Summer School


ABSW Science Journalism Summer School 2017: a one-day event to kick-start or reinvigorate your career in science journalism

In association with the World Federation of Science Journalists

Held on Wednesday 5 July 2017 at The Wellcome Trust


Session audio, video, reviews, powerpoints and resources

Search for all the coverage on twitter: #abswss17


For more on the speakers visit our speaker biographies page

Time                  Session
09:00-09:30 Coffee and registration
09:30-09:35    Welcome and introduction, Pallab Ghosh, Honorary President, ABSW and science correspondent for BBC

New media trends
Where are our audiences? The latest insights about digital news consumption from the Digital News Report 2017
Nic Newman, research associate, Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism and lead author of the digital news report

Moderator: Martin Ince, Treasurer, ABSW board and freelance science writer


The role of critical science journalism in the fake news world

Alok Jha, Science Correspondent, ITV 

Moderator: Pallab Ghosh, Honorary President, ABSW and science correspondent for BBC

10:45-11:15 Coffee/Tea Break

Pitching skills - how and where to sell you story ideas
Take part in a highly interactive session to develop your pitching skills. Whether you are pitching as a staff journalist or a freelancer you need to learn how to make an editor take notice of your stories pitch - and what makes a perfect pitch.
Inga Vesper, freelance science journalist
Aisling Irwin, acting editor, SciDev.Net
Laura Greenhalgh, assistant policy editor, Politico
Helen Thomson, freelance science journalist and consultant for New Scientist
Joshua Howgego, features editor at New Scientist

Moderator: Mico Tatalovic, Chair, ABSW board and Environment and Life Sciences News Editor, New Scientist


Investigative science reporting
Investigative journalism presents a unique set of challenges for science journalists. Key issues being time, gaining access to information and fighting off legal threats. Learn the how and why of telling stories that others are trying to bury in this two-part session:
12.15 – 12.45 ‘Why investigative journalism matters, with examples from science’ by Rachel Oldroyd, managing editor of the Bureau of Investigative Journalism
12.45-13.15 ‘How we uncovered Google Deep Mind's secret NHS data grab’ by Hal Hodson, technology reporter at the Economist (previously New Scientist), and Will Douglas Heaven, freelance (previously chief technology editor at New Scientist and editor of BBC Future Now). They will talk about their scoop for New Scientist and challenges of doing investigations and taking on a big player alongside their usual news work 
Moderator: Jack Serle, Vice-Chair, ABSW board and reporter Bureau of Investigative Journalism

13:15-14:30 Lunch and networking

Data journalism skills
Discover sources of open data and how to work with it using techniques such as visualisation, scraping and mapping.
Jonathan Stoneman, Freelance trainer in Open Data
Moderator: Wendy Grossman, ABSW board member and freelance journalist


EurekAlert!’s science news service and media survey results

Brian Lin, director of editorial content strategy at EurekAlert! will introduce EurekAlert! and its editorial policies, explain how you can get access to it, and present results from its latest survey of science journalists

Moderator: Mico Tatalovic, Chair, ABSW board and Environment and Life Sciences News Editor, New Scientist

15:50-16:20 Tea Break

Successful freelancing
You might be considering some freelance work as part of your other work commitments or thinking about making freelance work your main source of income. Freelance science journalists will discuss sources of work, original approaches, carving out niche areas of specialisation, copyright issues and the tools that they use to manage their time.
Mark Peplow, freelance science journalist
Max Glaskin, an award-winning journalist and the author of Cycling Science
Inga Vesper, freelance science journalist
Moderator: Jack Serle, Vice-Chair, ABSW board and reporter Bureau of Investigative Journalism

17:30 - 21:00 Meet commissioning editors, pitch your stories and get career advice from seasoned reporters

This networking session will allow you to get bespoke careers advice from journalists and editors in the national and international media. You’ll have the opportunity to sit across the table from some of the key science editors and reporters, and have their full, undivided attention, be it to pitch story ideas or ask them any career questions you may have.

A stellar array of editors and writers from a variety of international media will be on hand to give you one-to-one personalised advice about how to make it as a science journalist, and give feedback on story ideas you have.

Editors and reporters you can speak to will include:
Chrissie Giles, commissioning editor, Mosaic
Vicki Turk, senior editor at Wired UK
Michael Marshall, former acting editor at BBC Earth, now freelance
Mico Tatalovic, environment and life sciences news editor, New Scientist
Ben Deighton, managing editor at SciDev.Net
Shamini Bundell, multimedia editor at Nature (from 18:20h onwards)
Emma Stoye, senior science correspondent at Chemistry World
Inga Vesper, senior editor, Research Research (until 19h)
Max Glaskin, an award-winning journalist and the author of Cycling Science
Martin Redfern, freelance broadcast science journalist
Moderator: Bob Ward, ABSW board member, policy and communications director of the Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the Environment at the London School of Economics

For more on the speakers visit our speaker biographies page

Our Supporters

The ABSW would like to thank The Wellcome Trust for venue support.

Lead Partner:



Evening Careers Event:


Student Scholarships:





In association with:



***Please note the event date has now moved to Wed 3 May (previously Wed 26 April)***

The ABSW has organised an evening event with journalist Meirion Jones from the Bureau of Investigative Journalism (formerly of the BBC's Newsnight and Panorama) on one of the most shocking tech-based scandals to break in recent years – the fake bomb detector scam that saw completely useless devices sold to governments around the world.

Whether you want to learn from the very best, get inspiration for investigations or just make your very own bogus bomb detector, it promises to be a great evening.

Are you an aspiring science journalist? If so, would you like some free bespoke careers advice from journalists in the national media?

If your answer is “Yes!” to both questions, then you cannot afford to miss an exclusive event organised by the Association of British Science Writers on Wednesday 2 November.

Michael Hanlon former science editor of the Daily Mail sadly died earlier this month.

Friends, family and colleagues have come together to organise a celebration of Michael’s life and work. Everyone who knew Michael is welcome - whether that’s as a friend, colleague or just someone you kept bumping into at press briefings or conferences.

Friday 11 March
The Wellcome Trust
215 Euston Road, London, NW1 2BE

Please RSVP to:
This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

The evening will include tributes and readings from close friends. If you would like to discuss speaking at the event, please email Tracey Brown:
This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

A booklet to celebrate Michael’s life is being compiled – which will be given out on the night – and contributions of stories, anecdotes, pictures and memories are welcome. Please send them to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or direct to Richard Hollingham by March 2nd This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

For more on Michael's work see the website of Jurassica of which he was the founder and CEO





News Flash:

European Conference of Science Journalists 26-30 June 2017, Copenhagen. Registration opens 31 January 2017

3rd European Conference of Science Journalists 2016


Thank you to all our speakers, delegates, volunteers, sponsors and supporters. 


Lead conference partner

Saturday 23 July 09:30-17:00, Manchester Central, Manchester, M2 3GX, UK

The 3rd European Conference of Science Journalists (ECSJ) was be held as a satellite event at EuroScience Open Forum (ESOF).   The Conference jointly organized by the Association of British Science Writers (ABSW) and the European Union of Science Journalist Associations (EUSJA), replaced the ABSW’s biennial UK Conference of Science Journalists, extending its reach to journalists throughout Europe.


The 1st European Conference of Science Journalists was held as a satellite event to ESOF 2014 in Denmark.   The event, jointly organized by the Danish Science Journalists’ Association (DV) and the European Union of Science Journalists’ Associations (EUSJA), discussed new ways to improve the status of science in broadcast media, how to start your own science publication, the opportunities of investigative journalism, the ethical balance between science journalism and science communication and new initiatives for improvement of gender balance for science in the media.
The 2nd European Conference of Science Journalists, organized by the Hungarian Club of Science Journalists and EUSJA, was held in Budapest as part of the World Science Forum in 2015.   The conference examined stakeholder-driven communication, the communication of infectious diseases, the reporting of climate change and the role of the journalist as an entrepreneur. 
3rd European Conference of Science Journalists Programme
The 3rd ECSJ had four key aims:
To discuss and debate contemporary issues in science journalism
• To encourage and provide skills for newcomers
• To promote professional development
• To enable journalists to link with colleagues, encouraging journalistic entrepreneurship 
The ABSW and EUSJA welcomed over 150 delegates to Manchester to meet with colleagues old and new and discover the common themes and issues affecting science journalists today and into the future.  
Contact the secretariat of the 3rd ECSJ: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
The ABSW was due to hold its biennial UK Conference of Science Journalists (UKCSJ) in June 2016, however as ESOF is coming to the UK in 2016 along with the newly founded European Conference of Science Journalists (ECSJ) common sense suggests that we join with our European Colleagues.   So in 2016 the UKCSJ will be incorporated into the European Conference of Science Journalists and be jointly organised by the ABSW and EUSJA.
Date: Saturday 23 July 2016 10:00-18:00
We will be negotiating special rates for ABSW members and members of other European Journalism Associations plus special deals for those attending both ESOF and ECSJ.
See our events pages for more on the Conference as it develops and to register your interest in attending.
Put the date in your diary and look out for regular updates on the programme.

As has become tradition our Christmas Party will once again be held in January.   Do come and join us to celebrate and catch up with colleagues old and new.

Thursday 14 January 2016
18:30 onwards
Upstairs at The Lamb, 94 Lambs Conduit Street, Bloomsbury, London, WC1N 3LZ
Bar snacks/nibbles and a couple of free drinks on us



Many thanks are due to ABSW member Yalda Javadi for producing this report

Full audio of the event is also available a Podcast will be made available soon

On Wednesday 23 September at Rivington Place, the Association of British Science Writers (@ASBW) hosted a panel debate on new science journalism – reporting beyond the traditional media. #asbwnew

Jack Serle (Reporter, The Bureau of Investigative Journalism, @jackserle) moderated the panel, which included Justine Alford (News Editor, IFLScience, @LamnidaeBlue), Giles Newton (Editor, Mosaic, @GilesHNewton), Martin Robbins (Science Writer, Vice, The Guardian and The New Statesman, @mjrobbins) and Kelly Oakes (Science Editor, BuzzFeed, @kahoakes).


Justine Alford (JA) began by introducing IFLScience and its unconventional escalation from being a one person’s outlet for random science facts into one of the biggest science news organisation in the world. Now, with almost 22 million followers on Facebook, it has had to build up a business. “Larger audience means we can teach so many people about what we care about. We don’t have a target audience so we have to be broad.” She describes the tone of the writing as casual and fun, conveying science in a digestible and appetising way. “Science can sell itself. The problem is when science journalism is too formal with too much jargon and poor explanations. I have a passion for communicating science correctly and accurately.”

Giles Newton (GN) introduced Mosaic’s unique long-form science journalism model, publishing only one story per week. “Our articles are 3000 words or over. Part of the model is to resurrect those sections that typically people glaze over and print them as ‘extras’. All articles are released under a Creative Common licence, which ensures a much greater reach. We’ve had 2.5 million visits so far and have collaborated with BBC and CNN. We are also seeing an increased number of translations to other languages.”

Martin Robbins (MR) explained that he didn’t see a lot of difference with new and old journalism and his ambition is to try and make people forget that he’s a science journalist. “Rather than straight science reporting, I’m looking at other issues such as politics and culture through the prism of science. It’s time to break out of the formulas we have for science features writing. The content and writing styles out there are all the same; newcomer writers all sound like Nature or New Scientist. There are very few distinctive science writer voices out there at the moment.”

Kelly Oakes (KO) described BuzzFeed as being entirely Internet-led. She enjoys being able to use the Internet to go through news more quickly and adapt to what is current. “This meansthe deadline is always ASAP”. She explains how Buzzfeed won’t generally write about single studies; they wait until it’s been replicated or stands the test of time. “The stuff that I write falls into the ‘fluffy’ category, and those stories do almost as well as the stories about cats! Each story finds the audience they’re intended for; it doesn’t matter if that’s 500 people or 5 million people.”

Audience questions:

Q) Where do you get your stories?

JA: We have access to embargoed content from bigger journals (PLOS, Nature, Science etc.). We trawl through press releases. We also pitch our own stories from our own interests from time to time.

MR: I ignore pretty much all press releases, apart from the interesting ones (or ones that offer free cheese, ham and limoncello!). I tend to write about what is in the news at the moment. For example, I wrote an article about Jeremy Corbyn being elected as the new Labour leader, and took an evidence-based angle on it, answering questions based on what we know about polling, and whether that’s accurate.

KO: In general, nothing I write comes from press releases, unless it’s something that may get misrepresented. We also get ideas from our readers. It’s about taking everyday stuff, or questions people ask me down the pub or in the office and going into the science of that. We start from the audience, rather than the scientist!

GN: We’re not in the news business – it’s very slow news. Most of our stories are pitches from writers.

Q) What is your stance on issues-based science and addressing bad science?

MR: I started out doing a lot of that kind of stuff. I think that campaigning and debunking is important. But I would like to see a research study on whether this debunking actually helps people change or does it polarize perception.

KO: There has been a study that showed debunking can actually make people retreat further into their view, so you have to be very careful.

JA: I don’t think people should be put off because they think it wouldn’t change people’s minds. You just have to be very careful about it. It’s important to put the right information out.

GN: It depends on what stories come to us.

Q) In traditional news journalism, investigative science journalism has been strangled by the economics. In new journalism, is it any different?

KO: We have a huge investigative team at BuzzFeed – none of them exclusively on science, but if someone has a good story, they will be given the time to work on that.

JA: It’s definitely something we’re looking to move into now that we’re expanding our editorial team. I went to South Africa and reported on rhino poaching story; we’d like to do more of that.

MR: I find the whole topic of investigative journalism frustrating. I’ve given up pitching these – there are a very limited number of people willing to invest. People are just not commissioning it and that’s reflective of the standard of entries I see when I’m judging the Investigative Science Journalism awards.

GN: At Mosaic, we deliberately avoid investigative journalism. We do exploratory and explanatory journalism, but we don’t have the skills as Editors for investigative journalism. It’s been part of a practical decision.

MR to GN: Given the massive shortage of science investigative journalism, if organizations, such as the Wellcome Trust, don’t invest – where are these people going to learn these skills?

GN: That’s a very interesting point. If we were to expand, we might look into this. However, for one story a week, it’s not an area we can move into right now. Maybe now is the time to collaborate, pull together and pool resources.

Q) How is new journalism funded? Vice and IFLScience have an advertising model, but BuzzFeed do something novel - native advertising model. Can you explain this?

KO: We use sponsored content, so it looks like a BuzzFeed article but the author will be a brand or product. It gets people to read a genuinely interesting and engaging article rather than to popping adverts all over the place.

JA: IFLScience relies on adverts, which means we have to entice people to the website. This means we get accused of clickbait a lot, but I don’t think there’s anything wrong with encouraging people to read science. We’re quite lucky to have a readership so we don’t need the more invasive ads. Elise Andrew is against native / embedded adverts; she doesn’t want people to think that we’ve written an article that we actually haven’t.

GN: The rise of adblockers will be an interesting factor to think about.

MR: I think adblockers will mean people will just choose the embedded advertising option – people are quite sneaky with getting their ads in.

Q) How do you deal with scientists when most are afraid of journalists and think you might misinterpret their study?

MR: That is an increasing problem I have been having. The traditional thing to do is to go to the scientist and get the explanation from them, but you can have a problem with accessing them.

JA: We do reach out to scientists a lot. We have some that like to talk, and some that don’t.

KO: I have found scientists quite receptive, because they know the reach we have. I generally go straight to the scientist rather than the press offices if I can help it.

Q) Do you get a different response when you say you’re from Vice or BuzzFeed compared with the Guardian?

MR: It’s difficult to do a direct comparison, because the articles I write for the Guardian are different to the articles I write for Vice. I have found people are quite nervous if they know it’s going in Vice, but I try to be nice and give them reassurance.

JA: I’m not aware of any scientists refusing to speak to us because of who we are.

KO: People are generally quite happy to speak to us, because they know the reach.

GN: I think saying we’re backed by the Wellcome Trust; it can open some doors.

Q) How do you write with flair in science when science is so exact?

GN: My advice is to write relentlessly and your voice will come.

KO: Write and publish – try and find a platform to publish your work. Find your own voice and don’t try and copy everyone else.

JA: Write what you’re passionate about, because if you’re passionate about something – that will be conveyed.

Q) Are freelancers better for long-form (traditional) journalism, while in-house writers for more new media?

KO: That is accurate for BuzzFeed.

JA: We use in-house writers, but sometimes we use freelancers. If a story breaks out in US time, we hire a US freelancer to write about it so it’s ready for UK time.

GN: Our editors have written a couple of stories in-house, but most are freelancers. We try to have a diverse range of writers: travel writers and food writers. We want to expand our scope.

Q) I love reading Mosaic, in particular, the Breaking Bad News article, as well as the extras. How deeply are the writers involved in the extras? Also, there is a video attached to that story – I don’t see video that often; is there is a reason you don’t use videos more often?

GN: That story was actually written by one of our in-house editors. The writer will normally suggest the extras. In that article we also included a 30-minute film. This took a lot of time and resources, so now we just do them every now and again.

JA: We used to have a YouTube channel, but then I put a stop to that with my scathing article about how the Discovery Channel lies to people. We are however moving more towards digital. We’re going to start doing animation and then live videos, which we’re really excited about.

KO: At Buzzfeed, there is something called BuzzFeed Motion Pictures. We have a huge video team.

MR: At The Guardian they tried sticking a camera in front of the science people – including me – and I just looked miserable! And I have a horrible voice! I think multimedia is great – but not for me!

Q) Rounding up, is the quality of news going to increase or decrease in the coming years?

MR: It’s going to get better in some sections, because of things like Mosaic, Buzzfeed and IFL science coming into more ambitious projects. But then you have Daily Mail on 250 million hits a month – so it can also spread out in a big and unhelpful way.

JA: Science communication has massively exploded in the last couple of years. It’s hard to say what makes a good website from one that will crash. It will be interesting to see what the future holds.

KO: I’m going to stay on fence and say it will be different. One thing that’s happening at BuzzFeed is moving from being a content provider to being a content distributor, finding and going to people where they are.

GN: It will be interesting to see which traditional newspapers and news platforms would have disappeared and which of the new generation will become the CNN of now? Will BuzzFeed be the dominant platform?



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