Have you tried a different approach to science storytelling? Experimented with new reporting tools or media platforms? Or perhaps used an existing technique or technology in a new and unexpected way to improve science journalism?
If so, you are probably eligible for a new ABSW award for the best innovation the field of science journalism. The award is open for entries until 31 January. Find out more and enter here: https://www.absw.org.uk/absw-awards/guidelines
The award will be for innovative approaches in the gathering, presentation and/or delivery of STEM journalism. The award will be made to the individual or team considered to have made the most innovative approach in the entry year. The success/impact of the approach will be considered although this will only form part of the judging criteria. The nature of the award means that entry can be flexible with statements of achievement considered alongside evidence or examples of work. The judges will be looking for out-of-the box thinking, and new, unusual and disruptive approaches to journalism.
Increasingly, the public is getting its science news and perspective directly from the source: scientists and engineers.
This Kavli Symposium explored the benefits—and challenges—of scientists and engineers bypassing traditional media outlets to tell their stories, thus becoming unfiltered sources of news and perspective. In particular, it focused on how the values of journalism—values that build trust between the media and the public—can be more fully shared with the growing body of scientist-communicators who are reaching their audiences directly, often through blogs and social media.
ABSW chairman, Mico Tatalovic, was invited to participate in the symposium. Here’s the final report.
Journalists reporting for local and regional media in any format anywhere in the UK or Ireland are now eligible for a £1,000 prize from the Association of British Science Writers.
The ABSW realises that local and regional press are facing difficult times, and has launched the new award to reward excellence and independence in reporting on local or regional issues in science, technology, engineering or mathematics.
The award will recognise the work of a journalist covering STEM subjects in a local or regional outlet. This could be news or features, in print, online or broadcast media but the item must clearly be aimed at a local or regional audience. Submissions are limited to one per person.
When Steve Connor passed away, tributes to his journalism came flooding in and rightly so. He was, in my view, the greatest science journalist of his generation. I am therefore so pleased that ABSW Board has chosen to honour Steve by naming its award for investigative journalism after him.
The investigation award is one of the most prestigious prizes in science journalism. It is there to reward those that don’t take the information they are given at face value, that can ‘smell’ a story, that can chase it down, stand it up and, crucially, set right wrongdoing.
So many nice things were said by Steve by those who were fortunate enough to work with him. But one I thought was particularly insightful was by his former editor at the i newspaper, Ollie Duff.
Do you know a senior science journalist who deserves to be recognized for outstanding work over decades of work?
Consider nominating them for ABSW Lifetime Achievement Award, which is made to an individual nearing the end of their career, or who is retired (the Award may also be made posthumously).
The Award celebrates the work of a journalist or writer whose career reflects lifetime achievement in promoting excellence and creativity in science journalism/science writing.
The recipient is recognised for entertaining and informing audiences, and/or for inspiring new generations of journalists and writers, and/or for making a lasting impact in their main area of expertise.
Previous winners include: Steve Connor (The Independent), Andy Coghlan (New Scientist), Deborah Cohen (BBC Radio), Dick Ahlstrom (The Irish Times), David Dickson (SciDev.Net), Fred Pearce (freelancer), Geoff Watts (freelancer), Dr John Gribbin (author and freelancer), Sir David Attenborough (BBC Television), Tim Radford (The Guardian).
This Award is not made by self-entry but by nomination of an individual to the ABSW Executive. Nominations are requested from ABSW members and should include a statement outlining why the individual meets the criteria above.
The ABSW Executive Board receives nominations and makes a final decision on who should receive the Award.
Over the past decade, the ABSW has given out more than two dozen awards to students and newcomers, including runners-up and shortlisted entries.
Where are those award winners now and what are they working on?
Either the awards jury is great at picking out promising professionals, or the award itself plays a role in boosting their high-flying careers, as the following list is quite impressive.
Most work in science and tech journalism, some are research scientists, and others are policy managers or strategy advisers at medical institutions.
Here’s a selection – in alphabetical order – of winners and runners-up in the ABSW awards for students and newcomers since 2009, with brackets to indicate what they were doing when they won their ABSW award, and where they are now:
“Frankenfoods could kill you”, “MMR linked to autism” and “mobile phones will fry your brain”. This is but a small sample of science based health stories that broke across the national news media in the late 90’s / early 00’s. With hindsight, such stories may have been based upon questionable scientific evidence.
In 2000, a House of Lords science and technology committee concluded that there was a need to improve the communication of science, risk and uncertainty across all spheres of public life. Several recommendations of this report sought to improve the manner in which “science” communicated with journalists – such as the establishment of institutions such as the Science Media Centre to act as a liaison between the world of science and the world of journalism. Other recommendations were aimed towards modulating how journalists constructed their science based news stories in that efforts should be made to mitigate uncertainty and develop a “responsible” approach risk within news stories.
The ABSW Science Writers' Awards for Britain and Ireland, the "Oscars" of science writing, have been running for over half a century – and only a handful of people have won on more than three occasions.
Overall, there have been some 372 winners since our records started in 1966. That’s an average of around 7 award winners a year.
The vast majority of the winners, 251 of them, only won once; 32 people won twice.
Nine people won 3 times; three people won 4 times; and two people won 5 times.
But only one person – the late Steve Connor of The Independent – won a grand total of 7 awards, the record number of ABSW awards netted by anyone.
Steve Connor won in 1985, 1993, 1999, 2002, 2012, 2016 and 2018 in categories including news, features, and investigation, as well as the UK science writer of the year and lifetime achievement awards. The ABSW committee has named our investigative award to honour his work.
The next top winners were Ian Sample and Tim Radford, both of The Guardian, who each won five awards.
Geoff Watts, broadcaster and journalist, and Andrew Luck-Baker, producer and presenter – both of whom worked for BBC Radio 4 – have each won four times, as did Roger Highfield, mostly for his work at The Daily Telegraph.
And the nine people who won three times each are: Frank Close, Deborah Cohen, Louise Dalziel, Oliver Gillie, John Gribbin, Robin McKie, Martin Redfern, Colin Tudge, and Ed Yong.
The list of top winners is dominated by men, with only two women featuring in the top 15 winners with three awards each – Deborah Cohen and Louise Dalziel, both broadcast journalists at the BBC. This gender skew could be partly because journalism was long dominated by men, and perhaps in part becuase of a possible bias in application rates. Hopefully, we are making those reasons a thing of the past and we’ll see more women winners in years to come. In fact, last year we had ten women winners out of a total of 19; and in 2017 we had eight women winners out of 15.
The 2019 awards are now open for entry in 16 categories. The deadline is 31 January.
(These numbers are preliminary and come from our publicly-available records of award winners. They don’t include runners-up or special mentions.)
ABSW members can now apply for an official two-year press card, accredited and recognized by the UK press card authority, at a cost of only £35.
To apply, you need to be an ABSW member and meet the criteria laid down by the UK Press Card Authority.
I recently returned from the Falling Walls conference and press trip for Berlin Science Week, made possible through the ABSW and EUSJA. Both the conference itself and the gathering of journalists from all over Europe - and indeed, the world - were well worth my time and, simply, a great reminder of why I love to write about science.
The trip consisted of a press day on the Wednesday, followed by two days of the Falling Walls conference - in its 10th year, a global multidisciplinary gathering of high level scientists and up and coming innovators.
For the press day, there were 10 EUSJA journalists (the delegation I was a member of) and 10 Falling Walls Journalism Fellows (journalists from all over the world, who had applied for a similar scheme, directly through the conference). This meant that there were 19 fellow science writers, from Brazil and India, to the US and Russia, to swap stories with and generally get to to know while we toured some of Berlin's science and technology institutes - including the Natural History Museum.