Science journalism initiative
Science and technology lie at the very center of today’s critical issues: climate change and sustainability, ethical use of genetic technologies, food security, privacy, election manipulation, and the daunting challenges of a global pandemic. Accurate, incisive, responsible professional science journalism has never been more essential.
In 2019, the CASW board decided to refocus the Council’s efforts on programs and partnerships to strengthen science journalism. A gathering of partners was held in February 2020 to jump-start program development.
CASW noted that the traditional publishing economy has collapsed, and with it the training and support of journalists. Populist movements feed on suspicion of educated elites, including both scientists and journalists. Self-interested communicators and social-media influencers now deliver “news” to splintered audiences. These trends erode the ability of a free press to inform public dialogue and hold powerful institutions accountable.
Reclaiming our roots
Sixty years ago, a different crisis in science journalism spurred a group of journalists and scientists to found the Council for the Advancement of Science Writing. Reporters were struggling to produce accurate coverage as science moved onto the public stage in those post-Sputnik days.
Today CASW plans to mobilize a response to our current crisis, creating opportunities for partnerships to help launch a suite of programs to:
- build the skill, ethical caliber and diversity of science journalists;
- address the economic sustainability of the field;
- propagate techniques for rigorous science reporting to all journalists whose beats involve working with scientific information; and
- find new tools and alliances for confronting public skepticism, building trust and respect for journalism, and reaching underserved audiences.
A new program focus
We seek grants and partnerships to provide training, networking, mentoring and support for reporting, especially for the freelance writers who now do most science journalism. For science journalism to survive, professional journalism organizations and organizations concerned with science communication and civic discourse must join hands. At stake are the future of public discourse, science’s relationship with and accountability to the public, and the health of the planet.
An award and grant program for mid-career science journalists, providing $20,000 in support for a reporting project. Launching in 2022.
- Funders: Private donations to the Sharon Begley Fund (fundraising is ongoing in 2021)
To enable journalists to do rigorous reporting on complex topics and pursue a wide variety of job opportunities and stories; to increase equity and diversity across science, health, and environmental journalism. Funding is supporting the training of 13 SHERF fellows for a 2021-22 pilot year.
- Partners: Center for Excellence in Health Care Journalism and Society of Environmental Journalists
- Funders: Howard Hughes Medical Institution Science Education Department and Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation
To bring scientists and journalists together to discuss key ethical challenges facing science and science writing. Launched in 2020.
- Funder: The Kavli Foundation
To support graduate training in science writing. CASW’s oldest fellowship program, launched in 1996 and continuing a tradition that began with the Nate Haseltine Graduate Fellowships in 1981.
- Funder: The Brinson Foundation
To inspire and educate aspiring science writers through a curated and annotated collection of award-winning journalism. Showcase was launched in 2016 with funding that continued through 2019.