Many universities have dedicated student-run science publications. Such publications are ideal places for young science writers to work with an editorial team, build up confidence and grow their portfolios. But they are also teasers of what is to come from the emerging generation of science writers.
Periodically, we’ll cover some of those student-run science publications here on The SA Incubator. Today, we look at Au Science Magazine from the University of Aberdeen, UK. Au Science Magazine was started last year and three issues have been published since, with the latest hot off the press (read it below). Au Science Magazine’s editor, Heather Doran, tells us why she wanted to start a science magazine, gives us a snapshot into how the magazine is run and previews the new issue.
Au Science Magazine is a science magazine produced by a mix of postgraduate and undergraduate students from different disciplines at the University of Aberdeen.
The magazine was started because, essentially, we thought it would be a good idea. There is no science journalism course at the University of Aberdeen, but there are a lot of scientists and a lot of good science, and we wanted to shout about it.
Personally I felt that, although the university does practice excellent science and runs some really great public engagement activities, there was something missing. The students at the University of Aberdeen were somewhat neglected, and didn’t know about many of the science events and great science happening in Aberdeen.
We decided soon after that it would be good to distribute hard copies of the magazine around the city too, as we were confident that we would have an interested audience. Aberdeen is the self-titled ‘Oil Capital’ of Europe and is full of engineers, geologists, chemists and many other STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths) disciplines working in the oil industry. We knew that all the science events organised in the city are pretty well attended by this audience.
We needed to gauge interest from students to get the magazine started. To do so, I set up a science journalism society and covered some short science stories in the student newspaper, The Gaudie. It was clear that there was a real interest from students in science, and plenty of them were interested in writing about science. So, a group of six of us (Gina Maffey, Sean McMahon, Daisy Brickhill, Chris Sutherland, Sonja Klein and myself) got together and set up Au Science Magazine in February 2011. Since then we have published three issues of Au, expanded our team and run a series of training events and, most importantly, have had a lot of fun.
Articles are all written by students, from any discipline, and then edited by a core ‘editor’ group. Students can chose what they write about based on their own interests, although we do offer some suggestions of topics that we think might be interesting.
We work on a ‘ more brains the better’ principal. Using our own judgment we decided what we think will be interesting to a reader. Each issue has a loose ‘theme’ for articles, but that isn’t restrictive. Our main aims are to write about science that was carried out at the University of Aberdeen and put a personality to science—we want to talk more about the people who have done the work, along with the findings, rather than the commonly found: “faceless ‘scientists’ have discovered xyz”.
Our latest issue asks the question, “Who are scientists?”. We found out what Aberdeen students think about science and scientists, interviewed the first European Union Chief Scientific Advisor, Aberdeen’s very own Professor Anne Glover and celebrated ‘Women in White Coats’. A lot of time and effort is spent on the design and different ways of displaying information, in this issue Gina Maffey experimented with infographics to display the male to female ratio in different disciplines in Aberdeen and I took a look under the microscope at cosmetics.
With each issue we are learning, developing and trying out new ideas. We are all students; none of us have any real expertise in writing, editing or the media. One member of the team, Sean McMahon, does have experience with graphic design, publication software and was involved with the Oxford University science magazine, Bang!. His expertise has allowed us to create a magazine that looks really special and professional.
At the start, we asked for some help from the public engagement office at the University of Aberdeen and they gave us a small grant to start up and have been an invaluable source of support. Since then we have raised money through advertising and most recently through sponsorship from the University of Aberdeen Development Trust and Oceaneering.
The money we have raised has allowed us to buy some equipment and run events, like screening the PhD Movie, organising a science-writing workshop and a science writing careers session.
We know that the magazine has been picked up all over the globe online and I know that some teachers have used the magazine in schools. We really would like to expand on that aspect of the magazine and reach out, not necessarily to children but to 16-21 year olds to promote critical thinking and an interest in science.
The magazine is published three times a year. We publish issues of the magazine to coincide with science linked events that are taking place in Aberdeen, like Techfest (www.techfestsetpoint.org.uk/) and National Science and Engineering Week (www.britishscienceassociation.org/web/nsew/). We also have a blog and will soon be publishing some podcasts, find us online at www.ausm.org.uk
Heather Doran (@hapsci)
Editor of Au Science Magazine
More: Check out Issue 2 of Au Science Magazine, as previously featured here on The SA Incubator.
Image credit: Gina Maffey