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Science writers are in the business of communicating real, worthwhile, exciting science — working either as science journalists or public information officers. It's not about the job title; it's about communicating new scientific discoveries to the intended audience.

It all comes down to the pitch. Whether a story idea lives or dies depends on the writer's ability to pitch it to an editor quickly, clearly, and with pizzazz. At the lively "Pitch Slam" session, writers queued up to pitch their ideas to a high-powered panel of editors, who dissected each pitch like doctors in an operating room theater, providing valuable lessons on the anatomy of a successful pitch for all who attended.

"Podcasting is about content," Ivan Semeniuk told the crowd of roughly 100 assembled for the Podcasting 101 session at the 2006 NASW Conference. "But I want to add one more layer to that: it's about identity." Semenuik, the host and producer of New Scientist's "Sci-Pod," and the four other panelists returned repeatedly to the themes of creating identity and grappling with technology as they explained the fundamentals of podcasting — from getting good sound quality for phone-recorded interviews to marketing techniques for recruiting more listeners.

During the first Clinical Trials Basic Training session an Food and Drug Administration official and an academic explained the basic standards and issues involved in properly designing a human clinical trial. The goal was to teach reporters enough about the process to adequately analyze trial data and avoid inaccurate coverage of results. To that end, the speakers pointed out some specific questions for reporters to ask and information to request and scrutinize to properly assess trial results.

Those interested in self-publishing have many options: launching their own small publishing company; contracting with an established small publisher or a large online operation; using single copy, print-on-demand (POD) technology; or simply publishing their work online as an e-book. Despite the choices, though, can self-publishing be satisfying and lucrative, a reasonable alternative for professional writers?

Food and good conversation wrapped up the National Association of Science Writers' 2006 annual meeting in Baltimore, Maryland, and kicked off the annual New Horizons meeting of the Council for the Advancement of Science Writing. At the luncheon in the Tremont Grand Hotel, conference participants jockeyed for seats at 31 tables, each of which featured a local scientist discussing his or her current research.