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.
Tom McNichol interviews Ron Rosenbaum about his 1971 Esquire story on an early network of hackers who built "blue boxes" to make free phone calls: "Rosenbaum’s article is the rare magazine story that not only chronicled history, it also shaped it. A tech enthusiast named Steve Wozniak read Rosenbaum’s piece, and then showed it to his friend Steve Jobs. Before long, the two collaborated on building and selling their own blue boxes."
About those seven Earthlike planets orbiting a nearby star: They're neither nearby nor especially Earthlike, Tabitha M. Powledge writes: "Not to denigrate the scientific achievement, which is noteworthy for its novelty and sophistication … But let’s bring a little reality to the boisterous celebration attending the revelation that astronomers have discovered at least 7 'Earthlike' planets orbiting the 'nearby' star TRAPPIST-1." Also, a mini-march for science at AAAS.
If you thought Excel and similar spreadsheet managers were just tools for sorting data and doing simple arithmetic, you might learn something from this tutorial by John Wihbey and Leighton Walter Kille, who show how to get more advanced statistics like standard deviations and confidence intervals: "Quick calculations are handy, and can help you in a deadline situation, but it’s always better to really dig into the numbers, even when you have a small amount of time."
Scientists and professionals at research institutions eager to inform the public about their work need to go where the readers or, increasingly, the viewers are. Instead of driving traffic to their websites, a panel of public information officers, editors, and journalists recommend creating science content specifically for use on Snapchat, Facebook Live, Twitter, Tumblr, and other social media outlets.
Just when you thought you had it covered with Facebook and Twitter comes news that the fastest growing social media network is now Instagram. Frances Caballo has some tips for writers on getting up to speed: "The easiest time to post is right after you take a picture or create one. You can also plan your posts. According to Later, a scheduling application for Instagram, the best time to post is between 2 a.m. and 5 p.m. EST, with 5 p.m. being the most opportune time."
The Craigslist founder talks to Ken Doctor about his foundation's plan to spend another $3.5 million on news and information philanthropy, on top of $2.5 million he's already committed to Wikipedia for an anti-harassment initiative and other uses, and to the Poynter Institute for an ethics chair: "This is the start. At this point, it’s incumbent on me as an ultra-patriot to spend like a sailor on shore leave."
Ivan Oransky and Adam Marcus put a common statistical test under their microscope, quoting scientists who think it's overused: "Getting statistics right is difficult — and requires careful thought, not just slapping on a p-value and calling it a day. It wasn’t always this way; p-values are only about 350 years old. They’re not the laws of physics. That doesn’t mean we could or should throw them out — although some have — but it means we can make them work better for us."
Katia Savchuk interviews the Newjack author about tricks of the trade for undercover reporting, as well as its ethics: "Don’t actively lie. Don’t make up a false backstory to explain why you’re there or to get a job … Some people will say you’re being deceptive simply by putting on a prison guard uniform or federal meat inspector uniform. To a degree, they’re right. On the other hand, I’m not pretending to do the job — I’m actually doing it."
The National Academy of Science has weighed in on genome editing with "a sane report on prospects for editing the human genome," Tabitha M. Powledge writes: "I’d characterize it as a flashing yellow light, or nearly so, at least by comparison with the position an NAS-sponsored group took in December 2015. At that time, the recommendation was strongly against germline modification for any reason." Also: A bombshell decision by the U.S. Patent Office.