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British researchers make up nearly half of the shortlisted candidates for the category "Professional scientists engaged in science communication to the public" in this year's Descartes prizes from the EU. The announcement of the nominees for the Descartes Prize for Science Communication reveals that the UK doesn't do at all well in the categories for "Communicators at the start of their career" or "Innovative action for science communication".

Perhaps more surprising, given how much we proclaim the BBC as the world's leading TV outlet, the UK is also missing from the shortlist for "Popularising science through audio-visual and electronic media (scientific television or radio documentaries, websites)".

Perhaps there are just too many Eurosceptics around who don't bother to enter this competition. They got "just 80 submissions from across Europe. Even though this is "an increase of 30% over last year" it is hardly a mad rush. Funny, given that "From these 33 nominees, 5 finalists and 5 winners will be selected to share this year's €275,000 prize".

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This is one for members of the ABSW who work on journals. On 15 and 16 February the EU will hold a Scientific publications conference in Brussels "on scientific publication issues".
The goal of the conference is to bring together stakeholders concerned with access, dissemination and preservation issues in connection with scientific publication and data in an effort to provide policy options for scientific publishing under FP7 and in the European Research Area.
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That's an award for books about the environment rather than books printed on recycled paper. The announcement is on Horganism the blog by John Horgan, Director of the Center for Science Writings at Stevens Institute of Technology in Hoboken, New Jersey. Edward O. Wilson, "one of our era’s greatest and most eloquent scientists," received the first Green Book Award for his book The Creation.

It says that "The CSW Green Book Award is an annual prize given to the finest work of science writing that draws attention to issues of environmental responsibility published in the previous year." The entry requirements, or how the thing works, aren't clear. There's an on-line entry form, so there's no harm in plugging your own magnum opus.

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Chinese reporters are the focus for this year's Fellowships for Science Reporters in Developing Regions. These awards will pay for "six promising journalists from the region to attend and cover the AAAS Annual Meeting in February".

The announcement has some comments on science writing in China from William Chang of the US National Science Foundation's Beijing office who was the independent judge for the selection process. According to Chang, open and unbiased news reporting is on the rise in China, "but there is still great room for further improvement. I feel that all the applicants recognized this, and made their best efforts under the present constraints."

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The ABSW's ever versatile members can even end up writing about such arcane subjects as IT security. That's why they might want to check out the 2007 BT UK IT Security Journalism Awards.
"BT launched its UK IT Security Journalism Awards to recognise the vital role that security journalism plays in educating the public and businesses about what they can do to help ensure they are as secure as possible, as well as help build a closer relationship between the industry and the media."
The top prize is £2000 for "IT security journalist of the year," with five other £500 cheques on offer. The deadline for submissions is Friday 23 February 2007.

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At $20,000 a pop, the National Academies Communication Awards must be the most generous on the planet. Sadly, the criteria for eligibility include the statement that entries must "have been published or broadcast in 2006, in the USA and in English". Still, the ABSW has many members who have made it into print on the wrong side of the Atlantic. Whether they can write in "English" as the National Academies define it is another matter.

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Consulting the audience is one thing, but would you let them pick which programme you should air? That is what they seem to be up to at PBS, in the USA. (Public Broadcasting Service is sort of their equivalent to the public service broadcasts we get in Europe, albeit funded by sponsors rather than through 'taxes'.) They have a new science programme in the works and want viewers to help them to pick the format.

As the web site puts it: "Throughout January, PBS will broadcast three new science programs. Only one program will become a regular science series on PBS. We want you to help us decide."

They do not, perhaps wisely, say how much weighting they will give to viewers. They just invite them to visit three mini sites where each broadcast will be there for instant replay.

The first programme goes under the banner of Science Investigators and deals with questions from viewers. The other two, 22nd Century and Wired Science, associated with the magazine of that name, come later.

Maybe they would like some input from the professional broadcasters in the Association of British Science Writers. They will probably have more influence than they would allow over at the BBC, where the idea of voting for a format would probably cause a mass fit of the vapours.

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They don't call them the COPUS awards any more, the annual bunfight to find the best science books of the year outlived the body that first came up with the idea. (Well, it was really Bernard Dixon's idea, stolen by me when I was a member of COPUS.) So now we have the Royal Society Prizes for Science Books.

The Royal Society has just launched this year's competition, the 19th year of what the RS, probably with good cause, calls "the world's most prestigious award for popular science writing".

Doubtless most of the books will cover the usual subjects. Last year's winner, Electric Universe, How Electricity Switched on the Modern World by David Bodanis, was something of a surprise, in not dealing with evolution or black holes.

It will also be interesting to see how many recognised science writers make it on to the short list.

There is a total of of £30,000 on offer, £1000 if you make the short list, £10,000 for the winners in the general and junior categories.

As in previous years, Aventis is sponsoring the awards. But the RS "is presently seeking a new sponsor for the prizes". All offers welcome.

Details of how to enter and a video of the "genesis of the Royal Society’s prizes for science books" are all on a separate area of the RS's web site.

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A page on what the EU is up to on Communicating science. Follow the links to land on some useful bits and pieces.
"There is a general lack of understanding of how advances in science and technology affect our lives. Against this background, controversial or sensational reporting on food safety, GMOs, bird flu, global warming or, for example, stem cell research can leave citizens confused and frightened and science misunderstood. This is why scientists are increasingly asked to communicate their work to a wider audience and science communicators and the media to act as the responsible bridge between the scientists and society."

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