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Sunday, 5 July 2009

Best of the World Conference of Science Journalists 2009

So the World Conference of Science Journalists is over, and what a conference it was. Around 950 science writers, journalists and communicators gathered over three days at London's Westminster Central Hall for debate, discussions, diatribes and, of course, plenty of drink.

With a delightfully packed schedule and the repressing heat of an unusually sunny London week, you'd be forgiven if bits of it passed you by in a bit of a haze.

Thankfully, on the Internet nothing goes unrecorded. So here's a compilation of blogs, tweets and resources by ABSW members to help you to catch up on, or just relive, those heady three days. (This is by no means a comprehensive list, so please feel free to point out further reports and resources in the comments).

A big thanks to Julie Clayton, Sally Robbins and Fiona Fox for organising the fantastic programme.

One of the most engaging aspects of the conference was the way delegates embraced Twitter and the #wcsj hashtag as a means of communicating.

There were 2,526 tweets from 252 contributors over the course of the conference, with an average of 360 tweets per day. This allowed people to hold conversations simultaneously in the real-life sessions and on the web. And with many sessions on at the same time, it proved a great way for delegates to keep in touch with interesting points from the debates they couldn't attend -- not to mention the useful service provided for those journalists who were not able to attend the conference at all.

Ed Yong, the most prolific tweeter at WCSJ, has a good description of the value of Twitter at WCSJ on Not Exactly Rocket Science.

If you'd like to relive the whole thing, you can view a transcript of the entire #wcsj Twitter conversation on (you can also adjust the transcript to just look at particular days only).

And as David Bradley has written, the conference was great for putting faces to the names of people one has met purely through email and Twitter. The digital age indeed.

Not Exactly Rocket Science
As well as live-tweeting from the conference, Ed Yong has written up three four in-depth accounts covering the New Media New Journalism session, the discussion with Nick Davies on Flat Earth News, the hard-to-forget Embargoes debate that was, for many, the highlight of the event, and what exactly science journalism is (cheerleader or watchdog?). These have prompted replies from scientist bloggers Mike the Mad Biologist on embargoes and another by Kim Hannula on Investigative Science Journalism).

Ed was of course also the winner of the ABSW Best Newcomer 2009 award, presented at the Gala reception in front of hundreds of science journalists, one Diplodocus and a statue of Charles Darwin.

Just a Theory
ABSW Executive Committee helper and Imperial SciCom student Jacob Aron was not only a volunteer at the conference, he was blogging the event too!

It was hard to miss SciDev.Net at WCSJ, with development a major strand and many of the delegates (myself included) current or ex-staff or freelancers. SciDev.Net's blog provided great coverage of the conference from the developing country point of view.

They also reported several news stories from the conference, including the success of Cairo in hosting the next WCSJ.

Nature's reporters were reporting from the conference on their In the Field blog.

A fishy beginning
What Climate coverage would David King like to see?
Fraud "endemic to medical publication"
Embargoes debate
Scrutinising big pharma
Swine Flu - don't believe the hype
Achieving global coverage for science – a workshop
London to Cairo

BBC Radio 4 Leading Edge
Geoff Watts, who took part in the Embargoes debate, had a brief audio package on the conference in his Leading Edge programme. You can listen again for the next few days.

Scientific American podcast
John Rennie, former editor of Scientific American, expands on his comments at WCSJ that what we need is less science journalism.

Financial Times Science blog
Clive Cookson's take on the WCSJ and the supposed 'crisis' in science journalism.

Columbia Journalism Review
Two excellent reports, one on the accusation that the National Science Foundation is 'underwriting' science coverage and other models from the 'New Media, New Journalism' session. The other is on the Future of Science Journalism, cherry-picking bits from the 'Blogs, Big Physics and Breaking News,' Science Editors and other sessions.

Lindau Nobel blog
Freelancer Matthew Chalmers writes on science journalism and blogging, following the Blogs, Big Physics and Breaking News session he took part in.

WCSJ News and the Naked Scientists
The official WCSJ news website, while not updated very often, does carry some reviews and short reports of sessions as well as the daily 10 minute podcasts presented by Meera Senthilingam of the Naked Scientists (I've heard longer podcasts of some of the sessions may soon available as well).

You may also have noticed the photographers floating around the place -- which explains this photo gallery of the event.

And for those who disappeared to the booze before the final speeches were over, here's the summary video shown at the end.

Update 5/7/09 22.50 Added Lindau Nobel, Mike the Mad Biologist and Kim Hannula links. Thanks to @BoraZ
Update 6/7/09 22.18 Added links to Columbia Journalism Review (thanks @Simon_Frantz), Scientific American podcast and session summaries on WCSJ news website (thanks @absw).
Update 7/7/09 09.47 Added extra post from Not Exactly Rocket Science.