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Thursday, 23 July 2009

Job advert: New Scientist Features Editor

Features Editor - 6 Month Contract

Reference: 000235
Job Function Editorial & Publishing
Location Lacon House, London
Organization Reed Business Information
Job Type Contract
Job Posting 21/07/2009
Recruiter Justine Padfield

Job Description

New Scientist, the world's leading popular science and technology magazine and web site, needs a talented feature editor to join its award winning team. We offer a stimulating environment working with world-class journalists in our central London Offices, and a competitive salary.


  • To find, commission, write and edit compelling feature-length stories about all aspects of science and technology.
  • This is a job for a creative journalist who can commission, edit and write compelling stories to tight deadlines with the motivation and charisma to inspire others.
  • The successful candidate will have a good science degree.
  • A good track record in journalism.
  • Experience in managing writers, and a track record in editing feature length journalism.
RBI General Benefits Package
  • Pension Scheme
  • 29 Days Holiday
  • Paid Charity Days - 2 days per year
  • Life Insurance (4x salary)
  • Save As You Earn Share Scheme (SAYE)
  • Competitive Salaries
The Company:
With a head office in Sutton (a short 20 minute train journey direct from Victoria or Clapham Junction) and offices in Central London, Birmingham, Manchester and East Grinstead, Reed Business Information has a portfolio of award winning web sites and online services along with more than 100 market leading magazines, directories, direct marketing services, industry conferences and awards covering over 18 markets in the UK, Europe, USA and Asia. Reed Business Information has annual sales of £250 million.

Our online strategy focuses on markets with a need for deep, data driven information services, search and online recruitment. Backed by the resources of parent company Reed Elsevier, RBI's UK wide web based services are blazing a trail for specialist information online. Some of the market leading brands at RBI include, and, New Scientist, Estates Gazette, Computer Weekly and Personnel Today.

Please apply via the RBI website with your CV, covering letter and 3 clips (all in ONE document) by Friday 14th August 2009

Alternatively send you application by email to

Monday, 13 July 2009

Yes we cam!

One of the aims of the ABSW for 2009 is to build up a network of regional groups to increase activity for our members based outside of London.

Ben Valsler, a producer for the Naked Scientists, has been posting on the ABSW-L (our electronic mail list) to see if any fellow ABSW members from Cambridge are interested in meeting.

If you're in the area and would like to be involved, get on the Google Groups discussion forum (from where the ABSW-L emails are generated) or email Ben directly (

Members in the environs of Brighton recently enjoyed a lunchtime trip to the pub - get in touch with Michael Kenward if you're interested in any future outings there.

If you're not in Cambridge or Brighton, don't despair - why not start up a group of your own? Email the list to see who's interested (or contact the regional groups co-ordinator) and you could be part of making the ABSW an important, useful and fun association for all members, wherever you're based.

Tuesday, 7 July 2009

Twitter tips for the timid

Confused by all this Twitter-talk? What the heck is a hashtag? And how do I get started? Wonder no more. Jo Brodie has written this beginners guide.

The basic tips

How to follow a topic or conversation on Twitter without having a Twitter account

1. The easiest method is to go to and type in a relevant keyword (e.g. #wcsj) press enter and see the results. That will look like this.

As new tweets are posted with your keyword you will need to press the refresh button (i.e. reload the page) to see them too.

2. The second easiest method is to go to Monitter or Twitterfall (I prefer this one) and type in a word there and watch the tweets unfurl in real time - i.e. they auto-refresh.

I've found Monitter to slow down my laptop quite a bit, Twitterfall less so.

3. If the topic is very popular (e.g. anything to do with Michael Jackson last week) it will be a 'trending topic' - i.e. in the top ten of popular tags. You can then watch it unfold in real time over at What The Hashtag and there's also the opportunity to ‘harvest’ a transcript of all the tweets to read when convenient.

That looks like this .

The "View transcript" link is below the bar chart which is showing the number of tweets over a number of days.

If it's not trending and not appearing at wthashtag you can add it yourself - but you will need to sign up for an account. The people behind wthashtag helpfully created the #wcsj page for me because I didn't have an account at the time. I'd only learned about it the week before at Sci Comm Conference - there seems to be a very short lag time these days between hearing about a tool and then using it!

3a. What’s a hashtag?

It’s very similar to tagging or keywording (e.g. as used in Flickr to help people find things when searching). The # symbol adds a 'flag' to a word increasing its signal against the noise of every other tweeted word. It also makes it appear as an active link in the search results page at You can search for a word without putting a hash in front of it though, it's not essential for most things.

4. Receive tweets by email

Tweetlater (you need to register) is a free service which will email you the results of a Twitter search for a particular topic - another way of catching up with a lot of tweets on a topic.

N.B. The information in the rest of the post assumes a Twitter account - visit and sign up.


The middling to advanced tips

1. Ten Brutal Twitter tips from David Bradley - useful overview

2. Tweeting in 140 characters, shortening links

Each twitter post of 140 characters is a 'tweet' and the only way to include most web links is to shorten them otherwise they won't fit. Twitter does this automatically but to get the most info in your tweet, as you’re writing it, it's best to pre-shorten your URL so you can see how many spare characters will remain.

URL shortening services include Tinyurl,, and - and let you track the number of times your link is clicked on, which may be useful information.

3. The @ symbol, "@replies"

In front of anyone's name (with no space) does two things (i) turns the name into an active link that can be clicked on taking you to their Twitter profile and (ii) sends a copy of the tweet to them - although they go straight to the person they are also public and others can find them, so do not use @reply for private messages, see DM below (though it's probably best not to use Twitter for private messages).

You can read messages sent to you by clicking on the @jobrodie (your name here) link in the right hand side of the main page, once you have an account.

4. Retweeting someone else's post (RT)

RT (retweet) in front of a post means that you are reposting someone else's Tweet.

Here's one I tweeted earlier...

" RT @JRBtrip RT @TechCrunch Tweetraising: the potential for charities on Twitter "
This means that I'm retweeting @JRBtrip's post, he himself was retweeting @Techcrunch. My retweeting of this, using their @names means that both people will receive a copy of my message - i.e. they'll know that I've retweeted them - and also acknowledges the source.

N.B. There needs to be a space before the @ otherwise the name won't resolve to an active link.

5. Hat tip

Another way to acknowledge someone is to use h/t or ht to acknowledge that they were the originator of an idea, for example - here's me acknowledging that @SciCommConf and @marilyneb told me about the wthashtag (what the hashtag) website. It’s not done that often to be honest, but if you see the phrase that’s what it means.
"Not enough characters left in last tweet to h/t @SciCommConf & @marilyneb for highlighting @wthashtag - #wcsj transcript "
6. Direct Messages (DM or d)

Typing d jobrodie sends a private message to me but it will only work if I am following you (if I'm not following you it would have to be @jobrodie). You can also send direct messages through the Direct Messages link on Twitter.

7. Following posts / conversations in real time with a Twitter account

Tweetdeck is excellent for this, you can download it from

Tweetdeck is a third-party application for accessing Twitter (so instead of accessing it via the Twitter website in a browser, you can read Twitter via a different programme on your computer)

Tweetdeck presents you with basic columns (all the tweets of everyone you're following, a column of tweets sent to you, a column of private messages plus any columns you care to add e.g. a search for #wcsj).

You need to grant Tweetdeck access to your Twitter account for it to work - I've not had any problems with this particular service but have only used it on iPhone.

Some additional suggestions

1. Using Twitter on a mobile phone

Twitter's easy to use on a computer / laptop but there are mobile phone applications such as Twitterfon, Tweetie as well as Tweetdeck (for iPhone) that mean you can read or post tweets (might be a link to a blog post for example) while on the move. Many people at #wcsj were using phones to 'live blog' the conference.

2. A new account needs a bit of time to get going

It takes time to get the hang of Twitter but a little bit longer to build up a network. Lots of people sign up and then can't see the point of it. It's a bit like moving to a new neighbourhood and getting to know the locals - it's something you cultivate.

It really helps if you fill in the bio section, add a link to your website (or blog) and a photo. Then people know who you are.

3. Following people and being followed

Anyone can follow anyone else, unless they've restricted their "Twitter stream" by locking it - in which case you need to request permission to follow them. People are less likely to follow you if there's no information in your bio. In my case I'm likely to block you from following me if I can't see who you are. It's just difficult to engage with people if they're anonymous - and Twitter is meant to be a tool for social networking ;)

You can find people to follow by (a) searching for their name or knowing their Twitter account URL and clicking on the 'Follow' button, (b) by searching for keywords and following the people writing the most interesting posts about them, (c) if you've found someone to follow see who else they are following and who else is following them - some of those people might have similar interests to you.

4. Attention conference organisers

Please choose a hashtag that's simple and brief to type when tweeting from a mobile phone. #wcsj is pretty much perfect - short, letters only (numbers are on another screen on iPhones) and gives you more characters to type a message in - also it's very natural ('organic'!) and reflects what people were using already in referring to the conference. To be honest #scc2009 wouldn't have been my first choice for the sci com conference but it doesn't matter much when you're using a laptop of course.

Many conferences use Twitter to create a bit of a buzz around the event and draw people in, some conferences might want to set ground rules about what sessions can be covered - I expect people may well ignore this but sometimes it mightn't be appropriate to live blog things, I suppose.

5. Blog owners ... and possibly newspaper (online versions) people (?)

If you want to make it easy for people to share a post and you want to maintain some control over the link, pre-shorten the URL for them (create the post, shorten the URL, then amend the page to add in the new URL - I don't know a simpler way) or use a 'Tweet this' button. This makes it easy for people to share info on your website (promote your work) without having to shorten the URL themselves...

Using a link here lets you collect some referral information about where clicks are coming from - and at this point we are at the limits of my URL tracking knowledge.

In David Bradley's post (mentioned above) one of the first things you see on the page is the 'Tweet this' button - if you read the comments you will see I was asking about this sort of thing when the text was originally posted.

Many sites do this very well with a panel of social media sharing buttons including Facebook, Digg etc. etc.

6. If you wanted to refer to the URL of a particular Tweet...

...look at the bit just below the Tweet - the 'time when it was posted', in this case "half a minute ago" gives the URL for that particular tweet.

" TEDchris Mass-collaboration music vid. Beautiful way to nurture your fanbase: (via@ndjbaker) "
half a minute ago from web

7. Twitter can be just a series of RSS feeds

Some content you create yourself by typing it, some can be pushed from another source – e.g. I have an automated feed set up to collect any newly registered clinical trials about diabetes, which is published automatically whenever the database is updated.

Posted on behalf of Jo Brodie

Supreme God-Like Power Can Be Yours

Just to say that as I told the AGM in January, I am not available as Treasurer of ABSW in 2010. Do get in touch if you fancy taking on this interesting and important role.

Monday, 6 July 2009

A call for less science journalism

How could science writing for the public possibly be better? John Rennie, "outgoing" Editor in Chief of Scientific American, must have know that we would raise eyebrows with his comment that one answer to the question might be "maybe there should just be less of it".

He expands on this observation in a Scientific American Podcast, on the "Future of Science Coverage," based on comments he made at the World Conference of Science Journalists in London recently. His line, as reported in the transcript of the podcast, is that "we could all do with a lot fewer of the “what causes/cures cancer this week” story".

Rennie then goes on to dismember the "model of following what defines science news as that 95 percent of the time it is “interesting paper that appears in prestigious journal this week.”" As he says, "we’re all smart enough to know that that has absolutely nothing to do with how science works. That has to do with how publishing works."

The main message from Rennie is that "we have a responsibility as editors to try to rethink what counts as science news".

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.