$15,000 in Idea Grant funding awarded

Four projects focused on improving craft and diversity in science writing were selected to receive Peggy Girshman Idea Grants. This year, the NASW Grants Committee received 17 proposals. The committee granted a total of $15,000 to four groups or individuals, using funds from NASW’s Authors Coalition of America distributions.

Shayla Love of Vice Media will receive $5,700 to host a workshop focused on the ways culture and diversity can influence the diagnosis and treatment of health conditions. For the workshop, Love will convene writers and scientists to discuss how bringing diversity into research can expand our understanding of human health and disease. Topics may include the importance of gender diversity in research or the limitations of studies based on homogeneous genetic samples.

Love, a senior staff writer at VICE, said the goal of the workshop is to “provide story ideas and contacts to science writers so that they can cover these topics in the future, and also plant the seed in their minds of how cultural, racial, or diverse perspectives aren’t being included in health stories that they’re writing.” Some of the grant money will be used to support scholarships for writers who demonstrate financial need to attend the workshop in person. The lectures will be recorded and posted online, along with a Cultural Health Journalism Guidebook.

The Appalachian Science Communicators (AppSciComm), led by Arvind Suresh of the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center (UPMC), will receive $4,700 to organize an Appalachian regional science workshop in Pittsburgh for science writers and communicators. The one-day workshop will include panels on improving science writing and professionals skills, as well as research-orientated sessions on scientific research that is particularly relevant to the Appalachian region.

The AppSciComm group recently formed to provide professional development opportunities and mentorship to science writers and communicators who live and work in Pennsylvania, Ohio, West Virginia, and other states in the Appalachian region. The grantees hope that this workshop will “catalyze the group’s growth and participation by giving us an opportunity to meet each other, discuss issues relevant to our membership, and attract new members.” The grant money will support scholarships for some attendees, among other logistical costs. Following the event, session summaries and videos will be made available on the AppSciComm and NASW websites.

Freelance science journalists Wudan Yan and Jenni Gritters will receive $3,000 to develop a podcast about building a business as a freelance writer. The grant will support the first season of the Writer’s Co-op, a podcast that aims to provide science writers and other listeners with professional development skills specific to the freelance life. The podcast, hosted by two veteran science and health writers, will address financial and professional development concerns many freelancers face in their careers.

Topics will include finding clients, time management, diversifying income streams, balancing assignments, creating a budget, and negotiating higher pay. “We will bring in experts when needed to support these topics, and are hopeful that the take-aways from each episode will give freelancers and aspiring freelancers tools they can use immediately,” Yan and Gritters wrote.

The DC Science Writers Association (DCSWA) will receive $1,600 to develop a hands-on video course specifically for science journalists and communicators and led by journalists Tien Nguyen and Helen Thompson. The three-week course will cover fundamental aspects of video production – from the basics of writing to editing for video – as applied to science communication. Attendees will learn essential elements of video production and have time for hands-on practice. Through the course, the organizers plan to provide science news outlets and press officers with skills “to convey complex topics in a short timeframe, working with limited budgets and footage provided by researchers.”

NASW’s Idea Grant program is named in honor of the late Peggy Girshman, who passed away in 2016. Girshman, a founding member of the Grants Committee, was a longtime mentor and advocate for science writers. Her distinguished career included positions at several media organizations, including NPR, several broadcast organizations, and Kaiser Health News, which she helped co-found.

Since 2010, the National Association of Science Writers has funded projects totaling more than $475,000 to benefit science writers and communicators. Applications for grants, which generally range from $1,000 to $15,000, typically open in October of each year. For more information visit, nasw.org/awards/ideagrants.

February 17, 2020

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