NASW 2012 Election Details and Candidate Statements

Join us on September 4 in Washington, DC. Read on for more information.

It's an election year for the National Association of Science Writers. Our organization is run by an entirely volunteer board made up of four officers and eleven board-members-at-large. This year, we have a candidate for each officer slot and 18 candidates for the board-member-at-large spots. Curious about what's expected of an NASW Board member or how they are nominated? Read this background article.

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Thank you to the volunteers running and special thanks for this terrific slate to the Nominating Committee: Nancy Shute, President and Chair, Karl Bates, Mariette DiChristina, Lee Hotz, Maryn McKenna, and Carl Zimmer. Thank you, too, to our "retiring" board members: Terry Devitt, Dan Ferber, Robin Lloyd, and Adam Rogers. Each will continue to be involved with other NASW and science writing activities, and we are grateful for their many years of service.

You can choose to vote online during the month of August, or at a special meeting in Washington, D.C. on Sept. 4. All members will receive a personalized email voting link in August. Members can also vote in person at the Sept. 4 event, which also includes an end-of-summer social event. Even if you vote online, stop by to socialize with your fellow members.

Details on each voting option and candidate statements are below.

Vote in person and catch up with your colleagues over food and drink

Join us for a Special Meeting of the National Association of Science Writers

We will be holding a Special Meeting and Social later this summer to elect the next board and officers. All members will be able to vote by proxy quickly and easily online, and those in the Washington, D.C., area can opt to show up in person and vote.

The Special Meeting is scheduled for Tuesday, September 4, from 6:30 to 8 p.m. The meeting will take place at the National Press Club and will include drinks and refreshments. We hope that you will take the opportunity to join us and catch up with fellow members in person.

NASW Special Meeting and Social Event
Tuesday, September 4
6:30-8 p.m.
National Press Club Building
529 14th St. NW, 13th Floor
Washington, DC 20045
Directions (including Metro)


Vote online

Check your email: Personalized online ballots will be emailed to all members in early August when polls open. Online polls close Tuesday, September 4. If you vote online and in person, the in person vote will supersede the online vote.

Candidate Statements

Click on the candidate's name for the statement or scroll down to read thru all statements.


Officer Candidates

President: Ron Winslow (Wall Street Journal)

In four years as a NASW officer and board member, I have worked with the board to update our bylaws and procedures, expand initiatives that help members adapt to the dramatic changes in journalism, and broaden our connections with science writers around the world. As treasurer, I worked with an astute Finance Committee to strengthen our budget planning and establish an orderly process for managing the influx of Authors Coalition funds that has enabled a significant expansion of services NASW provides to science writers. I look forward to working with the board and other volunteers as we continue as an organization and as individuals to find ways to thrive amid the economic, technological, and societal forces affecting our profession. And I hope that despite the distractions we can embrace the excitement of pursuing stories on the front lines of new knowledge and the interplay between science and society. I have been a reporter and editor at the Wall Street Journal for 29 years, including more than two decades covering health and medicine. Last year I was awarded the Victor Cohn Prize for Excellence in Medical Science Reporting. I joined NASW in 1990 and also was a founding board member of the Association of Health Care Journalists.

Vice President: Robin Marantz Henig (freelance)

After serving on the NASW board for 12 years (1998-2010), I'm eager to return to the organization as VP. Science writing is at a crossroads, and we need to figure out how journalists can make their mark in a bloggy world. The Grievance Committee work I began with Dan Ferber and Ellen Ruppel Shell is even more urgent now. I'd like to re-establish the committee to provide writers the ammunition and clout they need to avoid problems before they arise. I'd also like to focus on communicating science beyond traditional print and broadcasting by reinstituting the Science Cabaret for the Raleigh meeting, and by building relationships with art-meets-science events already going on around the country, such as festivals, science cafes, and the Imagination Film Festival.

I've been a freelance for more than 30 years, a contributing writer at The New York Times Magazine for the past seven, and I just finished my ninth book "Twentysomething," co-authored with my younger daughter Samantha Henig (the co-authorship was the best part). My previous book, "Pandora's Baby," won NASW's Science in Society Award and ASJA's Best Book Award. In 2009, I received an ASJA Career Achievement Award and a Guggenheim fellowship.

Treasurer: Beryl Lieff Benderly (freelance)

Recent years have been extremely challenging for professional science writers, with employers and clients vanishing and available opportunities often requiring unfamiliar skills. Fortunately, however, this upheaval coincided with NASW’s growing ability to help members cope. Thanks to income from the Authors Coalition, which NASW joined through my efforts in 2002, NASW has developed an expanding range of services, including greatly enhanced market information; travel, career and idea grants; and much more. NASW has also developed an increasingly strategic approach to handling funds. Having served as liaison to the coalition since the beginning, I now hope, as treasurer, to work with our able Finance Committee on doing even better at using our coalition and dues income for members’ benefit. I know NASW’s workings from serving as a board members and secretary and on many committees. Decades of freelancing for a wide range of print and online clients make me keenly aware of the conditions science writers face today. With nine national writing prizes — most recently the IEEE “engineering in society” award. plus a Robert Bosch Stifung fellowship to ESOF2012 in Dublin — plus eight books, hundreds of articles, contributing editor status at Prism, and a monthly column and almost daily blogging on Science magazine’s website, I look forward to helping make NASW an even better information source, support, and advocate for all our members.

Secretary: Deborah Franklin (freelance)

I’m a freelance science writer and editor based in San Francisco, but have lived and covered science and medicine up and down the east and west coasts in print, online, and in public radio. I started out in magazines, first interning at Science News, then working as a staff reporter and/or editor at Science News, Science ‘86, Hippocrates, Health, and Fortune magazines. I’m a contributing editor (writer) at Scientific American, and also have contributed regularly to the New York Times’ personal health column, “The Consumer.” I’ve freelanced feature stories for numerous magazines, including the New York Times Magazine, Discover, and Smithsonian. Since 2006, I’ve spent much of every year working for National Public Radio in Washington, D.C., as a radio correspondent, editor, and blogger on NPR’s Science Desk. As NASW’s membership chair the last two years, I’ve worked hard to find new ways strengthen ties and the sharing of skills and perspective between new and long-time science writers across media and from coast to coast. As NASW secretary, I’ll continue to help talented local science writers connect to national and international networks and audiences, and help make sure any member or regional group with creative energy and a great idea gets the nurturance and support they need to thrive. We’re all in this together.

Member-at-Large Candidates

Jill Adams (freelance)

With an ever-shifting media landscape, science writers must work ever harder to justify what it is we do. I think one of the great benefits of our organization is the opportunity to share stories and strategies for success. If elected to the board, I'd want to shepherd burgeoning efforts at community building within NASW. Many of my closest science writer friends are people I first met at annual meetings, including the members of Scilance, an online group of freelance science writers now working on an NASW grant-supported book about science writing in the new era. I'm inspired by some of the creative regional meetings members have organized, often with grant help from NASW. I'd like to further promote smaller group ventures because I think they're crucial for individuals, but I also think they inspire loyalty to the larger organization. A long-term freelancer, I write about health, medicine, and the environment for the Los Angeles Times, WebMD, Nature, Discover, and Plenty. I've been a member of NASW since 2004 and have organized workshops and served on committees, including the Freelance, Awards, and Annual Meeting committees.

Melissa Lutz Blouin (University of Arkansas)

Science writers must always be learning new things, whether they are writing about the latest research findings or taking on a changing work environment. If elected to the board, I would address this need by working to help NASW grow new and innovative projects for its members through education and financial support of member projects.

After receiving a science communication degree from UC Santa Cruz, I worked in journalism for six years in Arkansas. For the past 14 years, I have worked as director of science and research communications at the University of Arkansas. In addition to my work at the university, I have written freelance pieces for Science Magazine, Science World, and ZooGoer Magazine. My volunteer work with NASW over the past two decades has included working with the Education Committee, co-chairing the newly formed PIO Committee, and serving as a member of the Program Committee, which helps to distribute Author’s Coalition funds to member projects. I have organized workshops at several NASW meetings, and I helped craft language for the NASW constitution. I currently serve as president of the University Research Magazine Association. Through these and other NASW projects, I have demonstrated my ability to work with teams of people with diverse interests and to help them move forward to create positive change.

Bob Finn (Medscape Medical News)

I’m running for my fifth term on the board. I spent most of my previous terms as chair of the Science in Society Award Committee, but I’m now turning my attention to the Membership Committee, where I hope to address some of NASW’s membership challenges. A recent analysis revealed that many new members never renew for a second year, but new members who renew once are likely to stay members for years. I think some relatively simple tactics will encourage new members to renew. Also, there are whole areas of science writing from which we derive very few members. For example, NASW is under-represented among technology writers, and we also have relatively few professional scientists who write about science for the general public. I think we can find ways to convince those groups that NASW has something to offer. The last time I sought re-election I noted that I have worked as a PIO, as a freelancer, and as a staff journalist. Since then I’ve gone over to the dark side. Yes, I’m now an editor. I hope you won’t hold that against me, since it means I can represent four of NASW’s main constituencies on the varied issues requiring board discussion.

Robert Frederick (freelance)

Science may be communicated now more than ever before thanks to the democratization of the web, but in keeping with our charter to “foster and promote the professional interests of science writers” (emphasis added), I think together we can do more to help our members not only adapt to the rapidly changing media landscape but to do so earning professional rates. I am seeking a position on the NASW board to work to enhance our member services and professional development programs. Since attending my first NASW meeting in 2004, I have benefitted from our association, with contacts, mentoring, fellowships, and grants. Through putting together NASW workshops on podcasting and rhetoric, serving on the Workshop Committee, participating on panels, mentoring students, speaking before mentor-program participants, and helping host two events for science writers at AAAS meetings in St. Louis and D.C., I have given back to our community. I would like to do more. Having served the D.C. Science Writers Association as board member and treasurer, I believe I have prepared myself to do more to serve our community. As of last summer (2011), I am again a freelance after spending four years at Science magazine as multimedia producer and weekly podcast host. I am chapter author on multimedia freelancing for the forthcoming NASW-sponsored field guide for science writers, know well both traditional and new media, and am keenly aware of constraints that limit the efforts of staffers and freelancers alike to adapt to our changing media landscape.

Peggy Girshman (Kaiser Health News)

As the executive editor of Kaiser Health News, I am part of a new wave of (deliberately) nonprofit journalistic ventures. We are an editorially independent program of the Kaiser Family Foundation, a health policy research organization unaffiliated with Kaiser Permanente. We cover health policy, comparative effectiveness research, health care financing, hospitals, doctors, nurses, etc. Prior to this, I was executive editor of consumer publishing for Congressional Quarterly. Some of our stories covered environment, technology, health care, and science policy. The first 32 years of my career were spent in broadcasting. I was a managing editor at NPR News, coordinated the radio newsroom expansion into multimedia for, helped initiate the year-long “Climate Connections” series, and oversaw the science desk. Among other jobs in my eclectic career: stints as medical/science producer for the CBS-TV affiliate in Washington, D.C., deputy senior science editor at NPR, a producer for “Innovation,” and a senior producer for "Against All Odds: Inside Statistics," "Scientific American Frontiers," and "Discover: The World of Science," all PBS science programs. In the late 1990’s, I was senior medical producer for Dateline NBC. I was an MBL fellow in 1987 and a Knight Fellow at MIT in 1991. I have previously served as NASW vice president and treasurer.

Jeff Grabmeier (Ohio State University)

My focus on the NASW board has been to help the organization grow by attracting young people, both to science writing and to NASW itself. That’s one of the main reasons I have been co-chair of the Education Committee since 2004. One of my proudest accomplishments was helping develop a travel stipend program that has allowed top science-writing students to attend the AAAS meeting each year with their expenses paid. I have also helped manage the ever-growing mentorship program and internship fair at the AAAS meeting. But not all my work has been with the Education Committee; I spent five years as editor of the “Our Gang” column in ScienceWriters. I will continue to bring to the board a perspective from several sides of science writing. I am currently senior director of research and innovation communications at Ohio State University, and write extensively about social science research. But I have also done freelance writing for consumer and college magazines and have written chapters for several books, including "Soul of the Sky." I started my career as a newspaper reporter. All of these experiences help inform my work on the board.

Laura Helmuth (Slate)

NASW has been on fire lately — the conferences are better than ever, the website is useful and entertaining, and the grants program has made some inspired choices. But there are a few things we could be doing better or more of as an organization. If elected to the board, I would push to have more of a presence at the AAAS meeting. The NASW-run internship fair does a great job of serving students, but there aren't a lot of offerings for members who have already started their careers, and many people can't afford to attend both the AAAS and the NASW meetings. I would also focus on improving communication between freelancers and editors. The annual meeting has had some great sessions that aim to demystify the pitch process and give freelancers tips on how to sell their ideas. I think this is one of the most important services NASW provides, and I'd like to make sure we do even more of it throughout the year. I'm the science and health editor for Slate magazine, and until recently the science editor for Smithsonian magazine. Before that I was a writer and editor for Science magazine's news department. I served for three years on the D.C. Science Writers Association board and am on the board of advisers for The Open Notebook.

Michael Lemonick (Climate Central)

I’ll hardly be the only candidate to comment on how quickly science writing is changing, and how little anyone really knows about where it’s headed. I’m convinced, however, that science writing will thrive, and that experienced science journalists have an obligation to help the profession navigate the transition. My career has pretty much spanned the golden age of science journalism. I began writing for Science Digest in 1983, and then spent 21 years on the staff of TIME. I’ve also done a lot of freelance work and written four books. In 1998, I began teaching science journalism, mostly to undergraduates at Princeton, but also a handful of graduate and professional courses at Columbia, NYU, Johns Hopkins, and the Santa Fe Science Writing Workshop. Now, after taking a package in 2007, I’m on the staff of Climate Central, in Princeton, N.J., a nonprofit-journalism organization that’s exploring one possible direction science writing could follow. Will it work? Nobody really knows, but we have to try everything we can think of. So I have one foot in the glorious past and the other planted firmly in the slippery future. I have experience as a freelancer, a staff journalist, and a staff … whatever you call it now, since nonprofit journalism is an entirely new category. I’ve done plenty of blogging, and am now exploring radio and short video. I also, crucially, have ongoing contact with many of the young science writers who are the ones who are actively reinventing the profession. As a result I think I’m reasonably well positioned to help guide science writers — including myself — through the transition without losing the professional values we’ve already established.

David Levine (freelance)

If elected to the board, I will bring the same energy and enthusiasm have brought to my role as co-president of Science Writers in New York (SWINY) and act as an active, accessible, rational, and fair voice for all. I write for both mainstream and scientific media. I'm particularly interested in mental health and cancer (I was director of media relations for the American Cancer Society). I've written about epigenetics, robots, the Google X Lunar Prize, and the NIH. I received my B.A. in humanities and M.A. in creative writing, both from The Johns Hopkins University. I also spent a year at the University of London. NASW is a great organization helpful to both new and seasoned writers. NASW membership has enriched my life. I have met writers/journalists from around the world, found work, and received grants to take courses. I am a member of the PIO committee and led a workshop at the annual meeting in New Haven. I will also be leading a workshop at the upcoming meeting. I have participating in NASW's mentorship program at the last two AAAS meetings.

Rosie Mestel (Los Angeles Times)

I started out with a Ph.D. in genetics and worked as a post-doc in a fruit-fly lab before deciding to switch to science writing. After completing the UC Santa Cruz science-writing program, I interned at the Dallas Morning News, then worked as a researcher/reporter for Discover magazine. Then I embarked on a semi-freelancing career (West Coast correspondent for New Scientist and a contributing editor for Health magazine, while writing articles for Natural History, Discover, Earth, and Science). I joined the L.A. Times as a staff writer in 1998, writing first for the health section and then reporting on science and medicine for the news section. I was deputy and then section editor for science and health for about seven years – and have recently returned to a mostly writing gig at the paper. As someone who’s freelanced, I know how hard that work can be, and I've always tried to make the experience of people who write for my newspaper as decent as possible. And as someone who's watched staff levels dwindle year after year at the L.A. Times, even as demands to expand and change our coverage intensify, I have had a good taste of the challenges we face in our line of work. I want to continue to help our community.

A'ndrea Elyse Messer (Penn State)

I am running for NASW's board because I believe the association needs strong representation from the public information membership. As assistant systems operator for the website I helped establish the website and two web redesigns. I have created NASW workshops and understand the importance of balancing all segments of the association – PIO, freelance, staff. I have seen the association grow and want to help sustain that growth and move NASW to the next level. I am the senior science and research information officer in Research Communications at Penn State. I was a science writer at the American Society of Mechanical Engineers and worked at Bell Labs doing technical writing and on the "History of the Bell System." In Israel, I edited 11 review journals in chemistry, book translations, and children's book. I write about engineering, physical sciences, earth and mineral sciences, materials science, and anthropology,

I have a B.A. in Science & Culture (chemistry) from Purdue University, an M.S. in Journalism: science communication from Boston University, and an M.A. and Ph.D. in Anthropology from Penn State. I am a Fellow of AAAS. I'm currently on the Internet and PIO committees and served on the Workshop Committee.

Steve Miller (freelance)

I do not classify myself as a journalist, PIO, editor, or book author although my work encompasses each of these categories. I am, however, a science writer dedicated to accurate science communication in many venues. As a freelance science writer and member of NASW since 1999, I have seen my work balance shift many times. I believe this will be typical in the future of science writing, for staff as well as freelance writers. A primary goal of NASW should be to help members in the transition from clearly defined and focused job titles to the broad field that encompasses today’s science writing, broadcasting, and webcasting. As a board member, I will focus on that goal along with NASW’s traditional strengths of promoting accurate science communication, advocating for science writers, and sharing both our collective knowledge of the trade and the occasional pitcher of beer. I have been active on the NASW Education and Freelance committees as well as organizing and serving on workshop panels on the business of freelancing and on writing for children. Unrelated to science writing, I have developed organizational leadership skills as a municipal elected official and as a board member, and currently president, of a regional nature conservancy/land trust.

Dave Mosher (freelance)

New tools, new outlets, new audiences, and new competition: These things whack science writers on the head almost every day. While the pace of change makes it easy to fall into despair, I'm firmly in the “change is opportunity” camp. I began my career by asking my favorite science writers for advice. I found most of them hiding in budget-cutting bunkers, and I quickly learned that hard work and constant reinvention was essential to keeping my passion for science writing fed and my bank accounts in the black. I’m a contributor to Wired and a freelancer for several popular science outlets, both online and in print. Before that I covered NASA's space shuttle program for, launched a multimedia website about space for, and learned to develop my freelancing work into a sound business. I have tackled a dizzying variety of opportunities in different formats – print and online; photography and video; blogging and social media; production and editing; full-time and part-time and “perma-lance” – and these experiences have sculpted me into the enterprising science writer I am today. If elected, I'd love to bring a forward-looking voice to the board while honoring the core values and standards of our field.

Tabitha M. Powledge (freelance)

Radical moves in science-writing markets – from ink to electrons, from desktops to tablets and smartphones, from feature articles to blogging and tweets – have changed everything. In the years I have been a board member, NASW has become more activist and concerned about these professional and business issues, especially for freelances.

For seven years I wrote about these changes quarterly in the ScienceWriters column “The Free Lance.” Since 2009 I have written about them every Friday On Science Blogs This Week. A long-time member of the NASW Freelance and Internet committees, I am intrigued by the science-writing potential for e-books and shorter e-forms like Singles. I organized how-to sessions on e-publishing at ScienceOnline2012 and NASW 2012. I am working on an updated e-version of my book "Your Brain: How You Got It and How It Works." The plan is that it will be an e-book, with sections marketed as Singles. I was founding editor of The Scientist and an editor at Nature Biotechnology. A full-time freelance writer and editor since 1990, I have written for paper and web-based publications including Scientific American, Popular Science, Health, PLoS Biology, The Scientist, Washington Post,, BioScience, and The Lancet. My book "The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Microbiology" came out in 2007.

Czerne Reid (University of Florida)

I am a science writer and assistant news director at the University of Florida. In an earlier life I was an education-turned-health-and-science-turned-business reporter for The (Columbia, S.C.) State newspaper. In 2007, I was named a Kaiser Media Fellow and completed a series on HIV/AIDS in South Carolina. I earned a Ph.D. in environmental chemistry at Emory University in 2003 and a graduate certificate in science communication at the University of California, Santa Cruz, in 2004. I am committed to using my skills and talents not just in my own work, but also in service of fellow science communicators. I serve on the NASW Public Information Officer and Education committees. For the annual meeting, I have served on the Workshops Committee, helping to plan the program for two meetings, and have also served as a panel organizer and moderator. As an editor for the NASW travel fellowships program, I have had the opportunity to help guide young science writers as they take their first steps on a new career path. If elected to the NASW board I will support ongoing efforts to identify and address professional development needs of members both new and seasoned. With this kind of investment, NASW is helping to secure not just the future of new generations of science writers, but the future of the organization itself.

Hillary Rosner (freelance)

I’m a freelance science journalist specializing in the environment, and a 2012 Alicia Patterson Fellow. Last year, I was a Knight Science Journalism Fellow at MIT, and won a AAAS Kavli Science Journalism award for a story about valiant efforts to save an endangered Colorado River fish. My reporting has taken me around the world, from the Canadian Rockies to Borneo, Iceland to Ethiopia. Over the years, I’ve been a staff writer, an editor, and a full-time freelancer. I write for the New York Times, Wired, National Geographic, Popular Science, Mother Jones, Audubon, OnEarth, High Country News, and many other outlets, and I blog at the PLoS Blogs Network. Over the past several years, I’ve organized panels and workshops for NASW, SEJ, and Science Online. I’m interested in improving science communication broadly, and I’ve led many workshops for scientists on how to present their work and ideas to the media and the public. At a time when nearly half of NASW’s members identify themselves as freelancers, I think it’s crucial to elect board members who understand freelancers’ unique needs and concerns: financial, technological, psychological. As someone who has successfully navigated that world for more than a decade, as it’s shifted (okay, quaked) beneath our feet, I feel I could make a significant contribution to NASW’s leadership.

Charles Seife (New York University)

Almost anyone who’s been in science writing for a while has had to reinvent himself or herself a few times over the years. I’m no different. In the past 18 years, I have been a freelancer, a staff writer at New Scientist and Science, a book author, and, since 2005, an academic – a professor of journalism at NYU. It is in this last role that I think I will be most useful to the NASW community. There are pressing problems that affect academic and non-profit journalism – problems of which most journalists and writers are unaware. For example, it is an open question whether journalists at academic institutions should be required to submit their work to Institutional Review Board review. (Near v. Minnesota be damned.) It’s a huge issue – one that very few journalists have weighed in on simply because they are unaware that the debate is happening. I believe that NASW as an organization can help answer such questions. In so doing, it takes part in shaping the future of an increasingly important sector of science journalism.

Brian Switek (freelance)

There’s more than one way to be a science writer. From traditionally trained journalists to scientists who blog, science writing encompasses a variety of different approaches for those who seek to accurately express the excitement of discovery and debate to the public. As part of the NASW board, my goal would be to represent freelancers, bloggers, and scientists who have found their calling as science writers through their passion for the natural world. I followed a similar alternate route. My two blogs – Laelaps at WIRED Science and Dinosaur Tracking at Smithsonian – acted as a springboard to freelance science writing and the books "Written in Stone" and "My Beloved Brontosaurus." I learned to be a science writer by jumping into the practice, and I want to assist others who are following other untraditional paths. Now, more than ever, we need to make the most of the various platforms that have opened up in the science writing ecosystem, and my aim is to continue to promote a diversity of approaches as our discipline continues to evolve.

M. Mitchell Waldrop (Nature)

I am running for the NASW board for two reasons. First, I can represent the interests of virtually every member in the organization from first-hand experience. In my 30-plus years as a science writer I have been a reporter facing weekly deadlines (Chemical & Engineering News and Science), a freelance magazine journalist (Scientific American, Technology Review, and elsewhere), a book author ("Man-Made Minds," "Complexity," and "The Dream Machine"), a public-affairs officer (at the National Science Foundation), a blogger, an editor (Nature), and even a purveyor of editorial opinion (also at Nature), Second, as we all live through journalism’s tumultuous transition to the web era, I think NASW needs to take the lead in providing its members with information, training, discussion forums, and mechanisms for sharing best practices. No one can claim to be an expert in this subject; it’s changing too fast. But I have the good fortune to work for Nature Publishing Group, which has been among the most innovative publishers out there at finding new ways to take advantage of the web. I hope to use that experience and those contacts to NASW’s advantage.

Jun. 22, 2012

Drexel Science and Health Communication Concentration