Meet the NASW board candidates

For details on your voting options, visit nasw.org/2018elections.

President: Siri Carpenter (freelance and The Open Notebook)

As president, I will continue to build NASW’s support for greater inclusivity in the organization and in the field, strengthen communications with members, and support strong critical analysis and ethical decision making in science writing. Since joining NASW in 1998, I’ve served on numerous committees, organized ScienceWriters workshops, and founded or co-founded several small tribes of journalists. I have a Ph.D. in psychology from Yale University and got my start in science writing through a AAAS Mass Media Fellowship at the Richmond Times-Dispatch followed by an internship at Science News. Since 2002, I’ve freelanced for many different magazines and newspapers, and was features editor at Discover. I currently do contract editing for Science News for Students and edit The Open Notebook, the nonprofit website for science journalists that I co-founded in 2010.

Vice president: Jill Adams (freelance)

The primary benefit of NASW membership is sharing stories and strategies for success with other professional science writers at the annual conferences, regional meetings, and online. An enormous amount of volunteer effort goes into making our meetings and online resources useful for members, and yet, there is always room for improvement. I will work to continue efforts to promote diversity in our profession and to make our community more welcoming to science writers of all colors, creeds, and genders. I am a freelance writer and editor, with regular gigs at the Washington Post and HealthNewsReview.org. I’ve worked on a variety of NASW committees, including freelance, finance, governance, and program. I’m currently a member of the information access committee and the working group on conflict of interest. I’ve served on the NASW board for three terms, and I welcome the chance to serve as the organization’s vice president.

Treasurer: Alexandra Witze (freelance)

I’ve had the pleasure of working as NASW treasurer for the past year and would like to continue serving the organization’s members in that role. I’m a careful steward of fiscal matters, both personally and professionally, and am committed to ensuring that NASW remains in strong financial shape. With the finance committee I’ve worked to balance the flow of income against expenditures that benefit the membership at large, such as conferences, idea grants, and fellowship programs. If elected, I will continue to watch over the organization’s finances and, in collaboration with the finance committee and the executive director, undertake a budget-forecasting exercise so that we can update NASW’s long-term financial goals.

Secretary: Nsikan Akpan (PBS NewsHour)

During my first term on the NASW board, I served as a founding co-chair of the governance committee, which offered the chance to dig into the mechanics of our organization. NASW is a wonderful community, as exhibited by the camaraderie and the welcoming spirit among our members at the World Conference of Science Journalists. Yet all good things desire improvement, which is why the governance committee prioritized the adoption of the code of conduct policy last summer. We remain committed to conducting due diligence on our inclusion policies and other governance practices. As a board officer, I will continue these pursuits as well as my contributions to the diversity committee. I am a science producer for PBS NewsHour. My background includes a Ph.D. in pathobiology, and I am an alum of U.C. Santa Cruz science communication program. Go Banana Slugs!

Member-at-Large candidates

Jennifer Cox (North Carolina State University)

I am running for the board because I believe NASW is an enriching and inclusive organization that provides a wide perspective on science communication and a strong sense of community. If selected, I will work to help all members find the same support that I have found within NASW. I am a seasoned PIO and director of communication for N.C. State University’s College of Engineering. I have served on the program committee for six years and on a subcommittee for revamping NASW’s communications. In 2016-17, I served as chair of the communications committee for the 10th World Conference of Science Journalists and currently serve on the WCSJ2019 communications committee. Last year, I was honored to receive the Diane McGurgan Service Award. I also helped organize the ScienceWriters2012 conference and a 2016 workshop on climate change for regional journalists, funded by a Peggy Girshman Idea Grant. These opportunities have enhanced my NASW experience, and I hope, enhanced the experiences of other members as well.

Jennifer Cutraro (Science Storytellers and freelance)

When I walked into my first ScienceWriters meeting in 2002 – before I even knew what my career would look like — I knew I’d found my professional home. Today, I’m happy to see that home adapting to better reflect the needs of its membership. I recently served on the committee for membership identity and values, which aspires to make NASW inclusive of science writers of all stripes. I will bring to the board a unique perspective on the wide variety of ways people write and otherwise communicate about science today. My own experience represents that diversity: I’ve been a science textbook editor, university PIO, freelance journalist, PBS KIDS project director, and now, the founder of Science Storytellers, a program that marries science journalism with engagement. I will also continue to advocate for those new to the profession as a member of the education committee and former director of the NASW Internship Fair, for which I received the Diane McGurgan Service Award in 2010.

Lila Guterman (Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute)

In 20 years, I’ve done just about everything in science writing and editing: reported, won national awards, and survived a layoff at a newspaper (The Chronicle of Higher Education); freelanced full time; edited at Science News and Chemical & Engineering News; spent a year at MIT as a Knight Fellow; and worked for a government contractor. I now manage a small team in communications at PCORI, a nonprofit research funder. With my varied experience, I can empathize with science writers in many areas of work, and I hope to represent a wide range of interests. I’d specifically like to make PIOs’ voices and interests more central to NASW while respecting journalists’ independence. I’m also dedicated (you might say addicted) to social media as a means of building community, and I hope to help NASW build its social media presence. I’m a U.C. Santa Cruz grad, an NASW member since 1997, and a member of a new NASW working group exploring conflict of interest. 

Kathryn Jepsen (Symmetry)

I joined the board after a special election last year. Since then, I’ve put my decade of experience in communication for two U.S. national laboratories to work for NASW. I have collaborated with NASW Executive Director Tinsley Davis, Cybrarian Russ Clemings, NASW Vice President Siri Carpenter, members of the internet committee, and a design firm hired to complete a redesign of the NASW website, a project I initiated three years ago. I took the lead on an effort to create a communications plan for NASW and recommend a path forward in the transition to a new ScienceWriters magazine editor. As the editor in chief of institutional publication Symmetry magazine, I volunteered to serve as one of three final judges for the important new excellence in institutional writing award. I would be honored to continue serving the science writing community as a part of the NASW board.

Ben Young Landis (cr8xt)

Science writers do great service to society. We’re the storytellers and town criers who give voice to knowledge, empowering citizens and leaders to make decisions and forecasts. We’re as diverse as the communities we serve, bringing individual cultures and contexts to our respective roles: journalist, PIO, outreach educator, policy adviser, communication trainer, or other essential niche. As I approach a decade of NASW membership, I’m fortunate to have worked the gamut of these roles, understanding the standards and demands of each. In founding the regional group CapSciComm, I’ve experienced the organizational challenges of serving varied member needs, from professionals to students. With my stops in government, I’m also attuned to the nuances of diplomacy and foresight in policy setting. And as my career pivots towards strategy and design — #WCSJ2017 marketing being a recent example — I know the value of identity and purpose. I believe we can invigorate our camaraderie, strengthen membership and mentorship, and elevate our national profile. It would be my honor to help.

Seth Mnookin (MIT and freelance)

Science writing is in a period of unprecedented change. Over the past four years, my work with the NASW board has focused on issues of fairness involving everything from sexual harassment to freelancer pay and benefits. I’ve also worked to forestall a crisis within NASW by looking for ways to more fully integrate all of our members without alienating core constituencies. My background — as a blogger, staff writer, editor, full-time freelancer, author, academic, director of a science writing program, and mentor to the next generation of science writers — gives me the ability to tackle the issues facing our industry from a range of perspectives. I would like to use one last term on the board to ensure we’re on firm footing by strengthening communication between the board and NASW members while also examining more deeply the ethical challenges many of us face as a result of supporting ourselves through multiple revenue streams.

Michael E. Newman (NIST and freelance)

The blending of diverse personalities, talents, and careers is a key reason why NASW is a vibrant, dynamic organization and why I want the honor and responsibility of serving you on its board. With 40 years as a science communicator — in public affairs, journalism, broadcast/online media, and freelancing — I can provide perspective, insight, and a unifying voice for all of NASW’s professional tracks. I also offer a wealth of experience from years of leadership and service for NASW. Since 2014, I have ardently worked for more recognition and respect for PIOs as PIO Committee co-chair, including helping establish NASW’s new institutional writing award. On the program committee, I helped plan seven NASW annual conferences. In 2010, I created the Sci-Buddy mentoring program to match veteran SciWri conference attendees with first-timers and have coordinated it at each meeting since. NASW recognized its success by honoring me with the 2013 McGurgan Award. I am currently senior communications officer at the National Institute of Standards and Technology, as well as a freelance writer/editor.

Kendall Powell (freelance)

I am running for the NASW board to continue and expand my service toward improving the professional lives of our members, especially freelancers of all stripes. Based near Denver, I’ve been an NASW member and freelancer for 15 years, I write for Nature, Mosaic, and Knowable among other publications. In 2013, I was a project manager and contributor to The Science Writers’ Handbook. I’ve served as co-chair for the freelance committee for the past five years and on the board for the past two. I helped develop several member resources (Words’ Worth, Compensation Survey, Fair Pay Tip Sheet) and I have a passion for connecting writers. As a current board member, I am working to improve NASW communications and on proposals that address low pay rates or non-payment grievances, including the open letter to Nautilus regarding non-payment of NASW members and potential ways of partnering with the National Writers Union.  I’m an advocate for the freedom that comes with freelancing and that freelancing should never mean “for free.”

Sandeep Ravindran (freelance)

I’m running for NASW’s board to help provide members with more avenues for professional development and mentorship and find ways to make our organization more diverse and inclusive. I studied science communication at U.C. Santa Cruz, and worked for two years as a science writer for PNAS before becoming a freelancer. I’ve written for a variety of publications including Smithsonian, Wired, The Scientist, and NationalGeographic.com. As part of the NASW freelance committee I helped organize Power Pitch and Pitch Slam events at NASW meetings and the World Conference of Science Journalists, and I’m keen to provide more such opportunities for NASW members. I’d also like to provide more mentorship and support to newcomers to our field, particularly with the aim of increasing diversity and giving voice to underrepresented perspectives. I am eager to make a more meaningful contribution to NASW, and would welcome the opportunity to serve on the board.

Hillary Rosner (freelance)

As one of the two longest-serving members running for re-election, I am proud of the work the board has done to move NASW forward over my six-year tenure. I am confident the next board will be composed of enthusiastic individuals committed to NASW’s future. But while I am inspired by and grateful for the new energy, I am also acutely aware of the importance of institutional memory. I am running for one final term to serve that role. As NASW continues to forge its path through the shifting landscape of science writing, it’s crucial that we recall and learn from our own recent organizational history. I have worked on many NASW initiatives and currently serve on the idea grants committee and the newly formed conflict of interest working group. I’m a freelance journalist and editor specializing in long-form stories about the environment, and will be a 2018-19 Scripps Fellow in Environmental Journalism.

Jill Sakai (freelance)

After a decade as a university research writer and public information officer, I am now a full-time freelance science and medical writer and editor in Madison, Wisc. Since joining NASW in 2006, I have served on the program and awards committees, previously co-chaired the PIO committee, and am in my second term on the board. I am especially pleased to have coordinated the team effort to establish the new Excellence in Institutional Writing award. As part of the ad hoc committee on constitutional review, I evaluated possible impacts of a proposed change to the organization’s leadership model; I then co-chaired the ad hoc committee on membership identity and values to address the interests and needs of NASW’s varied membership. My continuing priority for NASW is to strengthen the science writing community through inclusivity and diversity of the organization and its programs in support of science writers of all backgrounds.

Matt Shipman (North Carolina State University)

I’m the research communications lead at North Carolina State University and was previously an environmental policy reporter.  I am a contributor to HealthNewsReview.org and the author of The Handbook for Science Public Information Officers. I think it’s important for NASW to acknowledge the clear differences between journalism and working as a public information officer, as well as the shared skills each job requires and common areas of interest for all science writers. Open and respectful discussions between all NASW members will be a key component in ensuring that the organization continues to provide training and resources to help science writers in all fields thrive in a continually evolving media marketplace. 

Bia Vianna (Johns Hopkins Medicine)

I’m a Brazilian molecular biologist who fell in love with science communication. Now, I’m a communication specialist for Johns Hopkins Medicine and finishing my Ph.D. in science communication at George Mason University. Every day, I help doctors and scientists share their exciting research with journalists and the public – from how personalized virtual hearts can help treat irregular heartbeats, to developing tiny probes that snap pictures of tissues inside the body in real time. I mentor summer interns, and I also plan Hopkins’ annual Science Writers Boot Camp, where I’ve gotten to know many of you. My passion for science and commitment to public engagement have inspired me to take on a larger role within NASW. I feel that journalists and public information officers are both important members of our community. We should strive to build and improve our collegiality and serve our common needs for professional support. By understanding each other’s needs and working together, science writers can make a great difference in the quality of science news.

Cassandra Willyard (freelance)

I am running for the NASW board to help find new ways for the association to enrich the lives of its members, especially freelancers. NASW has played an invaluable role in shaping my career over the past 15 years, and I would welcome the opportunity to give back. I am a freelance journalist based in Madison, Wisc. I blog for The Last Word On Nothing and write for Nature, Discover, Popular Science, Audubon, and many other outlets. I organized a panel on fact-checking for the ScienceWriters2015 meeting, and I recently joined NASW’s working group on conflict of interest. Many freelancers (myself included) make a living by taking on a variety of paid work both in and outside of journalism. I hope this group can create greater clarity and guidance regarding conflicts of interest. I am also eager to see NASW provide early- and mid-career writers with more training opportunities. Publications increasingly want us to be jacks-of-all-trades (writers, fact-checkers, photographers, etc.) yet it can be difficult to acquire these skills without training. 

Sarah Zielinski (Science News for Students)

I am the managing editor of Science News for Students and have been an NASW member for most of my 14 years as a science journalist. NASW is an organization that is trying to serve many audiences: journalists, writers, bloggers, editors, PIOs, staffers, freelancers, and plenty of others who don’t fit into neat categories. We all communicate science, but in so many different ways. Those differences don’t have to be a source of conflict. We just need to find common ground. That’s why last year, at the World Conference of Science Journalists in San Francisco, I organized a meet-and-greet for science writers, editors, and PIOs called the Unofficial Pop-Up Pitch Slam. This year, the event becomes official (now named Science Writer For Hire), but it’s not enough. I want to find new ways of serving the science writing community and drawing people from all these various specializations together, and so I am seeking a place on the NASW Board.