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Thursday, 31 January 2008

Job opportunity for science writer

Media Relations Manager (Sciences, Agriculture and Engineering)

Press and Communications Office, Newcastle University.

£25,134 - £32,796 per annum

  • What will computers be like in ten years' time?
  • Can organic food be grown more efficiently?
  • How can we tackle climate change?

These and many other key questions are being researched at Newcastle University, which has created the new post of Media Relations Manager for the Faculty of Science, Agriculture and Engineering.

We're looking for a talented and dynamic media professional to work with our top scientists and write about their achievements for the international, national and regional media.
Newcastle is designated as a 'Science City' and you can help us tell the world how we are shaping its future.

Job-share applicants welcomed.
Job reference: C2303A

Answerphone No: 0191 222 8718

Closing date for applications: 22 February 2008.

Further details:

This is a great job for the right person - lots of freedom to develop your own methods, with the back-up of a friendly team of media professionals.

I would be happy to have an informal discussion with anyone who might be interested - please phone or e-mail me.

Mick Warwicker
Head of Press and Communications
Newcastle University
6, Kensington Terrace
Newcastle upon Tyne
United Kingdom
Phone: +44 (0)191 222 7850
Fax: +44 (0)191 222 5447

Committee co-opts

The ASBW Committee has co-opted two new members. They are Dr Bob Ward and Carolyn Kelday.

Bob probably needs no introduction, but for those who have been living on Planet Zog for the past decade, he used to be pressmaster general at the Royal Society. He now works for Risk Management Solutions ( and is known for his forthright views on global warming issues and their communication. I am particularly delighted to welcome him on board the Committee as fellow geologist manqué (that's three of us now) but also for his legendary drive and enthusiasm. Bob is also a member of the Steering Committee of the forthcoming World Conference of Science Journalism in London, 2009.

Carolyn Kelday is the new ABSW Committee student representative. Carolyn is a 26 year-old mature student, following the first year of a Biology with Science Communication BSc degree at Royal Holloway, University of London. Her background is in Sales/Marketing and she worked as a PA "for many years". "So, I am good at organising and getting things done" she says. Her potential contribution to your Committee hardly needs any further elaboration.

Other committee members are: Dr Ted Nield (Chair), Alok Jha, Barbie Drillsma (ABSW Administrator), Becky McCall (Briefings), Fabian Acker, Dr Kat Arney, Martin Ince (Treasurer), Mike Harrison (CRA, observing), Pete Wrobel, Sallie Robins and Wendy Grossman.

If you want to raise anything on our Committee, please email Our next meeting takes place on February 26.

Ted Nield

Monday, 28 January 2008

A stunning year for biology, but what about the physical sciences?

What would your top 10 stories be for 2007? Alok Jha of The Guardian offers his own selection, with a heavy emphasis on the life sciences, 2007: A year of stunning progress in biology.

Those of us who roam mostly on the side of the physical sciences might offer a different list. The one entry in there, on dark matter, differs from many of the life science stories in having little possible application.

The odd thing is that it takes can less time for discoveries in the physical sciences to become useful applications. That is because they don't usually have to go through so many regulatory hoops and clinical trials.

Tuesday, 15 January 2008

ABSW briefing

ABSW Briefings 2008 are sponsored by - The Geological Society of London

How to write a popular science book

Thursday 13th March 2008
Welcome drinks: 6.30pm
Talk: 7.00-8.00 pm
Venue: The Council Room, The Geological Society of London, Burlington House, Piccadilly, LONDON W1J 0BG

(Entrance on Piccadilly, opposite Fortnum & Mason
+44 (0)20 7434 9944. W:

Aimed at science communicators, writers, broadcasters and students this year’s briefings aim to provide an introduction or refresher to some of the basic skills that underpin the daily activities of a writer and broadcaster to help you develop your career.

Writing a popular science book can be a daunting challenge. Many journalists and communicators talk about wanting to write a popular science book; few manage to do so successfully.

We’ve found some that have. Joining us to share their expertise and anecdotes about how they wrote their successful science books are:

Gabrielle Walker

Gabrielle Walker is an author and broadcaster specialising in environmental science. She has a PhD from Cambridge University and has been visiting professor at Princeton University, Associate Editor at Nature, and Features Editor at New Scientist. She is a frequent presenter for BBC radio, and writes for many newspapers and magazines. She has written three popular science books: ‘Snowball Earth’ (2003), ‘An Ocean of Air’ (2007) and The Hot Topic (January 2008, co-written with Sir David King). She is currently working on her fourth book, which will be about Antarctica

Peter Tallack

Peter Tallack studied Genetics with Steve Jones at University College London, before working for nearly ten years on the editorial staff of NATURE, where he was, among other things, book review editor. He left to become Science Publishing Director of Weidenfeld and Nicolson, and, more recently, a partner of the London-based literary agency Conville & Walsh Ltd, where he specializes in popular science. Peter is also the author of IN THE WOMB (National Geographic, 2006) and the editor of and contributor to THE SCIENCE BOOK (Cassell, 2000).

Richard Hollingham

Richard Hollingham is a BBC current affairs presenter, author and writer, specialising in science and environment. He has filed stories from more than 40 countries including Antarctica (twice), Libya and Vietnam. He presents the BBC World Service environment programme One Planet and regular series on the network including Science Hotspots and Discovery. Richard is a former senior producer on the BBC’s flagship news programme, Today, and was its first dedicated science producer. Together with his wife, Sue Nelson, also a successful journalist, they wrote How to Clone the Perfect Blonde.

We hope to see you there.
Please RSVP by email to:

Monday, 14 January 2008

WFSJ Skypes up a press briefings

Over on its blog, the World Federation of Science Journalists (WFSJ), Christina Scott has an account of using Skype, the "telephone over the internet" service, for science briefings in Africa. The account on WFSJ News describes it as "an innovation that improves science journalism and interaction between journalists and scientists across the continent".

"Skype has many advantages," says Scott. "No longer does science communication require visa arguments and jet lag for a big international conference, or a hair-raising journey across town and countryside in unreliable public transport, or traffic jams."

Readers in the richer parts of the world may find it hard to understand the problems that reporters have in joining something that most of us take for granted. As Scott reports, "An internet café in Ghana asked Frederick Baffour Opoku of Accra for the insane amount of 70 US dollars to use Skype. Charles Mkoka of Malawi had to travel long distances to find an cybercafé with a sound card, only to discover that the owner had not downloaded the latest version of Skype, and he was out in the cold."

Skype has its positive side that many of us might appreciate. The piece quotes Esther Nakkazi, a Ugandan reporter currently studying at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, as appreciating voice-over-internet-protocol because it is not as intimidating as a press conference. It "breaks down the bureaucratic barriers that sometimes make scientists impossible to contact for clarification" she told Scott. "With Skype you can get to the scientist and cross-check any information once you see them online which is very easy," says Nakkazi.

Sunday, 13 January 2008

The right chemistry for TV?

TV people now have a new source of free footage. BASF, "the world’s leading chemical company," as it calls itself, unveiled a new TV service in October 2007.

A press release gives more details of what is on offer, BASF launches new service for TV journalists.

It is a part of BASF's growing media presence. It all starts with a dedicated media portal. As well as the TV material, there are photos, podcasts and RSS news feeds.

The first two TV offerings are on catalysts and coatings. You have to register to get at the material. Not having any need for this material, we haven't tried it.

Monday, 7 January 2008

Anthony Michaelis 1916 - 2007

The Guardian has run a short obituary of Anthony Michaelis, who died in October. Paradoxically, Michaelis, who rumour had it travelled with his own hard hat, was known to most fellow science hacks as Tony. Why paradoxically? Because, as the Guardian's obituarist so accurately puts it "He was a scientist in the 19th-century understanding of that term". Very proper. But fun with it.