Job ads

Want to advertise your jobs on this page and on the ABSW's members only mailing list?

Details here...

Monday, 29 September 2008

Templeton time comes around again

Applications open on 1 October for the 2009 Templeton-Cambridge Journalism Fellowships in Science and Religion. The deadline is 15 December 2008.

They may be controversial, but, as the scheme's web site shows, some seriously good science writers have been happy to accept a fellowship. After all, the announcement does say that applicants "must demonstrate an interest in the field, originality of thought displayed in previous writings and a superior record of journalistic achievement".

Who can apply? "The fellowships are designed primarily for mid-career and senior journalists, though early career journalists will be considered."

The small print tells us that "Fellows will receive a $15,000 stipend for the two months of the fellowship, together with a book allowance and travel and accommodation expenses in connection with attendance at the two residential seminars to be held at the University of Cambridge, UK."

Friday, 26 September 2008

The ABSW party, Everyman Theatre, Liverpool 8 Sept 2008

Appointment: Editor

Chemistry World

£45,236 - £50,263 p.a.

Chemistry World is the business-to-business magazine for the chemical sciences. Its 65,000 readers include the members of the Royal Society of Chemistry, business executives and leading
scientists around the world, including China, who read its new and highly-successful sister edition, Chemistry World China. Globally, our readers look to the magazine for a unique international perspective on current developments in a fast-changing environment.

We are looking for an experienced, hands-on editor, tasked with further expanding the magazine in print, online and digitally. We want you to share your vision of how best to develop all the magazine’s editions and fully expand the brand in order to engage readers and advertisers.

A successful track record in science publishing along with a chemical science background is essential. You will also need experience of team leadership (with proven experience as a deputy editor or section head), as well as involvement in business management.

We offer a competitive salary together with an attractive benefits package, including 26 days holiday, contributory pension scheme, free life assurance, private healthcare provision and, where appropriate, relocation allowance.

For further information about the RSC, this post and how to apply, please visit quoting reference number 08-40.

Closing date: 16 October 2008.

Agencies need not apply.
We welcome applications from all sectors of the community and value diversity.

Friday, 19 September 2008

The LHC, one week later

Andrew Marr may have packed his bags and moved on to greater things, but some journalists are still watching developments at the Large Hadron Collider (LHC). Over on they report that the big bang soon fizzled out.

Friday was a bit of a bummer. "A transformer weighing some 30 tonnes developed a short circuit, forcing the team to replace it."

Will anybody bother to show up when the LHC really does start to create the collisions that some headline writers thought might blow up the Universe?

Tuesday, 16 September 2008

Vacancy Announcement

ATPS Senior Communications Officer

The African Technology Policy Studies Network (ATPS) is a leading regional network of African scholars and policymakers engaged in research, capacity building and policy advocacy on issues of science and technology for Africa's sustainable development. Its mission is to improve the quality of science and technology policies to eradicate poverty. Working primarily through National Chapters in at least 23 African countries, ATPS supports research, training and related activities on topical and emerging science and technology policy on biotechnology, information and communication technologies, technology transfer, science policy, among others. For more details about ATPS, please visit our website at

ATPS is seeking to recruit a dynamic individual to fill the position of Senior Communications Officer to be based at its secretariat in Nairobi, Kenya. Reporting to the Executive Director, he/she will be responsible for providing leadership to the ATPS Communications and Knowledge Management activities. In liaison with the ATPS Research and Training Team, ensure that outputs form ATPS thematic and non-thematic activities are published in relevant media, and effectively communicated to relevant stakeholders. The post holder will also be responsible for developing and managing the ATPS web-based Knowledge for Development and outreach program to bridge the gaps between science, technology and innovation research, policy and practice in Africa.

  • Major responsibilities will include:

    Manage the ATPS science communication and knowledge management strategy, including the web-based platforms, regional workshops, and other outreach and advocacy events.
    Support the overall ATPS Network’s strategy to bridge the gaps between science and technology and innovation research, policy and practice for African development.
    In liaison with the ATPS Research, Training and Communications Leader, assist ATPS national chapters and researchers to translate relevant ATPS research outputs into various publications including articles in international journals, ATPS publication series, popular articles, book volumes, and publications in the fourth estate.
    Co-ordinate the ATPS public relations activities, including publication of in-house newsletters twice a year, news articles, bibliographies, brochures, program promotions, media outreach, etc.
    Assist with finding funding sources and fundraising activities of the ATPS Secretariat and Regional chapters.
    Assist the ATPS Research, Training and Communications team to organize peer review of ATPS
    Research outputs for publication in ATPS publication series: ATPS Research Paper Series, Working Paper Series, and Technology Policy Brief Series.
    Manage the regular updating of the ATPS website and the ATPS Knowledge for development platform.
    In collaboration with the Communications Team, organize and support media and public awareness and campaigns and special events such as the Scientific Revival Day of Africa.
    Profile stakeholders and target group information and knowledge needs to determine appropriate knowledge sharing and dissemination tools.
    Manage the ATPS public awareness and press/media strategy.
  • Qualifications, skills and abilities

    A doctorate degree ST&I related fields or equivalent experience with formal training in science journalism or communication.
    At least 3 years experience in a science communication environment with progressive responsibilities, including international experience. Candidate will be required to provide sample publications in different media.
    Demonstrated ability to use new technologies for communication and outreach, including web and mltimedia tools, Geographic Information Systems (GIS), etc.
    Demonstrated capacity and ability to fundraise and manage knowledge networks
    Proficiency in French will be a major advantage
    Good analytical skills
    Good interpersonal skills and good team player.
    Ability to work as part of a multi-cultural and multi-disciplinary team.
    Demonstrate ability to deliver on deadlines
    The vacancy is expected to be filled by 30 October 2008. A comparative international salary and benefits ill be offered to the successful applicant. The initial contract period will be for 3 years.
  • Qualified candidates should send a detailed letter of interest and curriculum vitae to , no later than 30th September 2008.

Friday, 12 September 2008

Creationism – a media plot

Contrary to most of the newspaper coverage, Professor Michael Reiss, Director of Education at the Royal Society, does not believe that schools should teach creationism in science classes. The assembled hack pack must be wrong because the Royal Society says so. It has gone as far as to issue a press release pointing out their devious tricks "No change in Society position on creationism".

"Some media reports have misrepresented the views of Professor Michael Reiss," it tells us. That so many hacks got it wrong is a bit of a puzzle.

Maybe it is the language that the good professor used. "I have referred to science teachers discussing creationism as a worldview'; this is not the same as lending it any scientific credibility."

Just what he means by a "worldview" is not clear. Isn't evolution, or the whole of science, a worldview?

Maybe the RS doesn't mean the newspapers that unleashed the story. Over in the Financial Times, Clive Cookson quoted Reiss as saying "“Most scientists and science educators believe science teachers should not discuss creationism in science lessons – I disagree.”

Nothing there to suggest teaching creationism as science. Talking about creationism is a far cry from teaching it.

Maybe the RS meant The Times, which wrote "Creationism should be taught in science classes as a legitimate point of view, according to the Royal Society, putting the august science body on a collision course with the Government."

The Independent went so far as to editorialise on the story, writing "Sir Michael Reiss, the director of education at the Royal Society, voiced concerns that up to a tenth of children in Britain hold 'creationist' beliefs in the origins of the world". Again, nothing to suggest that he wants creationism to have equal time with evolution.

Perhaps the RS should be a bit more specific in its denials, naming names and saying just which of the many interpretations of Reuss's comments caused it to get so hot under its stuffy collar.

Anyone wanting more depth on the prof's views should turn to the Guardian's Science Blog. Here he writes "Just because something lacks scientific support doesn't seem to me a sufficient reason to omit it from a science lesson." Not quite the same as teaching it as science, but all too easily misinterpreted.

Non scientist to edit American Scientist

The magazine American Scientist is one of those hidden gems of science publishing. It quietly gets on with its job while flashier players grab all the limelight. The magazine, published by Sigma Xi, "the international honor society of research scientists and engineers," now has a new editor, David Schoonmaker.

For some reason, in the press release about his appointment, he admits that he is "not a scientist". He has been managing editor of the magazine – the UK uses the same label to describe a different role – for 15 years, so must have soaked up something of the area. And as he says himself, "I have a deep and abiding love for and interest in science. Growing up with a geologist father, I could tell a syncline from an anticline by age six." That's more than you can say for many a scientist turned science writer.

Tuesday, 9 September 2008

Situation normal in Geneva-super-mare

This year the BA Media Centre is housed in a dismal warren of down-at-heel buildings apparently belonging to the Department of Architecture. It is not, frankly, much of an advertisement. It is a hideous hodgepodge of Georgianesque brick townhouse, 1930s bunker and 1980s glass, a maze of doglegged passages designed to make anyone feel like an experimental rat.

The rats this year are a little depleted, since many science journalists have scurried off (or will shortly scurry off) to Geneva to witness on Wednesday the “turning on” of what one hapless subeditor has already mis-called the “Large Hardon Collider”. For this monument to the political influence gained by physics since their useful service during and after the last World War, is currently being readied for a completely phoney launch event.

Ted Nield finds a science story that gets his attention For on Wednesday the boffins at CERN will turn the machine on. Well, they will run a beam in it. They have done this before. Of course they have. They tested it, they didn’t smell burning and now they are ready to do it “for real” with an audience. But they will not be circulating two beams. No atoms will be smashed, and no bosons will be observed. Nor will a black hole that will eat up the Earth from the inside be created.

Even the lunatic opposition smacks of egregious PR fraud because the injunction, apparently sought by a maverick scientist fearing the end of the world to be nigh, played into the physics lobby’s hands. For no sooner was it out, than our good friends at the Institute of Physics put out a calming statement, designed to induce mass panic the world over. They said they had looked at the LHC very carefully, and come to the conclusion that it was safe and absolutely nothing to worry about. Oh Gawd help us everyone run for the hills. (But not the ones near Geneva.)

Still, here at the BA things are working as usual. The media, as always, have no time at all to stray outside the media centre. The BA Press Office is arranging press conferences to promote those stories they have chosen as being the most interesting from evidence supplied by those speakers who have prepared press papers. This is how the system works. This is how it has always worked and yes, this is the same rant I write every year.
Unfortunately the same cannot be said of the scientists who are supposed to supply the press papers. Many events boast releases that are not online (so therefore of restricted availability) - and which are frankly not much use anyway. This is probably because they were submitted late. But this is nothing.

Today the Festival programme boasts several sessions with almost zero accompanying press papers. This includes one, organised by the great Proudman Oceanographic Laboratory no less - only one of whose authors has submitted a press paper that I can find (Dr Lesley Rickards).

True, not all BA events stand a chance of media coverage and many are designed without any thought for it. Great swathes of the programme are, after all, peopled by robot dog-walkers and chemical volcanoes. Fair enough. But for those with some aspiration to attracting a wider audience, to organise a whole event without any attention to media releases is time and effort wasted and a ship spoiled for a ha’p’orth of tar. When will the message get through that the BA is not mainly about 50 people in a lecture theatre. It’s about the 500,000 people who at least might read the papers, and the millions who instead might be watching the telly. If a provider does not write a press paper, he or she stands absolutely no chance at all of getting a slice of that action. Not one bit.

So here, in Liverpool and Geneva, we are witnessing the two ends of the science PR leviathan, devouring itself before our eyes. On the one hand we have an orchestrated scientific PR non-event in Geneva, which will demand the attention of the global public during the middle part of this week. While here at the BA we have some great British science being explained to small numbers of the converted, in darkened lecture theatres, firmly hidden under a bushel of its own making.

Situation normal, then!

Friday, 5 September 2008

Food to go with the drink at the BA

The annual BA "festival of science" is always a good excuse for science journalists to eat and drink. On the food front, the Food Standards Agency is joining the fun as one of the many organisations rushing to Liverpool to put on a show.

The announcement of the event, Countdown to science festival, tell us that "tickets are being snapped up for the chance to find out all you ever wanted to know about food, as the Agency takes part in the festival for the first time".

Can't make the trip? Never fear "we are webcasting the event. A click of a mouse gives you a chance to hear the talk as it happens, join in the interactive debates and quizzes and get your questions answered."

Wednesday, 3 September 2008

Naked Scientist has winning ways with podcast

Anyone who wants to do some homework before attending the ABSW's briefing on podcasts on 17 September might like to do some home work to see what it takes to create an award winning podcast. Check out the Naked Scientists.

Dr Chris Smith, Clinical Lecturer and Specialist Registrar in virology at the University of Cambridge, and, in his spare time, podcaster extraordinaire, has just won the "prestigious," they tell us, Royal Society Kohn award "for his work engaging a diverse audience with science".

The press note on the award, Naked Scientist wins Royal Society award for science communication, tells us that "In recognising that there was a gap in the market for a science programme that would reach a non-scientific audience, Dr Smith pioneered the Naked Scientists radio show while still a graduate student. He now successfully manages to juggle his busy career working as a doctor and researcher with his science communication activities."

It seems that success is not always welcome, by the techies at least. "I blew up a couple of web-servers and was even ejected by a number of web-hosting companies for compromising their networks every time we published a show." You have been warned.

Next ABSW Briefing - medium or just cheap radio?

Date: September 17
Venue: The Geological Society of London, Burlington House
Time: Open 18.00, for 18.30. Close/adjourn to pub: 19.30

Adam Rutherford (Nature Podcast) and Jeremy Webb (New Scientist) speak for and against the utility of podcasts to science magazines.

Why does Nature continue to support its podcast while New Scientist took the decision to close theirs? What makes podcasts different from radio? Should they be judged differently?

Charges and booking

To reserve a place at this event, please email Your place will be held for you for one week and confirmed on receipt of payment. Refunds will not be granted after 10 September.

Briefings all attract a nominal charge. There are special rates for ABSW members and a special Student Rate. Students can pay on the night.

Non-members pay a higher fee, or may join on the night to benefit immediately from the discounted rate.

Members and non-members can pay via a PayPal account, to absw [at] Please write in the comment box that you are paying for a briefing, and please say which.

Otherwise please send a cheque payable to ABSW to:

Dr Ted Nield, The Geological Society of London, Burlington House, Piccadilly, LONDON W1J 0BG

  • Students £2; ABSW full/associate £5.
  • £10 non members. (Join on night for £5 discount.)

See this year's programme of briefings