As promised earlier this fall, I’m following up on a science communication course offered at the University of Washington. At the time, I had just begun the class, but now that I’ve completed it, I thought I’d give a little synopsis. OCEAN 506 Writing About Science and Technology for General Audiences is taught by Deborah Illman, during autumn quarter. It’s the first class in a three part series, but any class can be taken alone or out of sequence.
The Writing about S&T for General Audiences class was a fun introduction to science news writing. The course included discussions on the two cultures of journalists and scientists, and how a better understanding between the two is possible. We also discussed some of Dr. Illman’s pet peeves of science journalism including inaccuracy and absence of evidence issues. Dr. Illman, who is editor of the journal Northwest Science & Technology News, introduced her students to two additional professional science writers during the course, which was a great way for students to ask about career issues. In addition to writing press releases, and news briefs, the main focus of the class was the news article. Each student investigated a recent science development by interviewing several sources including the primary scientist and an outside source to write a short article about his or her topic. The exercise felt like a real world experience as a journalist and was a great way to gain understanding of the challenge of reporting accurate AND accessible science. I highly recommend the class.
This quarter Dr. Illman is offering a different take on science communication–Science and Technology Feature Writing. In addition to crafting a longer science feature article, her syllabus also includes issues of reporting scientific uncertainty and how to write a query letter to an editor for anyone interested in freelance writing.