NASW Board election candidate statements

Election of the 2016-18 NASW board takes place this year, online or in-person, in September. In addition to four officers, the board consists of 11 members at large. The nominating committee of Melissa Blouin, Richard Harris, Robin Marantz Henig (chair), Virginia Hughes, Rob Irion, Apoorva Mandavilli, and Emily Sohn has assembled an outstanding slate of candidates.

Laura Helmuth

Laura Helmuth

President: Laura Helmuth (Washington Post)

The most visible contribution NASW makes to our community each year is the ScienceWriters meeting. In 2017, we're hosting an even more ambitious event, the World Conference of Science Journalists. As president, I hope to make this international collaboration as valuable as possible for all our members whether they attend the meeting or not. We on the board and committees also want NASW to serve members throughout the year. We have recently focused on diversity, fairness, resources for freelancers, information access, and more — and we hope you will volunteer your ideas or time if you see other needs NASW could meet. I am the health, science, and environment editor for the Washington Post. I was previously digital news director for National Geographic, science and health editor for Slate, science editor for Smithsonian, and an editor for Science's news department. I serve on the boards of Spectrum and High Country News.

Siri Carpenter

Siri Carpenter

Vice president: Siri Carpenter (freelance and The Open Notebook)

An NASW member since 1998, I served on and co-chaired the freelance committee, organized numerous ScienceWriters workshops, and founded or co-founded several small "tribes" of journalists. I am on the ad hoc committee charged with studying prospective changes to the NASW constitution. I have a Ph.D. in psychology from Yale University and got my start in science writing through an AAAS Mass Media Fellowship at the Richmond Times-Dispatch, followed by an internship at Science News. Since 2002, I've freelanced for magazines and newspapers and was features editor at Discover. I currently do freelance writing and editing for several magazines, including Science News for Students, Cosmos, bioGraphic, and National Geographic's website. I edit The Open Notebook, which I co-founded in 2010. TON has published about 250 in-depth articles and other resources to help science journalists sharpen their skills. As a board officer, I will continue efforts to improve diversity and support strong critical analysis in science writing.

Robert Frederick

Robert Frederick

Treasurer: Robert Frederick (American Scientist)

In my first term on the NASW board and representative to the Authors Coalition of America, I have been working to partner with other media organizations so that our membership has a better understanding of rates and common practices in multimedia. Indeed, I am keenly aware of the constraints that limit staffers and freelancers alike both in adapting to the rapidly changing media landscape and getting properly paid for it. That awareness comes from experience as digital managing editor of American Scientist, web editor at Science, journalist at St. Louis Public Radio, and multimedia freelancer. So having served as board member and treasurer of the D.C. Science Writers Association, serving on NASW's finance and audit committee, and participating in every NASW annual meeting — from panels to mentoring — since joining our tribe in 2004, I welcome the opportunity to serve our community further on the executive board.

Jill Adams

Jill Adams

Secretary: Jill Adams (freelance)

One of the great benefits of NASW is sharing stories and strategies for success with other professional science writers. Whether freelancers or staffers, we benefit from having information and resources at the ready via NASW-supported efforts. To wit, I helped launch The Fine Print (contracts database) and have supported creative regional meetings organized by NASW members, often funded by Idea Grants. I hope to continue NASW efforts to promote international outreach efforts and, at home, to increase the welcoming nature of our community to science writers of all colors, creeds, and genders. A long-term freelancer, I write about health, medicine, and the environment for the Washington Post, CQ Researcher, Audubon, and Science. I've been a member of NASW since 2004 and have served as a board member since 2012. I will welcome the chance to serve as the organization's secretary.

Member-at-Large candidates

Nsikan Akpan

Nsikan Akpan

Nsikan Akpan (PBS NewsHour)

A vote for me is a vote for diversity. Science was my ticket to overcoming a low-income, first generation upbringing in the culturally insensitive minefields north of Atlanta. I view science writing as a means to inspire the same brand of STEM curiosity that helped my younger self. However, my diversity encompasses more than my heritage. My background includes a Ph.D. in pathobiology, blogging, public relations, U.C. Santa Cruz science communication program, internships at Science News and NPR, freelancing, and science writing lectures for college audiences. Now, as a science producer, I mix print and video storytelling for distribution across "new media" platforms. I would love the opportunity to assist the diversity and membership committees through outreach on these platforms. One concept: An interview video series with science writers akin to NewsHour's Brief But Spectacular series. These videos could expand brand recognition and reach those unacquainted with the science writer lifestyle. Diversity is a place where anyone can comfortably express their views, and I want to foster those spaces for NASW.

Mollie Bloudoff-Indelicato

Mollie Bloudoff-Indelicato

Mollie Bloudoff-Indelicato (freelance)

Science journalism is my life's work. I've been to Ecuador to write about deadly viruses, Colombia to look at infant mortality, Argentina to rediscover 84,000-year-old fossils, Peru to analyze drinking water for arsenic, and Antarctica to investigate climate change. I've written for NPR, National Geographic, the Atlantic, Smithsonian magazine, and Nature, among others. I want to give back to the community that has played such an important role in my career. Join me by supporting the following projects: 1) For scicomm newcomers, the prospect of tackling freelance contracts or writing press releases can be daunting. We'll hold webinars with NASW members who can offer advice. 2) To grow as professionals, we need the fresh ideas that a more diverse membership provides. Let's think more about ethnicity, geography, specialty, age and gender when choosing conference speakers. 3) I'll plan a national teaching day, matching NASW members with nearby schools. Together, we can encourage a passion for science and inspire a new generation of science communicators.

Brooke Borel

Brooke Borel

Brooke Borel (freelance)

I'm running for NASW's board because I'd like to help shape and support this vital community. I'm interested in enhancing and clarifying our statement of ethics, particularly for freelancers, who may get work from a mixture of clients and don't always have guidance on how to proceed. I'd also like to bring in new educational opportunities for investigative work, both to help train journalists who seek more investigative experience and to connect them with funding and outlets. As a freelance journalist with eight years of experience, I have direct experience trying to navigate these sometimes rocky terrains. I'm also keen on contributing to my writing community through mentoring. I've organized panels and workshops for the past two NASW meetings and have mentored four AAAS/NASW fellows over the past few years. I am a mentor at Girls Write Now in New York, where I mentor a high school student one-on-one, and last year I helped plan and organize two workshops on science journalism. I'd like to use these experiences and skills to serve NASW in a more formal capacity. I'd be honored to have your vote.

Rebecca Boyle

Rebecca Boyle

Rebecca Boyle (freelance)

Hi, I'm Becky. If you live in Brooklyn (I don't), say hello to the Park Slope Food Co-op for me! If you don't, I want to advocate for you. The geographical inability to meet peers for happy hour shouldn't be a barrier to good connections, writing gigs, and big paychecks. I'm running for the board because I think NASW can connect us all, and I want to continue to push for career development programs and networks outside the media capitals of NYC and DC. I started my career as a newspaper reporter covering politics and murder trials. I went freelance in 2009, and attribute much of my success to the connections, ideas, and life skills I formed through NASW. I understand the responsibilities of a newsroom as well as the challenge — and sweet, sweet freedom — of freelancing, a dual perspective I think would serve our membership well. I've also worked for The Open Notebook and I'm trying to boot up a new science writing/parenting tribe.

Francie Diep

Francie Diep

Francie Diep (Pacific Standard)

I'm a staff writer at Pacific Standard, a journalist with six years' experience. Prior to that, I freelanced for two years. I am a current or former member of NASW's freelance and programs committees. NASW feels like home to me, and I would be so excited to serve on the board. I know the debate that's on many members' minds right now. Here's my stance. I want to see NASW support good science journalism: fair, accurate reporting; uncovering wrongdoing at science organizations; and coverage of newsworthy science, not flashy, single studies that may confuse the public. I'm not sure yet if restricting officer positions to journalists is the best way to achieve these aims while maintaining a friendly, mixed membership, but I'm eager to work on constructive solutions. In addition, I'm committed to expanding NASW's diversity programs. Thank you!  

Cynthia Graber

Cynthia Graber

Cynthia Graber (freelance)

I'm asking to represent you on the NASW board. I've served in a variety of roles as a science journalist. I've worked on staff (at the radio shows "Living on Earth" and the "World Vision Report"). I've long lived the freelance life (reporting, for audio and print, in venues including Scientific American, the New Yorker, Fast Company, the BBC, NovaNext, and many others). I spent a year as a Knight Fellow at MIT. Recently, I co-launched Gastropod, a popular, award-winning podcast about the science and history of food. I've won awards, grants, and fellowships. As a result of all these experiences, I understand the concerns of NASW members who write and report about science, in a wide variety of media, and I share your challenges as well as your hopes for a rewarding, financially sustainable career. I look forward to serving as your voice in the greater NASW community.

Mari N. Jensen

Mari N. Jensen

Mari N. Jensen (University of Arizona College of Science)

NASW is my tribe. NASW has served me well at every stage of my science-writing career: as student, freelance reporter, newspaper reporter, and now as a university science writer and public information officer. I have a deep understanding of the budgetary and financial issues involved in running NASW from having served on the NASW finance committee from 2009 to 2015. My fellow committee member Rick Bogren and I shared a Diane McGurgan Service Award in 2012 for our work on that committee. I am also a member of the NASW PIO committee and have been since 2009. Committee work has provided me an appreciation of the breadth of skills, experiences, and viewpoints our members possess and helped me become a better listener: an important qualification for a board member. I want to continue my service to our diverse community of science writers by serving on the NASW board.

Kathryn Jepsen

Kathryn Jepsen

Kathryn Jepsen (Symmetry)

Over the past eight years, NASW has challenged and encouraged me as I worked my way from intern to editor-in-chief of Symmetry, an innovative institutional magazine about particle physics. But it wasn't until I witnessed NASW's willingness and ability to respond to sexual harassment that I understood its capacity to improve the science-writing community as a whole. I decided to get more involved. I participated in the Women in Science Writing Solutions Summit. I joined the NASW finance and audit committee. As a member of the Internet committee, I kick-started the ongoing redesign process for NASW's website. I would be honored to continue to serve NASW as a member of the board. As a quick adapter who has worked at two U.S. national laboratories (Fermilab and SLAC) and a European laboratory (CERN), I could offer a valuable perspective as NASW continues to grow and change to meet the needs of its members.

Diana Kenney

Diana Kenney

Diana Kenney (Marine Biological Laboratory)

I am a science writer/editor at the Marine Biological Laboratory in Woods Hole, Mass., where I also manage the Logan Science Journalism Fellowship Program. About half of my career has been as a PIO and half as a journalist and news editor. No matter where I work, my baseline is to write about science accurately, engagingly, and honestly; asserting what is scientifically defensible and no more. I believe we need all hands on deck to promote science literacy, given the urgency and breadth of environmental, social, and medical issues that demand scientific comprehension. I am dedicated to mentoring early-career science writers, improving my capacity to help journalists do their jobs, and giving scientists a platform and the skills to communicate effectively with the public. With its collective expertise, NASW can and does have an enormous impact on furthering excellence in science communication, and I enthusiastically support all efforts toward that common goal!

A'ndrea Elyse Messer

A'ndrea Elyse Messer

A'ndrea Elyse Messer (Penn State)

I am running for NASW's board because I believe the association needs strong representation from the PIO membership. I have created NASW workshops and understand the importance of balancing all segments of the association: PIO, freelance, staff. I am currently on the ad hoc committee investigating implications of possible changes to eligibility for the executive board. I chaired the ad hoc committee that created a science writer's professional code of ethics. I am on the internet and PIO committees. I helped establish the NASW website and two web redesigns. I am the senior science and research information officer at Penn State where I write about engineering, physical sciences, earth and mineral sciences, materials science, and anthropology. My background also includes science writer (American Society of Mechanical Engineers), technical writing (Bell Labs), and editor of 11 review journals in chemistry, book translations, and a children's book. I am a fellow of AAAS.  

Seth Mnookin

Seth Mnookin

Seth Mnookin (MIT and freelance)

Our industry is in a period of great transition, and I'd like to continue my work with the NASW board in determining ways we can successfully navigate towards the future. My background — as a blogger, staff writer, editor, full-time freelancer, author, academic, 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. Over the past two years, I've focused much of my attention on issues dealing with the fair treatment of freelancers and sexual harassment, and I've worked with the Fairness Committee to set up web resources that will help our members moving forward. Over the next two years, I'd like to continue this work 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

Michael E. Newman

Michael E. Newman (NIST and freelance)

The blending as one of diverse personalities and talents is a key reason NASW is a vibrant, dynamic organization. It is also why I want to work for you on the NASW Board. With nearly 40 years in four areas of science communication—PIO, journalist, AV writer/producer, and freelancer—I can provide an experienced voice for the different professional tracks within NASW and be a unifying force to bridge gaps between them. In NASW since 2009, I serve as co-chair of the PIO Committee, have helped plan the past six annual conferences with the Programs Committee, and conduct the Sci-Buddy mentoring program that brings together veteran conference attendees with first-timers. In 2013, I received the Diane McGurgan Award. If elected to the Board, I promise to work hard for programs that not only advance the NASW mission but ensure inclusive, fair and balanced representation for all of our members.

Kendall Powell

Kendall Powell

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 our freelance members. Based near Denver, I've been an NASW member and freelancer for 13 years, I write for Nature, Washington Post, and Discover among other publications. I've served on the freelance committee since 2007 and as co-chair for three years. I've helped develop the Words' Worth database, Compensation Survey, Fair Pay Tip Sheet, among other resources, and oversaw a reorganization of the All About Freelancing webpage. I've worked with PIOs and staff journalists and have a passion for connecting people in our writing community. In 2013, I was a project manager and contributor to The Science Writers' Handbook. I've helped organize panels including the ethics plenary session at ScienceWriters2015. I'm an advocate for the freedom that comes with freelancing and that freelancing doesn't mean "for free."

Sandeep Ravindran

Sandeep Ravindran

Sandeep Ravindran (freelance)

I'm running for NASW's board to improve member services, increase engagement with members, and promote diversity. As part of the freelance committee I helped organize the power pitch event at the 2015 NASW meeting, and I will continue to work to improve member services, particularly for freelancers. I am also keen on promoting a greater diversity of voices within NASW and have volunteered with the diversity committee and the Science Byline Counting Project, which compares the gender balance of bylines. After studying science communication at U.C. Santa Cruz, I worked as a PIO before becoming a freelancer, and my experience with both journalistic and institutional science writing should help me represent the interests of a broad range of NASW members. This is a time of change for both science writing and NASW, and I am optimistic that I can bring positive change for NASW members.

Hillary Rosner

Hillary Rosner

Hillary Rosner (freelance)

Since my election to the board in 2012, I have worked to make NASW a more forward-looking organization. I think we've made great strides over the past few years in engaging more members to take an active role, as evidenced, in part, by this year's amazing slate of candidates. I am hopeful that we can emerge from our current identity crisis as a stronger and more vital force, and I'd like to help continue to steer the organization in the right direction, because I truly believe that good, ethically produced science journalism is essential to a functioning 21st-century democracy. I'm a freelance journalist and editor specializing in long-form stories on environmental topics, for publications including National Geographic, Wired, and Scientific American. I'm also a contributing editor for two new websites: bioGraphic and Sapiens.

Jill Sakai

Jill Sakai

Jill Sakai (Univ. of Wisconsin-Madison)

While completing a Ph.D. in neuroscience, I realized I prefer writing about science over doing science. I joined NASW in 2006 while a AAAS Mass Media Fellow at the Richmond Times-Dispatch. After graduation, I spent seven years as a science writer at UW-Madison before moving to the campus Office of Sustainability, where I manage a range of communications and other activities. During my first board term, I worked to enhance the diversity of voices within NASW and engagement of all segments of the membership. I serve on the program committee and as co-chair of the PIO committee. Most significantly, on the ad hoc constitutional review committee I helped conduct an in-depth examination of our members' activities and views regarding organizational identity and officer eligibility. I am skilled at using diplomacy and tact to get things done. If re-elected, I will continue to work to strengthen NASW as a whole.

Matt Shipman

Matt Shipman

Matt Shipman (North Carolina State University)

I'm the research communications lead at N.C. State University and was previously an environmental policy reporter for more than nine years. I'm the author of The Handbook for Science Public Information Officers and a contributor to Science Blogging: The Essential Guide. I also write the Communication Breakdown blog for SciLogs and am a reviewer for HealthNewsReview.org. 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.

John Travis

John Travis

John Travis (Science)

It's been five years since my wife and I returned from a long work stint in the United Kingdom, so I felt it was high time to again give back to NASW, which I've belonged to since I went through the Boston University science journalism program in the early 90s. Early on, I co-ran the NASW internship fair for a period, and helped set up nasw-teach — in part because I learned how little I knew about teaching journalism when asked to do that at the University of Arizona for a semester. I also am a past president of DSCWA. After a decade of writing mainly about biology (despite studying physics), I jumped into editing more than a decade ago and am currently managing news editor at Science (Science and Science News have been my staff homes). I think my time in Europe can bring some needed international perspective to NASW, which may be helpful as we organize the upcoming World Conference of Science Journalists (WCSJ2017), in San Francisco.

Emily Willingham

Emily Willingham

Emily Willingham (freelance)

In my two years of service on the NASW board as chair of the fairness committee, I have worked with our committee to craft a mission statement, gain approval and funding for a database of resources for employment equity and harassment issues, and develop and populate this state-by-state and national fairness resource for science writers. I recently also became co-chair of the membership committee, where I hope to engage in a second critical area for science communication: promoting a diverse membership that approaches science writing from historically underrepresented perspectives. My science writing career spans two-and-a-half decades, and my work has appeared in Forbes, the New York Times, the San Francisco Chronicle, and the Washington Post, among others. With Tara Haelle, I am co-author of The Informed Parent: A Science-Based Resource for Your Child's First Four Years, published by Penguin's Perigee Books.

Alexandra Witze

Alexandra Witze

Alexandra Witze (Nature, Science News)

I've been an NASW member since 1993, and it's taken me that long to think about running for the board. I've worked as a reporter and editor for many publications — including Nature, Science News, the Dallas Morning News, and Earth magazine (the first one) — and I feel strongly about maintaining a firm journalistic future for NASW members. I've mentored a number of beginning science writers and want to ensure that they have a thriving field to work in. If elected, I would work to maintain NASW's journalistic standards and integrity and to emphasize professionalism in our chosen career. Along those lines, I currently serve on the board of directors for The Open Notebook.

Philip Yam

Philip Yam

Philip Yam (Simons Foundation)

Currently, I am the editor-in-chief of the Simons Foundation website, but I spent most of my career at Scientific American, where I held positions that included news editor and online managing editor. I authored a 2003 book on prions and contributed to the 2005 NASW Field Guide for Science Writers. As my career matured, I became more involved with helping others in their careers. In 2013, I became president of the New York chapter of the Asian American Journalists Association, which aims to diversify newsrooms and develop members' professional skills. My work with AAJA also led me to join NASW's diversity committee. As an NASW board member, I would continue to work in that area and tap my AAJA experience, which has now involved working with other affinity groups. I believe my experience in the past few years especially can help NASW serve its members and its mission.