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Tuesday, 26 December 2006

Science books of 2006

Another year, another shelf-load of science books. Over on Dan Vergano has his take in The science books of 2006: A bountiful year.

Reading the list, you get the impression that in the USA authors are more adventurous in the subjects they write about. For example, while in the UK we get some fascinating insights into the history of military science, it rarely deals with anything since the Second World War. I certainly can't recall anything here that deals with the current connections between science and the military. Maybe nobody in the UK writes books like this is because the defence world here has abandoned science in its pursuit of better weapons.

As Vergano rightly says "A secret history of modern science could be assembled by looking at the links between military spending and research advances." In the USA they have the beginning s of that history, he says, mentioning "three good books out this year [that] might form chapters in this history". One of these books is by an ABSW member, Nigel Hey, who gave us The Star Wars Enigma: Behind the Scenes of the Cold War Race for Missile Defense.

One way in which the USA looks much like the UK when it comes to science books is the popularity of evolution as a subject. Then again, some of the books Vergano mentions are by Brits. With creationism rearing its head here to, expect this trend to continue.

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Tuesday, 19 December 2006

Twinning and Arab science reporters

When the current issue of The Science Reporter finally arrives – it has been sat at the printers for a couple of weeks – you will find an article on a proposed "twinning" of the ABSW with science writers elsewhere. One idea is that we can support science writers in countries where this is a relatively new profession.

One possible "twin" is the Middle East, where Israeli science writers have had a club for years, but where there was, until now, no association for other countries. This has changed, as we read in the item on SciDev.Net, Arab science reporters get their own association.

The twinning idea will be on the agenda for the AGM in the New Year. All input welcome.

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Wednesday, 13 December 2006

China encourages science communication

With so many companies rushing to do R&D in China, it isn't surprising that the country is clambering on the Public Engagement in Science and Technology bandwagon. SciDev.Net reports that China encourages media to report more on science. The piece says that "the government will encourage publishers to distribute more popular science books in rural areas, with thousands of bookstores and newsstands planned for remote rural areas".

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Brainy writers

They have awarded the prizes for the "Best National Brain Science Writers" that we wrote about earlier. There is a press release from the organisers – the European Dana Alliance for the Brain, the British Neuroscience Association and At-Bristol science centre – over on AlphaGalileo.

Dr Angelica Ronald received the top award in the Researchers Prize category while Dr Rebecca Poole picked up the top title in the General Prize category. They also commended a bright young schoolkid, Flora Devlin, a 6th-form student from Manchester.

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Tuesday, 5 December 2006

Lots of loots for PESTs

The money continues to flood into Public Engagement with Science and Technology (PEST). Research Councils UK (RCUK) has just announced 8 million GBP for new initiative to boost public engagement.

This is for academics, it seems.

"Public engagement encompasses all university and research institute activities that establish and maintain a dialogue with the wider public. The funding will also be used to establish a UK-wide co-ordinating centre to work across the initiative and promote best practice."
Coordination isn't a bad idea, given the number of people engaged in similar activities. But let's hope that there is no heavy hand of central control involved.

With luck these academic PESTs will have a rare flash of humility and will accept that they could use the skills of professional science writers. If so, there could be some opportunities in their for ABSW members.

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Sunday, 3 December 2006

Physics World joins the best books debate

The December 2006 issue of Physics World enters the "best science books" fray. In Simply the best, Martin Griffiths "looks at what distinguishes a great science book from a bad one".

An account on Jon Turney's recent bash at the RI, the article ends up with an invitation to readers, asking them "What is your favourite science book, and why?"