1, 2013. She will succeed Ben Patrusky, who is retiring from the position he has held for 25 years.

The distinguished writers and scientists of CASW foster programs to improve the quality of science news reaching the public, contribute to the education of young science writers, and organize the annual New Horizons in Science conference. Reid joined CASW as a board member in 2007, and took on the role of New Horizons program director in 2012.

Reid is a seasoned science writer and editor who served from 1992 to 2008 as the editor in chief of American Scientist magazine, where she developed workshops on visual communication for scientists and took the magazine online. Since 2008 she has been embedded in science and technology at Harvard University, serving as executive director first of the university’s Initiative in Innovative Computing, and then of its Institute for Applied Computational Science.

After working as a reporter at newspapers in Maine and North Carolina, she served as a research news editor at North Carolina State University. Later, she was the first Journalist in Residence at the Kavli Institute for Theoretical Physics in Santa Barbara. Reid is a member of the National Association of Science Writers. A graduate of Syracuse University, she holds a master’s in public policy sciences from Duke University.

“Ros Reid has all the right stuff and all the passion to carry on the proven programs of CASW and to guide our growth in the digital age of journalism and science communications,” said Alan Boyle, newly elected president of CASW and science editor at NBC News Digital.

“The heart and soul of CASW is its emphasis on making the wonders and achievements of science accessible to large swaths of the public, and on giving science writers access to the newsmakers of science. We couldn’t have invented a more perfect individual than Ros Reid to work with our board, and to carry on that mission,” Patrusky said.

Patrusky to continue CASW involvement

Patrusky (photo, left), a widely published freelance science journalist, and a pioneer in the development of science writers seminars, served as New Horizons program director from 1975 to 2004, and was appointed executive director of CASW in 1988. During his tenure as program and executive director, Patrusky also organized and led month-long journalistic expeditions funded by the Kellogg Foundation to Central and South America and Africa. The journeys, which drew science writers from the nation’s premier newspapers in 1991 and 1995, were designed to investigate how science could enhance agricultural productivity to feed growing populations in developing nations. He was a longtime member of the board of Science Service, publisher of Science News, and has received coveted writing awards for his work from the American Institute of Physics and the American Chemical Society. Following his retirement in the fall, he will continue as a consultant to CASW’s board.

Reid steps into a post that incorporates the administrative, fund-raising and programmatic functions of the all-volunteer CASW board. She will continue to serve as the director of New Horizons, held each year since 1963, and since 2005 in conjunction with the National Association of Science Writers’ professional development meeting. The joint meeting, called ScienceWriters, will be held this year November 1-5 at the University of Florida, Gainesville.

“It’s an extraordinary privilege to take on this role with CASW, an organization whose remarkable reputation has endured for more than 50 years because of the quality of its programs and leadership, and in particular the extraordinary wisdom, dedication and steady hand of Ben Patrusky over almost four decades,” Reid said. “As CASW looks to the future, there are opportunities to create new relationships with science communicators, scientists, prospective partner organizations, donors and others committed to public engagement amid the challenges facing our craft.”

Alan Boyle elected President

The year 2013 marks other important transitions for CASW, notably Boyle’s election to the presidency. Boyle (photo, right) previously served as CASW’s treasurer and vice president. He has been science editor at NBCNews.com and MSNBC.com since 1996, and created the award-winning science blog known as Cosmic Log in 2002.

Boyle succeeds Cristine Russell, who served as CASW president for seven years.

Currently a senior fellow at Harvard’s Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs and freelance science writer, Russell shepherded CASW through its 50th anniversary year in 2011. She spearheaded efforts to bring a new generation of online journalists onto the Council’s board and to make the organization an associate member of the World Federation of Science Journalists. She will remain on CASW’s executive committee.

“I’m excited about CASW’s future as we move forward with tremendous new leadership in Alan Boyle, his fellow officers, and Ros Reid,” said Russell, noting that the “extraordinary talent, devotion, and continuity provided by Ben Patrusky for so many decades gives them the strongest possible foundation on which to build our programs for the future.”

Other officers elected at the Board’s April meeting in Washington, D.C., are:

  • Vice President Deborah Blum, a Pulitzer Prize-winning science writer and professor of journalism at the University of Wisconsin.
  • Secretary Charles Petit, freelancer, writer for the MIT Knight Science Journalism Tracker, and former newspaper and news magazine staffer.
  • Treasurer Tom Siegfried, an award-winning science writer, editor and author who has served as editor in chief of Science News and science editor of The Dallas Morning News.

To read more about CASW’s board members, science advisers, donors, staff, programs and funding opportunities, go to www.casw.org. For news media inquiries, contact Diane McGurgan.

The Barbara K. Trevett Fund for the Future

In Memory of Barbara K. Trevett, 1944-2013

CASW mourned the passing on March 12, 2013 of Barbara K. Trevett, a member of its National Advisory group and a staunch advocate on behalf of all practitioners of the science writing craft, following a long, valiant battle against cancer. It was in recognition of her decades-long, unswerving devotion to the science writing community, as a distinguished public affairs specialist for several leading academic research institutions, that CASW established the Barbara K. Trevett Fund for the Future in 2012 (announcement)

“Barbara was a remarkable person—a woman of ferocious integrity, spirited, exceptionally intelligent, open-hearted, and empathetic as all get-out, with an uncanny ability to anticipate the needs of others, which she went out of her way to satisfy, always,“ said Ben Patrusky, CASW Executive Director Emeritus. “The moment you met her, greeted by that radiant, enveloping, welcoming smile of hers, you instantly knew you were in the presence of someone altogether special. She will be sorely missed.”

The board expressed its condolences to her husband Kenneth P. Trevett, president and chief executive officer of the Texas Biomedical Research Institute in San Antonio, chair of CASW’s National Advisory group and a strong champion of science writers in his own right, and to the Trevett and Kent families.

More information about Barbara may be found here.

CASW welcomes contributions in Barbara's memory. The Barbara K. Trevett Fund for the Future, designed primarily to facilitate individual giving, recognizes its namesake for her strong advocacy on behalf of CASW as well as the science writing community in general during her three-plus decades as a medical and science public affairs specialist for non-profit institutions.

To learn more about CASW and the donor process, please contact:

  Rosalind Reid
  Executive Director
  CASW
  [email protected]
  617-702-2798



Patrons of the Barbara K. Trevett Fund include:

  • Amy Abdalla, San Antonio, TX
  • Rex Amini, San Antonio, TX
  • Association of Independent Research Institutes, Cambridge, MA
  • Ruth & Edward Austin, Jr, San Antonio, TX
  • Paul J. Ayoub, Boston, MA
  • Joyce & Richard Bachman, Alexandria, VA
  • Bar Harbor Teacher’s Club
  • Michael & Louis Beldon, San Antonio, TX
  • Ray Berend, San Antonio, TX
  • Connie Birkenmeier, Bar Harbor, ME
  • Laurence A. Bolton, Palos Verdes Estates, CA
  • Nancy L. Brmall, Los Angeles, CA
  • Broadway National Bank, San Antonio, TX
  • Catherine Wood-Brooks & Mark Brooks, Worcester, MA
  • David Brown, Moultonborough, NH
  • Pamela J. Brown, Bedford, NH
  • James & Phyllis Browning, San Antonio, TX
  • Charles C. Butt, San Antonio, TX
  • Karen Campbell, Dublin, OH
  • Joseph Carey, San Antonio, TX
  • Melanie Cariess, Helotes, TX
  • Raymond R. Carvajal, R.Ph., San Antonio TX
  • Ellen Cates, Cambridge, MA
  • Carroll Chambers, Conroe, TX
  • Cisco Systems, San Jose, CA
  • John W. Clark, Palos Verdes Estates, CA
  • Shelley Cole, San Antonio, TX
  • Cecilia & Eduardo Cordeiro, Winchester, MA
  • Phyllis Slick Cowell, Rocky Mount, NC
  • Laura Cox, San Antonio, TX
  • Robert Crittenden, San Antonio, TX
  • Pat D’Amore, Newton Center, MA
  • Sue and John Daily
  • Robert Davey, Helotes, TX
  • Sara DeTienne, Madison, WI
  • Carla Dingillo, Mill Valley, CA
  • Tara Doubman, Winchester, MA
  • Carolyn & Jim Dublin, San Antonio, TX
  • Phyllis and Ed Edelson, New York, NY
  • Walter Embrey, San Antonio, TX
  • Evestra Inc, San Antonio, TX
  • Carol K. Foster, San Antonio, TX
  • Jean Frazier, San Antonio, TX
  • Linda Freeman-Shade, San Antonio, TX
  • Pat & Tom Frost, San Antonio, TX
  • Marth L. Gamble, Palos Verdes Estates, CA
  • Linda Gassett, Rancho Palos Verdes, CA
  • Marianne Gausche-Hill, Hermosa Beach, CA
  • Michael & Barbara Gentry, San Antonio, TX
  • Lukin Gilliland, San Antonio, TX
  • Julian Gold, San Antonio, TX
  • James W. and Rowena C. Gorman, San Antonio, TX
  • The Greater San Antonio Chamber of Commerce
  • Anthony Griffiths, Universal City, TX
  • Mr. & Mrs. Jack Guenther, Mr. & Mrs. Jack Guenther, Jr.
  • Tom & Maryanne Guido, San Antonio, TX
  • Mr. & Mrs. Q. A. Guthrie, Rancho Palos Verdes, CA
  • Mr. & Mrs. Robert H. Haberer, Dorking, Surrey, UK
  • Donald & Joan Hanley, Palm Desert, CA
  • Mark Harlien, San Antonio, TX
  • William Heinrich, UT Health Science Center, San Antonio, TX
  • Bill and Mary Henrich, San Antonio, TX
  • Diane Hill & James A. Lube, San Antonio, TX
  • Mr. & Mrs. Roger C. Hill, Jr., San Antonio, TX
  • Jeffrey Hreinke, San Antonio, TX
  • Anthony Kalica, Manchester, NH
  • Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation
  • Mr. & Mrs. George A. Kampmann, Jr., San Antonio, TX
  • Larry Keinath & Rosemary Spingler, Havertown, PA
  • Allen S. Kent, Lafayette, CA
  • Frederick Kent, Rumford, ME
  • Richard Kent, Rumford, ME
  • Robert Kent, Newport Beach, CA
  • Tres & Olive Anne Kleberg, San Antonio , TX
  • Edward K. Kopplow, San Antonio, TX
  • Lakeside Villas Homeowners Association, Stuart, GL
  • Victoria Lessa, Baltimore, MD
  • Vicki Lesser, Baltimore, MD
  • Zack Lodato, Leavenworth, WA
  • Corrine Lutz, San Antonio, TX
  • Malinda Mann, San Antonio, TX
  • Kenneth H. Martin, Addison, ME
  • Marshall B. Miller, San Antonio, TX
  • Whitney Solcher Miller, San Antonio, TX
  • The Milligan Estate (Family), Sherborn, MA
  • Palmer Moe, San Antonio, TX
  • Moffenson Law Offices, Needham, MA
  • Lasura Moorman, San Antonio, TX
  • Lewis J. Moorman, III, San Antonio, TX
  • Diana Morehouse, San Antonio, TX
  • Eileen C. Mosler, Rancho Palos Verdes, CA
  • Mary Murphy, San Jose, CA
  • Margaret Murphy, Boston, MA
  • Carmen Nava, Dallas, TX
  • John Newman Family Charitable Fund, San Antonio, TX
  • Frances Ng, Cambridge, MA
  • Gabriele G. Niederauer, San Antonio, TX
  • Laura Nikas, San Antonio, TX
  • Duncan Ogilvie, Marina, CA
  • Ian Ogilvie, Weld, ME
  • Susan Partridge, Dallas, TX
  • Jerilyn Pecotte, San Antonio, TX
  • Thomas O. & Cynthia Pickett, Salem, NH
  • Ruth Poole, Oakland, CA
  • James E. Pridgen, MD, San Antonio, TX
  • Cheryl Raindl, San Antonio, TX
  • James Ramsey, San Antonio, TX
  • Deborah Randall-Hlubek, Garden Ridge, TX
  • Brenda Reishus, Winchester, MA
  • Karen S. Rice, Boerne, TX
  • Susan Rios, Helotes, TX
  • Sayon Roy, Raynham, MA
  • Ann B. Salamone, San Antonio, TX
  • Sherman “Whip” Saltmarsh, Jr., Winchester, MA
  • San Antonio Economic Development Foundation
  • San Antonio Medical Foundation
  • William & Cecil Scanlan, San Antonio, TX
  • Richard T. and Katherine Schlosberg, San Antonio, TX
  • Pris & Roger Schultz, Palos Verdes Estates, CA
  • Anthony Schwartz, Boston, MA
  • Sheryl Sculley, San Antonio, TX
  • Vicki L. Shambaugh, Honolulu, HI
  • Michelle & Brian Shaw, Bar Harbor, ME
  • Charles Slick, Atlanta, GA
  • Gil & Shirley Smith, Carson, CA
  • Jamie & Whitney Smith, San Antonio, TX
  • Mary Ann Smith, San Antonio, TX
  • Rick & Leslie Snyder, Chapel Hill, NC
  • Southwest Research Institute, San Antonio, TX
  • James Stansfield, Winchester, MA
  • Ann Stevens, San Antonio, TX
  • Amy Teixeiro, Torrance, CA
  • Monica Teixeira, Carson, CA
  • Barbara and Kenneth Trevett, San Antonio, TX
  • Dennison and Jennifer Trevett, Winchester, MA
  • John VandeBerg, San Antonio, TX
  • Dr. & Mrs. George J. Vassar, San Antonio, TX
  • Tanya Viti, Bradford, MA
  • Friends of Tanya Trevett Viti, Lesley University Graduate School, Haverhill, MA
  • Peggy Vroman-Gracy, Helotes, TX
  • Carol Watson, Winchester, MA
  • Jay & Linda Wein, Brookline, MA
  • Mr. & Mrs. Mel Weingart, San Antonio, TX
  • Cathy & Fred Weiss, Manson, WA
  • Dr. & Mrs. David Weiss, San Antonio, TX
  • Anne & Betty Wood & Joe Sirois, Rumford, ME
  • Jerry Yost, Frost Bank, San Antonio, TX
  • Karen Lee Zachry, San Antonio, TX

 

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Live drawing by Perrin Ireland, who attended ScienceWriters2012 as a CASW traveling fellow, added a novel dimension to both the New Horizons and NASW sessions. We asked Perrin to tell us more about “live scribing” as a way of interpreting and communicating science.

Follow these links to see high-resolution images of Perrin's drawings, shown here in thumbnails:

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.

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