About science journalism

The Open Notebook is a fantastic resource for science journalists at all levels. It includes interviews with science journalists about their stories, features about the craft and practice of science journalism (including this articles on whether you need a science degree to be a science journalist), profiles, and – most useful for freelance science journalists – a database of successful pitches made to a huge range publications including The Atlantic, Nature, New Scientist etc. They have also organised all their articles about starting out in science journalism in the one spot.

The Guardian has a series of articles on science writing, covering topics such as pitching to editors, reporting from a scientific conference, how to write a science feature, and how to interview scientists.

The World Federation of Science Journalists is the federation of 55 science journalism organisations and associations around the world. It also co-hosts the biennial World Conference of Science Journalists, which was held in San Francisco in 2017 and will be in Lausanne in 2019. The WFSJ also offers a number of free, online resources for science journalists, including toolkits on subjects such as infectious disease, dementia and nuclear safety, an online course in science journalism, and other tools for journalists.

The New Zealand Science Media Centre has published an ebook desk guide for covering science, which includes information on topics including peer review, types of scientific evidence, how to read a scientific paper, balance in science reporting, and communicating statistics and risk responsibly.

The Council for the Advancement of Science Writing is a US-based organisation dedicated to “improving the quantity and quality of science news reaching the public”. They have some very useful resources on their site, including a page of advice for aspiring science writers and a guide to careers in science writing.

SciDev.net – “the world’s leading source of reliable and authoritative news, views and analysis about science and technology for global development” – has developed Script; a series of free science communication modules covering everything from ‘understanding the basics of research’ and ‘what makes a good science story’, to ‘telling human interest science stories’ and ‘how to cover scientific controversies’.  The full series will be available online by June 2018.

This website for the biennial conference organised by the Association of British Science Writers is a treasure-trove of audio recordings and written reports from many of the past conference sessions.

These symposiums – a joint initiative of the World Federation of Science Journalists and The Kavli Foundation – have been run in the US since 2014. Detailed reports from each year’s symposium are available online here, and information on the 4th Kavli Symposium in February 2018 is here.

This guide was put together by the Association of British Science Writers, and covers what science writing is, what science writers do, where they work, the skills involved in science writing, and some advice on how and where to start.

This site, modelled on Australia’s MediaDoctor initiative, aims to critically evaluate health care journalism, advertising, marketing and PR, to “improve public dialogue about health care.” It’s a useful resource, particularly for newer writers in the health space, because it also includes tips on analysing studies and health care claims, and primers on various topics such as cancer immunotherapy, conflicts of interest, and stem cell therapies.

Pitching is one of the hardest parts of being a freelance writer, because it takes a lot of effort to craft a good pitch but you have no idea if it will succeed (and more often than not, it doesn’t). Here’s a really good article from the Neiman Lab about the secrets to a good freelance pitch, with advice from a number of editors in publications like The New York Times, Quartz, and the Washington Post. It might be US-focused, but the advice is 100% relevant to Australian journalists.

While this article from Inspiring Australia is aimed at scientists and science communicators trying to get stories into the media, it’s relevant for freelance science journalists pitching to editors. The advice comes from two experienced science journalists/editors – Marcus Strom and Peter Munro, both formerly of the Fairfax newspaper stable.

The Student BMJ (British Medical Journal) website has some advice for aspiring writers about some of the important elements of good feature writing, including style, the hook, interviewing and quotes, and research.

These days, it’s often not enough to provide the words; science journalists – especially freelancers – are expected to include multimedia elements in their stories. If you’re not a professional photographer or videographer, this can be challenging, but Martin W. Angler, author of Science Journalism: An Introduction, has kindly created a Google docs list of free online science image sources, most of which are licensed under Public Domain or Creative Commons.