Northern California Science Writers Association

NCSWA News - May 2013

Tuesday, May 28, 2013 10:39 PM | Corinna Wu (Administrator)

NCSWA's Coming Attraction:

Summer event: Behind the scenes at the Exploratorium 

More information and date coming soon

Miss the April dinner? Read about it here:

Geophysicist Mark Zoback of Stanford University spoke to NCSWA members at the Thirsty Bear pub in San Francisco about fracking, or hydraulic fracturing, and whether it can be done in an environmentally responsible way. Zoback, who has studied the geophysics of shale gas and oil production for 30 years, said the key to protecting the environment is to ensure proper well construction. The risk of contaminating drinking water is low in North America, he said, because shale rock lies about one mile below the ground surface, while water aquifers are much closer to the surface. Zoback emphasized, however, that we need strong laws and regulations to ensure responsible engineering and construction. An article on Zoback’s talk was written by NCSWA attendee Laura Poppick and appears on the website of the American Geophysical Union.

Coming Awards, Deadlines and Training:

May 31 is the deadline to enter the Renewable Natural Resources Foundation’s contest for environmental journalism. The award recognizes work by an individual, group, or organization for print and other media that furthers the dissemination of accurate and scientifically-based information on the environment. More information is available at the RNRF website.

July 1 is the deadline to apply for the Journalists in Aging Fellowship, sponsored by New America Media in collaboration with the Gerontological Society of America. A total of 17 journalists will be selected from both the ethnic news media and general audience press, who will receive a $1,500 stipend and expense-paid trip to GSA’s annual meeting in New Orleans in November. Details and application are available on the GSA website.

July 2 is the entry deadline for the Ev Clark/Seth Payne Award for Young Journalists sponsored by the National Association of Science Writers and the Clark/Payne Fund. The 2013 award will be given for excellence in science writing published in nontechnical, print or online journalism publications for the year ending June 29, 2013. Applicants must be age 30 or younger.  Eligible topics include writing in biological, physical, environmental, computer, and space sciences, along with technology, mathematics, health, and science policy.  The winner will receive $1,000 plus expenses to attend the annual meeting of the National Association of Science Writers and the New Horizons briefing of the Council for the Advancement of Science Writing (CASW) in October.

August 1 is the entry deadline for the 2013 AAAS Kavli Science Journalism Awards for the year July 1, 2012, through June 30, 2013. Awards will be chosen for the categories of large newspapers, small newspapers, magazines, online (including podcasts and blogs), radio and television (spot news/feature and in-depth). The category for children’s science news is open to journalists worldwide across all media. Each category winner receives $3,000 at the annual AAAS meeting, with AAAS covering travel and lodging expenses. For more information, visit the AAAS site.

NCSWA About Town

It was standing room only at San Francisco’s Bazaar Café for the Bay Area launch of The Science Writers' Handbook, the new book that includes chapters by NCSWA members Monya Baker, Doug Fox, Liza Gross, Thomas Hayden (who also co-edited the book) and Robin Mejia. What did you miss? Monya ran backwards up an escalator to land her first assignment with The Economist. Doug slept with his laptop in Antarctica to make sure it would boot up. Liza's chapter questions the need for life-work balance -- and she's proving her point by working at PLoS Biology and freelancing. Tom kidded that he loves to teach writing because now he doesn't have to write, and Robin is getting a PhD so she'll be the best of both worlds. The May 3rd event was part of San Francisco's “Ask a Scientist” series.

Nurith Amitai is working as a freelance science writer for the open science initiative Cancer Commons, writing the Lung Cancer Dispatch (a newsfeed for patients and caregivers). Nurith also wrote an article for the Oxbridge Biotech Roundtable Review’s science writing competition that will be featured on the Roundtable Review website.

Jascha Hoffman is writing an arts and events column for the Tuesday science section of the New York Times, called “Scan.”

Jennifer Huber, a research scientist at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, taught a science writing course for UC Berkeley Extension’s Professional Writing Certificate Program this spring. She is also covering the health beat for KQED Science and writing features for UCB College of Engineering.

Rob Irion, director of the UC Santa Cruz science writing program, wrote the cover story for the July 2013 issue of National Geographic. The article, "It All Began in Chaos," describes the solar system's raucous youth, from comets born when the solar system turned itself inside out to a violent pummeling of Earth and the moon hundreds of millions later when the giant planets shifted their orbits. This is Rob's third piece for the magazine but his first cover story. He'll do a public reading and Q&A at Bookshop Santa Cruz, 1520 Pacific Ave., at 7:30 pm on Wednesday, July 10.

Paul Kleyman, editor of the ethnic elders newsbeat at New America Media, is about to reach a milestone – the 400th article posted on NAM’s elders website since he helped start it a little more than four years ago. Kleyman also announced that the MetLife Foundation has approved a $100,000 grant for the fourth year of the Journalists in Aging Fellowships, which is a collaboration with the Gerontological Society of America. NAM also received a grant from the California Health Care Foundation for a journalism mini-fellowship on palliative care for ethnic media reporters around the state.

Lisa Krieger’s nine-part “Cost of Dying” series in the San Jose Mercury News, which described the emotional, physical, and financial cost of end-of-life care, won three first-place journalism awards this spring:  for multimedia storytelling in the Best of the West competition, for consumer/feature articles in the Association of Health Care Journalists contest, and for explanatory journalism in the Society of Professional Journalists competition for Northern California. The series has been reprinted as a special section and can be found online on the Mercury News website.

Robin Meadows has joined NASW's freelance committee, so let her know if you have any requests! You can reach her at

Paul Preuss, a science writer in the communications department at Berkeley Lab for 16 years, will be retiring July 1. “There was so much news out of here it was hard to keep up,” he writes. “When I arrived, I wrote stories about the curious fact that the universe seemed to be expanding at an accelerating rate, and 14 years later ended up orchestrating press events for Saul Perlmutter’s 2011 Nobel Prize.” Before joining the lab he was a filmmaker, novelist, and freelance writer – “all pursuits I look forward to taking up again,” he says.

Kathleen Wong received the 2013 Harold Gilliam Award for Excellence in Environmental Reporting from The Bay Institute on April 11, for her 2011 book, Natural History of San Francisco Bay. She is also coeditor of another book, The Environmental Legacy of the UC Natural Reserve System, published this month by UC Press.

Corinna Wu became an associate editor at Chemical & Engineering News in April. She edits online research news from freelancers and also helps edit a column in the weekly magazine.

New Members

Steven Bedard of San Francisco, digital producer for WGBH/NOVA (

Charlotte Capaldo of UC Berkeley

Diana Paula Hallare, freelance writer and college lecturer (@Cytoleadership)

Erica Klarreich of Berkeley, mathematics and science journalist whose work has appeared in Nature, New Scientist, American Scientist, Science News and

Mary Lee MacKichan of Palo Alto, cancer biologist who is striking out on her own to become a science consultant and writer

Carolyn McMillan, former newspaper reporter now manager of content strategy at the UC Office of the President

Sarah Phelan of Alameda, UC Berkeley student

Fanjini Raghunath of Mountain View, reporter for the Palo Alto Weekly

Joshua Roebke of San Francisco, physicist and author who currently is a visiting scholar in the history of science at UC Berkeley, where he is writing a book on the history of 20th century particle physics

Annalisa VanHook of Oakland, former post-doc and now web editor of Science Signaling, a publication of the American Association for the Advancement of Science

Nicholas Weiler of San Francisco, a graduate student in neuroscience at Stanford University who runs a science writing group called NeuWrite-West

We also welcome back these returning members:

Tom Abate of San Leandro, a former newspaper reporter now reporting and editing for the San Leandro Patch

Andrew Fraknoi of Los Altos Hills, chair of the astronomy department at Foothill College, prolific author and long-time science educator

Anne Rosenthal of Palo Alto, a science writer for SF Nature

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