Since its inception in 2010, more than $400,000 has been awarded by NASW's Idea Grants program for projects that benefit science writing and its practitioners. Read more to see a list of all the awardees and their exciting science writing projects. Visit www.nasw.org/ideagrants2014 for the latest call for proposals due November 4, 2015.
Some writers never read their critics. Others take them to heart. Maria Popova writes that handling criticism is "one of the essential survival skills of the creative spirit" and quotes from a George Plimpton book with writers' advice on how best to achieve that, including this from Thornton Wilder: "The important thing is that you make sure that neither the favorable nor the unfavorable critics move into your head and take part in the composition of your next work."
Tabitha M. Powledge reviews the latest news on the possible link between Alzheimer's disease and infections in the brain. She concludes that the basic message is not a new one: "The idea that Alzheimer’s could result from infection is based on an increasing pile of indirect evidence. For one thing, the disease is accompanied by inflammation, the body’s response to an invading microbe. Also, postmortem studies commonly reveal microbes in the brains of the elderly."
Economist Julia Cagé proposes a solution to the news media's financial crisis — a new form of organization modeled after major universities that combine commercial and nonprofit activities: "The question is not whether the media should be subsidized. It is rather whether they should be granted a favorable legal and tax status in recognition of their contribution to democracy — a status comparable to that long enjoyed by many other participants in the knowledge economy."
In The Autoimmune Connection, Rita Baron-Faust explores autoimmune diseases that are found more frequently in women than in men. These include rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, Sjögren’s Syndrome, scleroderma, multiple sclerosis, immune thrombocytopenia, and inflammatory bowel disease. Some women have two or more of these disorders, she notes. Because symptoms such as fatigue or pain often are vague and overlap, diagnosis may be delayed or missed. In this update of her 2004 book, Baron-Faust reports recent advances in understanding, diagnosis, and treatment of autoimmune disorders.
Sarah O'Connor tested her writing skill against a machine named Emma to see who could do a better job on a business story. The answer? It's not clear: "In truth, most people who work on artificial intelligence admit it is not going to make humans obsolete any time soon. It is simply not intelligent enough yet. What is beginning to happen, though, is more subtle but no less important. The lines are beginning to blur between work done by humans and that done by machines."
Justin Peters discusses the latest John Bohannon investigation, this one on pirating of scientific journal articles, and a Science magazine editorial on the same issue: "Is digital publishing really 'just as expensive as print?' As someone who has spent almost 15 years working in both print and digital journalism in many different capacities, I do not understand how this could be true." A lively comment section accompanies Peters' article.
Harvard historian and New Yorker writer Jill Lepore, biographer of Benjamin Franklin's little sister Jane, annotates her story “The Prodigal Daughter,” in which she weaves her mother's history and Jane Franklin's into a single layered narrative, drawing heavily upon her many years of archival research: "The parts of the book that get imported into the essay are like the reduction of a sauce that has been simmering so long you don’t even remember turning on the stove.”
The National Academy of Sciences has issued a new report on the debate over genetically modified organisms and it doesn't settle much, Tabitha M. Powledge writes: "In short, if you nursed the fantasy that there is a simple yes or no answer to the decades-long contention over GMO safety, forget it. No 388-page report is going to contain anything other than nuances and caveats." Also, more reaction to John Oliver's takedown of science reporting.