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Science Journalism

What is science and technology journalism?

The question answers itself: journalism that focuses on science and technology. At its heart, science journalism is largely about translation. Connecting scientists with the public is one of the biggest parts of a science journalist's job. Science journalists (writers and editors) fill a wide variety of roles. Some work as reporters for newspapers, magazines, radio, television, websites, or blogs; some work as editors, polishing the latest research articles to get them ready for the world; and some work as public information officers for laboratories, government agencies, universities, corporations, or museums.

Why is it important?

Because science is important. Science affects our lives more each day, and the number and complexity of scientific discoveries is accelerating. This is where science journalists come in. Science journalists act as a sort of translator between the scientific community and the public at large by reporting on what is important, clarifying what is unclear, asking the right questions, and looking for the right answers.

Is science and technology journalism for me?

That is a difficult question to answer. There isn't one specific type of person who is a good fit for the profession. Traditionally, science reporters were general beat reporters who either had an interest in science or were simply thrown into the mix by their editors. Today, the field has changed somewhat. General reporters still fill out the ranks of science journalists, but a new breed of science writer with scientific background has come onto the scene.

Regardless of educational background (a scientist moving into writing or a writer with an interest in science), the main qualities needed in a science journalist are curiosity, a desire to learn, and a strong work ethic. Writing about science can be difficult, but it can also be rewarding.

If any of the following questions resonate with you, you might find science journalism interesting: (Adapted from: How to Write and Publish a Scientific Paper. 6th ed.)

  • Were you interested in both science classes and other classes?
  • Do you enjoy reading? Do you find yourself mentally correcting grammar and spelling? Have you ever had the urge to edit flyers, signs, or even graffiti?
  • Do you like word games such as Scrabble or crossword puzzles?
  • Did any teachers or fellow students compliment your writing? Have others asked you to edit or review their work?
  • Did you write for or consider writing for student publications?
  • Would you consider yourself more of a science generalist? Do you like to find out new things in a wide variety of scientific fields?
  • Do you enjoy writing and editing? Were you the one in your lab group who volunteered to write the reports? When you wrote research papers did you ever look up and realize that hours had gone by?

Books About Science Writing

  • A Field Guide for Science Writers. 2nd ed. 2005. Deborah Blum, Mary Knudson, and Robin Marantz Henig, eds. 0-19-517499-2
  • Ideas into Words: Mastering the Craft of Science Writing. 2003. Elise Hancock. 978-0-801-88132-9
  • How to Write and Publish a Scientific Paper. 6th ed. 2006. Robert A. Day and Barbara Gastel. 0-313-33040-9

Science Journalism Organizations