Reading list for #DCSWA professional development day

I moved back to Washington, D.C. in April after 4 years in Cambridge, England. Conveniently, the DC Science Writers Association was holding its annual professional development day just after my arrival, which gave me a great opportunity to meet up with friends and reconnect with professional colleagues. In the better-late-than-never department, here’s a post-meeting reading list. This isn’t a meeting summary – it’s just link goodness and things I want to follow up on, and maybe you do, too.

I’ll start the list with this year’s winner of the DCSWA newsbrief award: “Rare Earth Elements Not Rare, Just Playing Hard to Get,” by the lovely and talented Sarah Zielinski for Smithsonian’s Surprising Science blog. Yay, Sarah!

Honorable mentions went to “How Mussels Hang On” by Sujata Gupta in ScienceNOW, and “Microscale Mimic of Human Ingestion” by Rajendrani Mukhopadhyay in Chemical and Engineering News.

The first plenary kicked off with a session on building online comunities with The Blogfather, Bora Zivkovic. Bora writes A Blog Around the Clock and edits Scientific American Blogs. His fellow panelist was Darlene Cavalier of ScienceCheerleader.com. Do read her bio – she’s fascinating!

Next came a session on maintaining standards on the Web, again with Bora and also with Mary Knudson, veteran science journalist, co-author of a Field Guide for Science Writers, writer of the blog HeartSense, and author of the book Living Well with Heart Failure.  On the topic of maintaining standards, see Bora’s Pepsigate post, A Farewell to Scienceblogs: the Changing Science Blogging Ecosystem, and Mary’s post, Why I Won’t Blog for U.S. News and World Report.

At some point, the discussion in this session disintegrated into Blogger vs. Journalist, a debate (or “debate”, if you will) that, IMO, most people in the room didn’t really want to have. Brian Switek incorporated some of the discussion into his blog post, ‘Apples and Orangutans‘. Also somewhat related was Alice Bell’s post, ‘Has blogging changed science writing?

Building an audience for your book: I didn’t go to this session, but I sure do love hearing about new books. On the agenda were Sam Kean, author of The Disappearing Spoon; Eric Roston, author of The Carbon Age; and Brian Switek, author of Written in Stone, which was just about to be released when I last saw him at the NASW meeting in November.

The day concluded with some sage wisdom from former Scientific American editor John Rennie. Rennie reiterated his Science Online 2011 point that we should be adding value to stories online, not chasing the herd, which he summed up in Why Ed Yong is the Future of Science News (and You Could Be, Too). More from Rennie on his blog, the Gleaming Retort.

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