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The SA Incubator


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This Year’s Best Tips For Young And Early-Career Science Writers

The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Scientific American.


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Democracy in action! Here are the blog posts from the “Tips” series which have received the most traffic in 2012. Tips is a series on The SA Incubator which aims to provide young and early-career science writers with, well, tips to aid them in their budding careers. It links out to existing resources available online.

I won’t presume that those popular blog posts were the most helpful ones but they certainly were the most intriguing ones.

Tips: “How I Write About Science” By Established Science Writers
How I Write About Science is a blog series contributed to by reputable science writers in which they tell us, well, how they write about science! It’s run every year in conjunction with the Wellcome Trust Science writing prize and is hosted by the Wellcome Trust and the Guardian. Here’s a snapshot of what the series is all about.

Tips: Insight Into Science Writing By Charles Choi
Last week, science writer and Scientific American blogger, Charles Q. Choi, contributed as guest blogger on the Scitable blog, ScholarCast. In his three guest posts, Charles explored what it means to be a science writer.

Tips: Charles Q. Choi’s Website Is A Treasure Cove
Today we feature the website of prolific science writer, Charles Q. Choi, which is packed with information about writing, pitching, how to keep up with science news and also links to numerous resources and more. Full disclosure: Charles is a blogger on Scientific American.

Tips: 12 tips from Ann Friedman
Today we showcase Ann Friedman’s twelve tips for young journalists to make it in the journalism world, published by the Nieman Journalism Lab. Friedman was formerly the executive editor of GOOD magazine and is now working on the crowd-funded publication, Tomorrow.

Tips: Deal With Missed Deadlines By Blogging Regularly
Communications consultant, Georgina Guedes, shares ten steps to getting forgiveness when you miss a deadline at The Media Online. In addition, I also point out that blogging regularly may help you meet deadlines more easily.

The SA Incubator also featured a number of other blog posts which were meant to help or spur/motivate young and early-career science writers. Here are some of the most popular ones from 2012.

Jonah Lehrer Turned His Back On Science
Three days ago famous science writer, Jonah Lehrer, was revealed to have fabricated quotes in his book, Imagine, which he subsequently attempted to cover up by repeatedly lying to a fellow journalist. Lehrer resigned his staff position at The New Yorker the same day. While his actions were largely interpreted as being an affront to journalism, they amounted to much more: a disrespect for and a betrayal of the fundamentally pure enterprise that is science.

Science writing program at the University of Wisconsin-Madison
The professional track master’s program at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, with its strong focus on science journalism, dates back to the 1960s, making it one of the oldest such programs in the country. Over the years, some of the country’s best known science journalists – including both William J. Broad and Jane Brody of The New York Times – have studied at Wisconsin. And program graduate Deborah Blum(blog), a Pulitzer-prize winning science writer, is now a professor in the UW School of Journalism and Mass Communication.

Why Writers Should Be On Google+
Forget about the ghost town label that’s been stuck on Google+. And it doesn’t matter if you won’t actively use Google+ (perhaps Twitter, Facebook and what else are sufficient for you). You should still create a Google+ account. Why? Because Google can display your author information, which it obtains from your Google+ profile, in its search results. This can boost your image… literally.

Klout Is Important Even If You Aren’t Using It
Are you on Klout? You probably should be. Because even if you are not, potential employers are increasingly looking at Klout scores when screening candidates.

Special mention to:

Twitter List Of Young Science Writers
Twitter is great. You can scan for breaking news or trending topics, fumble the keyboard in successive 140-keystrokes manoeuvres to share news and views and socialise with all the @-ing and DM-ing. Some (power-) users also specifically follow Twitter hashtags to keep abreast of conferences and be updated with updates from blog networks, for instance.  Following user lists is another way to be in touch with certain communities. With this in mind, I created a Twitter list of young science writers some time back.

Khalil A. Cassimally About the Author: Khalil A. Cassimally is the Community Coordinator of The Conversation UK. He's also a science blogger. He hails from a tropical island and is a happy geek. Subscribe to his updates on Facebook and Google+. Follow on Twitter @notscientific.

The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Scientific American.

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  1. 1. julianpenrod 5:17 pm 12/28/2012

    This brings up a number of rather harsh facts about the way things are, fats that shills for the system routinely deny or ignore, so it may not be printed or removed.
    Another case of those who made it to the realm of recognition and popularity giving “tips” and “suggestions” on “succeeding”, trying to make those who tried strongly but never succeeded think the system isn’t fixed, that “success” only came from underhanded and questionable machinations. “You have to have a snappy style”. “You can’t look too flip.” “You have to have up-to-the-minute information” “You have to send samples out constantly to every venue.” And what of those who have all these qualities and more yet never make it? They aren’t reported on, which makes it easier to maintain the fiction that these “tips” work and not abiding by them guarantees failure. Just how much of a research project was done on those who used all the “tips” given them yet never succeeded?

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  2. 2. learningengineer 12:45 pm 01/2/2013

    I have to agree with Mr Penrod completely. In my writing career, connections have been more important than ability. Look at the crap they produce at the Economist and you will see what I mean. And why all the age related bias? So, someone can’t change careers and become a science writer? Really, writing is an experienced based profession and youth is not experience. Even some science writers get things horribly wrong by not understanding the basic requirements of science – transparency and accountability – and statistics. For example, the vaccine studies dealing with autism use datasets that are not open to review and interval selections that cannot possibly be viable. How does one asses a six month old for autism?

    The other problem has to do with statistics. Gaussian models are just that – models. There isn’t any real evidence that “bell” curves represent the real world, yet we use them in medicine to determine normalcy. And therefore diagnoses all the time. The reason why science is losing ground is because we use “mob” medicine on individuals because it is cheap, yet the individual clearly understands the problem, which is why many refuse treatments which represent greater personal risk than doctors are will to admit.

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  3. 3. darinlhammond 7:56 pm 01/5/2013

    Khalil,

    This is a tremendous resource list for people like me, who are grounded in writing but not about science specifically. I am an English professor, but I am passionate about and have a blog on cognitive science. The resources you pull together here are essential and helpful in improving my writing and knowing my audience.

    Thanks again,

    Darin

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