[ASC-media] Newspapers and scientists

Niall Byrne niall at scienceinpublic.com
Wed Aug 4 09:59:41 EST 2004

Newspapers and scientists

Christopher Watson, an expert in surveying and mapping the Earth's surface,
is the inaugural Young Scientist of the Year and will work as a journalist
with The Australian and one of News Limited's London newspapers.

The unique award is presented by The Australian and British Council

The organisations teamed up to give working scientists first-hand experience
in newsrooms and newspaper production, enabling them to communicate more
effectively with journalists and the general public through out their
research career. There were over 90 entries.

"It is an astonishing number of entries especially since there is no money
on offer. It shows we are tapping into a market. Some of the major science
awards with big money prizes get far fewer entrants," said The Australian's
science writer, Leigh Dayton.

"Journalists and scientists speak different languages. We have to learn to
talk to each other.

"Getting scientists to talk to the general public is very difficult because
they want to communicate like a researcher.  It's hard for them to just go
straight to the heart of their work and explain why it's interesting and
important. At the same time, general reporters often find it tough to
interview a scientist because it can be difficult to cut through the

The only other similar scheme where scientists join a paper's newsroom is in
the UK where The Daily Telegraph gives them a crack at the job. But that
program is geared towards scientists, keen to become journalists or science

Mr Watson will spend two weeks in The Australian's Sydney bureau and three
days at a major London newspaper before covering the 2004 British
Association Festival of Science in Exeter. His reports will run in The
Australian and appear on British Council Australia's website mindSET.

British Council Australia will cover the $5000 cost of his trip to London
and Exeter.

"We're delighted to be working with The Australian on this new award," said
Simon Gammell, director of British Council Australia.

"We believe that not only will the award lead to better communication
between scientists and the media, it will also further encourage
intellectual and cultural dialogue between Australia and the UK."

The award was open to fully qualified scientists or engineers at the start
of their career. They had to write an original science news story, no more
than 550 words in length, in a style suitable for publication in The

Mr Watson is the newly-appointed lecturer in spatial information science at
the University of Tasmania. His winning story explained how his innovative
instrument-laden flowerpots continuously monitored changes in sea level in
Bass Strait and transmitted the data to two satellites orbiting high about
Earth.  The results are part of an international effort to tease out the
impact of global warming on the world's waters. 

"I can't believe it. It's fantastic," said Mr Watson of his win. 

Proving that the competition is right on track, he also confessed that,
"writing the news story was much harder than writing the scientific report".

The runners-up in the competition were Owen Pascoe of the Department of
Environment and Conservation NSW and Michael Bartkow of the National
Research Centre for Environmental Toxicology.

To see Chris Watson's winning story please go to www.scienceinpublic.com.

Chris is available for interview on 03 6226 2497, cwatson at utas.edu.au

Media contact: Janet Fife-Yeomans, Manager, Corporate Affairs, News Limited
Tel: (61) 2 9288 3288, email fifeyeomansj at newsltd.com.au

Niall Byrne

Science Communication Consultant
Science in Public
PO Box 199 Drysdale 3222 Australia
(185 Scotchmans Road Portarlington 3223)
Ph +61 3 5253 1391, fax +61 3 9923 6008, mobile 0417 131 977
niall at scienceinpublic.com, www.scienceinpublic.com

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