Press Credential Statement

Adopted by the National Association of Science Writers Board on October 9, 2015

NASW urges conference organizers to accept NASW membership as a sufficient credential for granting press privileges to freelance writers at scientific, technical, and medical conferences.

If conference organizers feel that NASW membership alone is not a sufficient credential for granting press privileges to freelance writers, then NASW urges conference organizers to consider the following as acceptable additional criteria: Two clips published in journalism outlets on any topic from the past year or, alternatively, other evidence of science writing work performed in the last year, such as a textbook credential, a letter from a book editor, etc.

Explanation for Meeting Organizers

Because most research is publicly funded, NASW believes that funded researchers have an obligation to share their results with the public. One of the most efficient ways to do this is by minimizing barriers for science writers wishing to attend scientific, technical, and medical conferences. Most NASW members are working science writers who, in order to gain membership, have submitted five samples of work produced for a lay audience within five years. Also, new applicants must be sponsored by two NASW members who are familiar with their work.

A number of scientific organizations accept NASW membership as sufficient for freelance science writers to register as press, including:

We recognize that some meeting organizers may want to restrict press credentials. For this reason, regardless of NASW membership, some meeting organizers request additional credentials, such as an assignment letter from an editor or recently published clips of articles on the subject of the meeting.

However, some legitimate freelance science writers may not be able to supply such credentials. For example, a writer may be going to a meeting to look for story ideas, so they would not yet have an assignment. Or a writer working on a book project might have no recent clips in the field. Yet, the book (and its readers) would benefit from the inclusion of current research and in-person interviews with multiple sources possible at a meeting. In addition, many freelance science writers do not specialize narrowly, so they may write about disease epidemics one year and climate change the next. As such, they may not have recent clips in the field, yet they remain legitimate science writers.

Explanation for NASW Members

As an NASW freelance member, it is your responsibility to register as “press” for a conference only when you intend to cover the meeting as a journalist, to gather story ideas for journalism outlets, or when working on a book.

Conference organizers have a wide range of policies for issuing press credentials to journalists. Some are published on society or conference web sites; others are implemented less formally. Most conferences admit staff reporters for general-interest and specialized print or web publications, but may ask freelancers for additional credentials. This policy is aimed specifically at facilitating press credentials for freelance writers.

Policies that science writers may find restrictive generally arise from problems conference organizers have experienced in the past. People—often students, unemployed scientists, and sometimes consultants—have claimed to be journalists in order to avoid paying the conference registration fee. That leads conference organizers to insist that freelancers show they really write articles that really are published. Some specifically refuse to issue press credentials to people with full-time non-journalistic jobs in the field or to non-writing employees of publishers.

Organizers’ main concern is money, and it’s not just saving a few dollars on coffee and donuts in the pressroom. Conference organizers need to sell memberships to pay their bills, and they don’t want to admit people who otherwise would pay to attend. They cater to journalists to publicize their conferences and their field, but don’t want to pick up the tab for people who are not going to report on the meeting. Organizers feel they need some restrictions to keep out “freeloaders.”

If you plan to attend a conference, you should check their web site in advance for press registration information, and contact the organizers if you can’t find any. It’s much easier to arrange press registration in advance than to fumble through your papers at the registration desk — especially at a conference not used to dealing with the press.

Selected Examples of Freelance Press Credential Requirements

Gathered in 2015 for illustration purposes only. For current press credential requirements, please visit the website for each conference.

American Astronomical Society

Freelance science writers/editors/producers, including documentary filmmakers, Internet science communicators, and content producers for museum or planetarium news services. Required credentials: current membership card from NASW or one of its regional affiliates, CSWA, or ISWA; letter from an editor of a recognized publication assigning you to attend the meeting; or sample of relevant bylined work published within the last three years.

American College of Veterinary Internal Medicine

Freelance writers and photographers should be prepared to submit a letter from the news organization they are representing on that company’s letterhead and signed by the editor. Eligibility is subject to approval by the 2013 ACVIM Forum organizers. You will be notified if your request for complimentary press credentials is denied, or if additional information is needed to confirm your status.

American Geophysical Union

Freelance science journalists who present evidence of three (3) bylined news reports in the Earth and space sciences intended for the general public and published within the last year. Public information/press officers of scientific societies, educational institutions, and government agencies who present a business card or a link to a web page listing them as staff.

AGU notes: Scientists who will be presenting at the meeting and who are also reporting from the meeting for bona fide news media outlets may be issued news media credentials. However, everyone who presents at the meeting must also register for the meeting as a regular attendee and pay the appropriate fee as a presenter. Representatives of publishing houses, the business side of news media, political action committees or similar, and for-profit corporations must register on the main registration page of the meeting and pay the appropriate fees, regardless of possession of any of the above credentials; they will not be accredited as news media at the meeting.

Cardiovascular Research Foundation

For freelance journalists: Copies of bylined cardiology-related articles and an official letter of assignment from an accredited news organization

Design Automation Conference

Freelance Writers:
Freelance writers must be able to provide at least one bylined article published within the last six months and must verify they have been retained to cover DAC by presenting an original letter of assignment. Those who freelance occasionally and are employed by non-news organizations are not eligible for media registration.

Hematology/Oncology Pharmacy Association

Press Credentials:
Press passes are issued to individuals representing a recognized news organization, including freelancers who contribute to such organizations. To obtain a press badge, both photo identification, such as a driver’s license or passport, and identification certifying that you are a working member of the print, broadcast or online media are required. Such identification includes press credentials, or a business card and samples of your work. All freelancers must present a letter of assignment. Individuals who receive exhibitor passes are not eligible for press passes.

HOPA has the right to inspect the credentials of anyone registering as press and reserves the right to refuse to register any individual as press. Ineligible Registrants: HOPA does not issue press badges to: publishers or a publications’ advertising, marketing, public relations, sales, circulation, or any other non-editorial function representatives; industry/exhibitor press officers and their public relations consultants; financial or business analysts; educational program developers (including CME writers and editors); trade media management personnel; or other individuals who are not actually reporting on the meeting.

Media who produce a communications vehicle that is sponsored by a single organization or whose revenue for the publication or issue of a publication depends solely on coverage of HOPA’s meeting also are ineligible to receive press credentials. In addition, media who produce communications vehicle that uses HOPA’s name or logo to imply endorsement from HOPA also are ineligible to receive press credentials. HOPA prohibits the development of CME content based on information presented at its meeting.

Be advised that based on space requirements, HOPA reserves the right to limit the number of press badges issued to a media organization. Typically, no more than five press passes will be issued to any one news organization.

IEEE International Microwave Symposium

Freelance Writers:
Freelance writers must be able to provide at least one bylined article published within the last six months and must verify they have been retained to cover IMS by presenting an original letter of assignment from a confirmed media outlet. Those who freelance occasionally and are employed by non-news organizations are not eligible for media registration.

International Union of Phlebology

Press Credential Registration:
Only individuals who are acting in an editorial capacity for a recognized print, online or broadcast news organization may register as press. To qualify for a press badge, press must complete the Application for Press Credentials and submit the following:

  • Bylined samples of their work: If you have attended a previous meeting of the ACP or UIP, provide bylined samples of your coverage from that meeting. If you have not attended an ACP or UIP meeting, submit bylined samples of your coverage of the specialty of Phlebology. NOTE: If your sample is in a foreign language, you must provide an English version that clearly denotes your byline.
  • For freelance writers, a letter of assignment on letterhead from the publication you are contracted with for this meeting.

Optical Society of America

Freelance Writers/Reporters/Authors -
Provide one of the following items: • An original letter (on letterhead) of assignment or a copy of your contract from the editor-in-chief at a news organization • Two samples of bylined industry-related articles published within the last six months

O’Reilly Conferences (technology)

Freelance Writers and Authors:
Persons requesting freelance credentials must provide an article published within the past six months or a letter of assignment from a qualifying editor or publication. Those who freelance occasionally and are employed by non-news organizations are not eligible for media credentials.