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Africa's reputation as a scientific backwater has deep roots. Political instability, malnutrition, disease, and poverty have loomed as far more serious issues than tinkering with science. But in recent years, biotechnology research and development has emerged in many African countries. Researchers there now have the potential to tackle the AIDS epidemic, water pollution, and other major problems through local and national initiatives, said speakers on 13 February at the AAAS meeting in Chicago.

There's nothing like the introduction of four top editors to quiet a room of science writers. This year, editors from the New York Times, Scientific American, Sierra, and Wired formed the panel of the Pitch Slam, a fan favorite at the annual NASW workshops. Writers, eager to hear insider tips and witness on-the-spot feedback to story pitches, packed the room in October in Palo Alto, the site of ScienceWriters 2008.

If any reporters sitting in the session "Turning the Tables: Meet the Press Critics" have had a piece panned by one of the critics present, they didn't speak up. The three panelists, who participated in ScienceWriters 2008 in October in Palo Alto, instead enjoyed a cordial environment in which they explained how they think science journalists are living up to their responsibilities — and how they're not.

Science writers who wish to adapt to the digital age have two fundamental questions to answer: What new skills do I need? And what equipment do I need to buy? Panelists at this session of ScienceWriters 2008 in October in Palo Alto — organized by Tabitha Powledge — discussed how multimedia can enhance stories, how to get started with going digital and how to choose the right laptop computer.

From the blogosphere to Silicon Valley and back, technology impacts both the way we write and the topics we can cover as science writers. In a session called "Geeks, Freaks and Deadlines: Writing about Technology and the Humans Who Love It" at ScienceWriters 2008 in October in Palo Alto, panelists advised, admonished and cajoled the science writing audience to be creative in their use of technology — as both topic and medium.

First, use a tripod. That was Melissa Lutz Blouin's take-home message about making video, which she delivered during a session on the topic at ScienceWriters 2008 in October in Palo Alto. "Your production values shoot up!" she exclaimed. The cost barriers for video have dropped from the days of $60,000 shoulder-mounted film cameras, but as anyone who has shot with today's $2,000 cameras knows, there is more to getting a professional result than just using professional equipment.