2017 in Review

I’ve never had a year where I felt like my job as a science journalist was more important. But, let me tell you, being a journalist in 2017 was exhausting. The number of important stories to cover felt insurmountable, and I also found myself double checking sources and doing extra fact-checking just to make sure I and the authors I edited had represented stories well.

One of the big projects I took on this year was to launch a local monthly science outreach series called Science on Tap, in collaboration with Virginia Tech’s new Center for Communicating Science. I’ve long felt that relationships between citizens and professional scientists need to be built, and that’s the mission of this event series. I’ve been astounded by how popular Science on Tap has been, and we often get more than 100 people at our events. I also joined the VT CCS advisory board, and am thrilled by the improv and writing training their faculty are providing to students.

I continue to consider and study ways to communicate about polarizing science topics, and so it was gratifying when an article about climate change that I edited won gold in the EXCEL awards for feature writing (our small and dedicated team also won a gold award for general excellence and design excellence–a big note of encouragement during this exhausting year). Several pieces of my writing ended up as American Scientist‘s list of most popular pieces for 2017, including this report on research indicating that Down syndrome can be viewed as an immune disorder and this fun blog post about thanking our moms for our mitochondria.

But the pieces that I wrote this year that I think are the most important weren’t necessarily the most viral or eye-catching. My favorite pieces I wrote this year included this report about harassment in science workplaces, with a focus on improving reporting-and-response policies, and my interview with Sheila Jasanoff, the foundational figure in Science and Technology Studies, about bioethics, democracy, and science. I think that my interview with Jasanoff is pertinent to the work of every scientist and science communicator or policymaker. I also had a lot of fun reviewing Andy Field’s new statistics textbook. I know that sounds crazy, but it is in fact the most fun statistics textbook I’ve ever read, with a graphic novel moving forward each lesson. Making statistics less intimidating and more relevant is one of my nerdy passions, and Field is a rare kindred spirit.

I’m already looking forward to the year ahead. I learned in December that I will be attending in New Orleans in March the unconference OCEANDOTCOMM (put on by the Louisiana Universities Marine Consortium), which brings together science communicators to collaborate on a project. I’ve been wanting more collaborative projects in my mix of work, and I’m anticipating that this week will be a big highlight. Full speed ahead and onward ho, 2018!

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