Since its inception in 2010, more than $350,000 has been awarded by NASW's Idea Grants program for projects that benefit science writing and its practitioners. Read more to see a list of all the awardees and their exciting science writing projects. Visit www.nasw.org/ideagrants2014 for the latest call for proposals due November 4, 2014.
Almost 50 years after the Kerner Commission concluded that one cause of urban unrest was the lack of racial diversity in American newsrooms, Alex T. Williams writes that not much has changed: "Comparing the 2013 job placement rates, graduating minorities that specialized in print were 17 percentage points less likely to find a full-time job than non-minorities; minorities specializing in broadcasting were 17 percentage points less likely to find a full-time job."
The real solution to writer's block might lie in the same confusion and chaos that gives rise to it, Christie Aschwanden writes in a discussion of a new book by University of Central Florida computer scientist Kenneth Stanley: "If you’re trying to create something new, an objective can stand in your way. Seeking novelty instead of objectives is risky — not every interesting thread will pay off — but just like with stocks, the potential payoffs are higher."
Rose Eveleth describes what it's like to be a victim of "doxxing," the public posting of private data for purposes of harassment: "Your phone is full of vile text messages and rings continuously. Your e-mail is full of threatening messages and photographs of dead bodies. Twitter and Facebook — and other ways you might communicate with friends and family not physically present — are clogged with threats." Also: tips on how to prevent doxxing and what to do if it happens.
Tabitha M. Powledge reviews coverage of two new papers from competing labs on the First Americans migration, one paper in Nature and the other in Science: "In fact, although you wouldn’t know it from the media, which loves a fight, the papers are in broad agreement about the data and even about its implications for theories of migration." Also, what motivated Stephen Hawking to give his endorsement to Yuri Milner’s $100 million project to search for alien life?
What happens when you cross a beloved and compelling theory, a bevy of intensely competitive experiments on a highly technical subject, with a top-secret press conference, tight deadlines, and the desire to tell an exciting story? Perhaps you get the ascent and fall of BICEP2.
Clarence Darrow had some help from reporters for a fledgling science news service in his defense of John Thomas Scopes, who was on trial for teaching evolution. Kimbra Cutlip writes: "Watson Davis took charge of lining up expert witnesses for the defense. On his train ride from Washington to Dayton, he telegraphed a list of scientists to Darrow and his defense team instructing them to invite the scientists to testify. He also took it upon himself to send the invitations."