The ABSW Executive Board is elected anually with places on the Board open to all full and life members of the ABSW. Individuals who wish to stand for the Board complete a nomination form and need the support of two full or life members (read full details of the election process).
Meet those who were elected to serve on the Board in 2018/2019.
Nominated by: Martin Ince, Andy Extance
Statement: I have been the chair of the ABSW since last elections, during which time our membership numbers increased and finances have been stable. We have had a busy and an active year, carrying out a range of activities and events, including summer school and several training events in London, Belfast and Dublin. We started looking to re-engage our members outside London and reached out to, and collaborated on projects with, science journalism associations in Ireland, Canada, and mainland Europe. We played a major role in reforming European science journalism bodies, and got involved with the winning bid for the next World Conference of Science Journalists – our summer school is one of the satellite events. We’ve also partnered with the Center for Investigative Journalism to provide science journalism training to their summer school delegates, as part of our ongoing effort to strengthen investigative science journalism. Importantly, we’ve carried out a comprehensive three-pronged strategic review of our association, which just celebrated its 70th anniversary. This review included an external consultant report, comprehensive survey of our members, and a special expert task force report, all of which came up with some clear recommendations for how to improve and strengthen our association, and make it more responsive to our members’ needs. I am now seeking your confidence to let me steer the association for a further year, to help asses and implement the main recommendations of the strategic review. And, to carry on with the ambitious programme of the successful training and networking events and awards, including the UK Conference of Science Journalists 2018.
Nominated by: Mico Tatalovic, Jack Serle
Statement: I have been on the ABSW board for two years as a general board member, helping to plan and run events and visiting universities to ensure a continuing supply of new student members. I want to continue to ensure the ABSW serves its members to the best of its ability and am ready to take on more responsibilities as vice-chair. It is an exciting time for the organisation, with the strategic review bringing an opportunity to re-shape who we are and how we do things. Our membership has grown in number and last year we ran an exciting program of events including panel discussions, networking opportunities, low-cost training and our biannual summer school. We have also seen the genesis of several regional groups that will ensure the society is more inclusive to members outside London. I want to be around to help make sure these positive developments continue in 2018.
Nominated by: Martin Ince, Wendy Barnaby
Statement: As well as already having been on the ABSW board for a year, I did a unit on accountancy during my degree, and was team leader at the contract research organisation I worked for prior to becoming a science writer, with corresponding financial responsibility. More recently, I have been responsible for my own self-employed and more recently company accounts over the 8 and a half years since I became a freelancer.
Nominated by: Anita Makri, Martin Ince
Statement: I'm an active freelance science journalist writing for Nature, New Scientist, SciDev.Net and Horizon at the moment. In the past I've been news editor and (briefly) editor of SciDev.Net and science correspondent on The Daily Telegraph, and I've freelanced from around the world. Because of this I have the freelance, employed, editor and writer perspectives. I've been secretary of the board for a couple of years now, keeping an eye on things, taking minutes at the board meetings and so forth. The board is full of energy and ideas and I'd love to go on being part of it.
Lou Del Bello
Nominated by: Mico Tatalovic, Aisling Irwin
Statement: I have been a member of the ABSW board for the past year, and I was one of the judges of the annual science journalism awards. In 2017 the board organised a variety of events, and perhaps most importantly never ceased to reflect on the changing landscape of science journalism, exploring new ways to meet the needs of our youngest and more experienced members. For the next year, I would like to build on what we have achieved so far. My objectives include promoting investigative and data journalism, something we have touched on in 2017 with positive feedback from the members. I am also personally interested in revamping the social media platforms of the organisation, as I am convinced they can become a useful tool for the exchange of ideas, tips and job opportunities. If my mandate is renewed in 2018 and I am elected European representative, I am committed to enhance our relationship with partners on the continent and facilitate a fruitful dialogue between British and European members. Most of all, I will be open to hear from our members and make sure their needs and expectations are reflected in our activities and events portfolio.
General Board member posts:
Nominated by: Martin Ince, Andy Extance
Statement: I've been a technical journalist, editor, and lecturer for more than 30 years and have had more than 500 articles published in the mainstream media (including The Economist), popular science/tech magazines (including New Scientist/Wired) and the technical press (including EE Times). I've been running my own small technical content for more than a dozen years (Form and Content Media), have started up many publications (most recently http://engins.org). I have also helped give a few people their start in science publishing. I'm passionate about teaching young scientists and engineers how to write about their own work, and have been doing this at UCL, and previously Imperial, for almost 20 years now. I also teach a module in technical journalism (one of few in the world) which I first created at UC Berkeley in 1999. I've written a book to help teach all these students which should come out next year. I've been on the board for the last two years trying to help the ABSW to better represent writers from the tech and engineering sectors, and would like another term to take this work to its fruition. For more information about me and my work, please go to http://www.sunnybains.com. (currently a general Board member)
Nominated by: Martin Ince, Mico Tatalovic
Statement: I have been on the board and, before that, the committee, since 1998. I believe I serve a useful function of providing institutional memory and some help in solving practical problems. My chief writing area is computers, freedom, and privacy, which covers a lot of ground from the workings of specific technologies to law and policy. I am also the founder of Britain's The Skeptic magazine, which began publication in 1987 to promote scientific examination of paranormal claims.
Nominated by: Mico Tatalovic, Aisling Irwin
Statement: I'm a freelance writer, editor and producer with about 20 years’ experience in science and policy for development, health and the environment. Much of my work in recent years has been with SciDev.Net, an online publisher that covers developing world issues from a science and tech perspective. I’ve served as a board member with ABSW for the past year. I also serve on the advisory board of the Global Health Film Initiative and as a mentor with the New York Academy of Sciences. Before getting into more details about my background I want to say a few words about the bigger picture for science, and writing about science. As we all know there are dramatic social, political and environmental changes worldwide. I believe we need to think more about the role of science and communication in our collective efforts to understand and respond to these changes. It was with this in mind that I worked with the association last year to organise a panel discussion on science journalism and post-truth. I’d previously written about this in a Nature column, and I’m keen to continue working with ABSW and others who are thinking about developments in science and journalism at a time when systems that we’ve long accepted to be sources of truth are being challenged like never before. More broadly, my interest is in socially relevant science with a focus on global development. Prior to going freelance, I oversaw the op-ed section and special features pages at SciDev.Net, a role that included putting together data and multimedia stories from the field for in-depth coverage. For me there’s real value in that kind of on-the-ground reporting of science issues. I’ve learned a great deal by working closely with both journalists and researchers around the world, and believe in supporting local capacity for journalism in countries with poorer resources. Prior to this I was editor for a UK news service focusing on emerging global health threats, leading its coverage of the 2009 flu pandemic. I also worked as editor for peer-reviewed journals after starting out as a research scientist in environmental health. This outline of my experience hopefully gives a flavour of the skills and perspectives I can contribute to the association ‒ thanks for considering my nomination.
Nominated by: Mico Tatalovic, Martin Ince
Statement: I am a Knight Fellow at MIT and have worked as an editor and writer at Research Fortnight, Nature and New Scientist in a career spanning more than 20 years. I am also the author of a number of books and have presented documentary programmes for BBC radio. I also teach science policy communication at Imperial College. The world of British science is about to experience its most turbulent phase for at least a generation as Brexit and a long-planned overhaul of science and university funding start to take shape. At the same time, a future Jeremy Corbyn-led government will also take science into new and unfamiliar territory. If elected to the ABSW board I will be able to assist writers and editors make sense of these changes and what they might mean for individual research fields. This could be through events with policymakers, or small group briefing sessions. I also have a strong interest in helping early career writers and editors join the profession, particularly those from under-represented groups. I was once a novice journalist too. In fact, it was more than 20 years ago that I was encouraged to join ABSW. Back then the organisation would team up with the giants of British academia and put on half-day training seminars to help rookies like me get upto speed on some of the latest developments in science. One such event that I can remember vividly, on the nature of consciousness, was hosted by the Institute of Psychiatry. Consciousness was an emerging field in the 90s, much in the news and rife with debate fuelled partly by Francis Crick’s book The Astonishing Hypothesis: The Scientific Search for the Soul. I think a week later I was in the Nature offices for an interview for a news reporter position. John Maddox was editor and he asked me if I had read any science books lately. I pulled out a copy of Crick’s book from my bag and proceeded to summarize the arguments I had heard at the ABSW briefing. I was told many years later that this (rather than my ropey writing skills) is most likely what bagged me the position. So, it is more than a privilege to be considered for the ABSW board and I hope that if elected, I will be able to give something back to an organisation that has been enormously beneficial to my own career.
Nominated by: Aisling Irwin, Mico Tatalovic
Statement: I am a science journalist and editor with 10+ years of experience. Having trained in local journalism before dedicating my career to science, I have experienced the thrills and challenges of reporting from the grassroots to the editing room. I have worked for various small publications, as well as the big science magazines, so I am acutely aware of the difficulties reporters face in the current news climate. Unfortunately, science reporters find more and more that their integrity is questioned, their pay checks are shrinking and the internet makes chasing unique and complicated stories difficult. I believe the ABWS has an important role to play in providing stability, advice and leadership for science journalists across the UK. As news editor at Research Europe and later editor at SciDev.Net I have trained more than 20 young reporters. Working with early-career journalists and watching them settle and succeed in an increasingly fraught and confusing job market is incredibly important and rewarding for me. I am attuned to the needs and worries of young reporters, and hope that by being in the ABSW I can do more to help them assert themselves for the good of science and independent, quality reporting. I am a keen unionist and believe it is vitally important to create a strong community of journalists that actively lobbies for reporters' interests and ensures its members thrive in the face of adverse bosses and falling budgets. To this end, it is also important to me to reach out beyond the borders of the UK and connect with science journalists in Europe and further abroad. The political climate of this day makes independent quality reporting ever more important - but also ever more of a challenge. As an ABWS member I will work hard to strengthen the community of science journalists in and around Britain, in order to protect and nurture the values of independence, balance, accuracy and diligence we all treasure.
Report by Aisling Irwin - ABSW member and EUSJA grant recipient
Earlier this month, courtesy of an EUSJA grant, I zipped over to Berlin to attend the Falling Walls 2017 conference. Though it seems unheard of in Britain, it has prestige elsewhere. Scientific luminaries from around the world jet in to address an audience of high-calibre delegates (who have paid a high-calibre fee to hear them). Mindful of the fall of the Berlin wall in 1989, the speakers predict the next “wall that will fall” as a result of their spectacular progress in subjects ranging from Artificial Intelligence to diagnosis of disease.
European Union of Science Journalists' Associations (EUSJA) has confirmed a study trip to the European Spallation Source (ESS) from April 3 to 5 2018.
ESS is a multi-disciplinary research facility based on the world’s most powerful neutron source, now under construction in Lund, Sweden. ESS will enable unprecedented world leading research using neutrons, providing new scientific opportunities in a wide range of research fields, including life sciences, energy, environmental technology, cultural heritage and fundamental physics. EUSJA is making available an opportunity to visit ESS and the construction site. There will be a guided tour of the site and labs and journalists will meet the Director General of ESS and a number of high-level representatives from the organisation.
The ABSW held this panel discussion on Thursday 2 November 2017 in London.
Find out more...
Truth is in the spotlight -- there’s much debate about how to find it and whether it still carries weight in our society. Media covering UK and US politics have lamented how truth is being sacrificed to misinformation, myth, spin or outright lies. During the US pre-election period, publishers from the Guardian to the New York Times to NPR pushed their fact-checking services. The need to tackle fake news then captured the attention of major social media players like Facebook.
Our colleagues at the World Federation of Science Journalists (WFSJ) have negotiated free access for all their member association's to Wiley Online Library. This library hosts online resources covering life, health and physical sciences, social science and the humanities.
The WFSJ has issued the ABSW with a unique login and password for its members to use.
Don't forget that the ABSW has also negotiated access to Elsevier journals for its members too.
At October's World Conference of Science Journalists held in San Francisco, Pallab Ghosh reported on the coverage of gene editing:
I sometimes joke that I’ve been a science journalist so long that I covered the extinction of the dinosaurs!
Although it’s not been quite that long – I have seen a thing or two in my time and so I’d like to offer a brief historical perspective as well as some observations on how gene editing is being reported in the UK.
So on that first
This is the website of the UK’s bestselling tabloid newspaper – The Sun.
GENE GENIE Embryos edited to remove killer mutation like the one that nearly killed Fabrice Muamba in world first — and it could save MILLIONS
Fabrice Muamba is a young English ex-soccer player who suffered a cardiac arrest during a televised match between Bolton and Tottenham Hotspur. He recovered despite his heart having stopped for 78 minutes.
It’s from August 4 and you can see it reports on the work of Dr Shoukhrat Mitalipov of Oregon Health and Science University and colleagues on the removal of a gene from an early stage human embryo associated with a rare heart condition.
An appreciation by Mike Kenward
The loss of anyone in the science writing community is always sad, but the messages on Facebook and the ABSW’s emailing list show that Steve Connor’s death from cancer, at the age of just 61, seems to have hit home more than the passing anyone else I can remember. The outpouring of sadness and regret, accompanied by fond, and often amusing, reminiscences shows just how much we all thought of Steve and his work as the scoopmaster general of science journalism.
When asked to write an appreciation of Steve for the ABSW, I quickly concluded that no single account could do him justice. My own part in Steve’s career was essentially peripheral. I may have been his editor, but anyone who knew him would know that Steve had little time for titles and status. You were just a colleague he worked with, and came to when he needed support, and expenses, to pursue the latest scoop.
Researchers sometimes wonder if they should, or even could, start broadcasting or writing about science. Is it possible to take leave of the lab and become a science communicator?
This was the question uppermost in the minds of science postdocs at Queen’s this month when they gathered to hear what a panel of experienced science journalists had to say about what they do and how they had first entered the field.
The workshop, organised jointly by the Irish Science and Technology Journalists’ Association (ISTJA) and the Association of British Science Writers (ABSW) and hosted by the Centre for Experimental Medicine at Queen’s, had an impressive line up of writers and broadcasters, all ready to share their knowledge and give the postdocs tips on how to carve out a niche in the highly competitive world of communications.
Newsflash: Thank you to all those who completed the survey which is now closed to further entries
Four £50 John Lewis vouchers won by ABSW members who completed the survey - congrats!
The ABSW is reviewing the way it works and the benefits it provides to members. As part of this review, we want to hear your views, experiences, grievances, etc. You’ve got a chance to shape the future of this association and how it works, and, by extension, affect a big part of the UK science journalism community.
All ABSW members have now been sent this message from ABSW Chair Mico Tatalovic:
I am writing to let you know about an exciting initiative through which you can help shape the future of the Association of British Science Writers (ABSW) – and science journalism in the UK more widely.
The ABSW board has decided to carry out an independent strategic review of our association to see how we can improve what we do. Specifically, we want to see how we can improve what we offer to you, our members, and to make sure that our governance structures and funding streams are following best practices and are in line with ensuring the long-term sustainability of the ABSW.
As part of this review, we will be carrying out a survey of our members to see what you think of the ABSW. For example, what works and doesn’t work for you, which activities you take part in, and which activities you’d like to see in future. We want you to have a say in how the association moves forward. You can expect to get the short survey over the next few weeks, and we hope you can share your thoughts and feelings about the ABSW, and advise us on where we can improve.