What Is A Science Writer?
When nearing the end of your science degree, it may seem rather unsettling to know that you have to decide what career path to take. For science graduates, there are different options depending on your interests and aspirations.
Perhaps your dream is to work in academia and have your own lab. If this is the case, then a postgraduate degree is likely on the cards. Alternatively, you may want to work in science, but have no desire to pursue a career in research. If this is you, then perhaps you might consider becoming a science writer.
But…What is a science writer?
A science writer is someone who researches, edits and writes scientific content. This could be for media sources, like newspapers, magazines, and blogs, or for non-media outlets, which involves producing informational content for hospital brochures, journals and websites.
In general, science writers must be able to understand complicated scientific material and translate it in a way that can be understood by non-scientists. This means removing all the specialist language, or jargon, that a member of the general public won’t understand. The goal is to spark interest and excitement in readers who may normally shy away from picking up a science-related article.
How can I become a science writer?
The most important criterion for becoming a science writer is -quite obviously- a love of science. That being said, those interested in becoming science writers should have an undergraduate qualification in a related discipline, such as journalism, creative writing or the natural sciences.
If you are currently working towards a degree in journalism, then it is advised to take a class or two in a natural science. Likewise, if you pursuing a natural science degree, then try to take some classes in journalism to see whether it might be for you. While you may be good at science, you must also be a proficient writer, and vice versa.
It is also important to practice writing about science in a non-scientific manner. A good way to do this is to approach your university’s magazine or newspaper with a science story you would like to write about. Another option is to start your own science-related blog. This will provide you with a medium to practice writing about science in a variety of styles. Furthermore, practicing your scientific writing will provide you with a number of pieces that can be presented to prospective employers.
Why is it important?
Science writers help to bridge the gap between the non-specialist public and the experts. While this may not seem too important to the average laboratory researcher, the truth is that public understanding is vitally important for the progression of science. This is because many research grants available to independent researchers and academic institutions are publically funded.
For instance, the majority of research grants awarded by Cancer Research UK come from public donations, legacies, fundraising campaigns and events. Cancer Research UK has a team of science writers and communicators dedicated to sharing information about the science of cancer and research that is ongoing.
Their writing style inspires interest and passion in the “lay” reader, motivating them to go out and fundraise or donate money. The charity’s science blog is just one example of their commitment to communicating the science of cancer-related stories to the wider public.
Meghan Maslen is a freelance writer and editor. She earned her Master of Research degree from Newcastle University and is now pursuing a new career in science writing. Check out her science blog here.
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