- How Science Works
- Sources and Experts: Where to Find Them and How to Vet Them
- Making Sense of Science Stats
- Editing for Story
- Editing Controversial Science
- Holding Science to Account
- Covering Health Care
- Climate and the Environment
- Fact-Checking Science Journalism: How to Make Sure Your Stories Are True
Illustrating Complex Science Stories
- The Role of Visuals in Science Journalism
- The Process of Building Science-Centric Graphics
- Strategies for Using Visuals to Put Breaking Science in Context
- Special Considerations for Data Visualization
- Uncertainty and Misinformation
- Editorial Illustration, Photography, and Moving Images
- Additional Reading and Resources
- About the Author
- Social Media and Reader Engagement
- Popular Science
- Op-Eds and Essays
- About This Handbook
This handbook was made possible thanks to support from Stacey Bailey of the Kavli Foundation and Richard Stone of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute’s Department of Science Education. We could not be more grateful for their backing and encouragement.
We are also indebted to David Evans, Mitch Gerber, Lucas Haugen, Bettina Urcuioli, and the Linchpin Agency for their design, editing and production efforts. They made this website and downloadable PDF better than it otherwise would have been.
And of course this handbook exists only because the following talented science journalists lent their expertise and time to providing the content contained within it.
Brooke Borel is a journalist and author specializing in science and technology. She’s the articles editor at Undark, an independent digital magazine devoted to coverage of science in the public interest, and has written for Popular Science, BuzzFeed News, the Guardian, TheAtlantic.com, Scientific American, Medium’s OneZero, FiveThirtyEight, Slate, and other publications. The Alicia Patterson Foundation, the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, and the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation have funded her work. She teaches writing workshops at the Arthur L. Carter Journalism Institute at New York University and speaks on journalism and fact-checking nationally and internationally.
In 2019, Brooke’s Scientific American article “Clicks, Lies and Videotape” received the American Society for Journalists and Authors award for outstanding science or Technology article, and she was a finalist in the National Academies Communication Awards. Her work has been anthologized in What Future. Her books are Infested: How the Bed Bug Infiltrated Our Bedrooms and Took Over the World and The Chicago Guide to Fact-Checking, both from the University of Chicago Press.
Erin Brodwin is a health-tech reporter at STAT, a health-and-medicine news site affiliated with The Boston Globe. Based in the San Francisco Bay Area, she focuses her reporting on Silicon Valley power players like Apple, Amazon, Google, Facebook, and Microsoft and their ambitions in health care.
Before joining STAT, Erin spent five years as a health-and-science reporter at Business Insider, where she wrote the definitive account of what went wrong at the microbiome start-up uBiome, leading to an FBI investigation and the company’s eventual bankruptcy. She has been interviewed on NPR and the BBC and has had her work cited by outlets including The New York Times and the World Economic Forum.
Jen Christiansen is senior graphics editor at Scientific American, where she art-directs and produces illustrated explanatory diagrams and data visualizations. She began her publishing career in 1996 at Scientific American, in New York, moved to Washington to join the staff of National Geographic (first as an assistant art director/researcher and then as a designer), spent four years as a freelance science communicator, and returned to Scientific American in 2007.
Jen writes and presents on topics ranging from visualizing uncertainty to her quest to learn more about the pulsar chart on Joy Division’s Unknown Pleasures album cover. She holds a graduate certificate in science communication from the University of California at Santa Cruz and a B.A. in geology and studio art from Smith College.
Rachel Feltman is executive editor of Popular Science and head of its Uranus-pun-loving science team, as well as the founding producer and host of “The Weirdest Thing I Learned This Week,” PopSci’s podcast. Before starting at PopSci, in 2016, she ran an irreverent blog for The Washington Post called “Speaking of Science.”
Rachel holds a degree in environmental science from Bard College at Simon’s Rock and a master’s in science, health, and environmental reporting from New York University. She has a book in the works about the history of sex, for Bold Type.
Katie Fleeman is audience-engagement editor at Knowable Magazine, where she manages social media, republishing, and analytics. She learned about academic publishing at PLOS and then dove into the media start-up world at ATTN:.
Katie extends her gratitude to the social-media and engagement editors who shared their thoughts and advice.
Laura Helmuth is the editor in chief of Scientific American and a former editor at The Washington Post, National Geographic, Slate, Smithsonian, and Science magazines.
A former president of the National Association of Science Writers, Laura serves on the boards of SciLine, Spectrum, High Country News, and the National Academies of Science, Engineering, and Medicine’s Standing Committee on Advancing Science Communication. She is a birder and on Twitter way too much, at @LauraHelmuth.
Apoorva Mandavilli is a reporter for The New York Times, focusing on science and global health. She is the 2019 winner of the Victor Cohn Prize for Excellence in Medical Science Reporting. She is the founding editor in chief of Spectrum, an award-winning news site on autism science that reaches an audience of millions. She led the team there for 13 years. She joined The Times in May 2020, after two years as a regular contributor.
Apoorva has won numerous awards for her writing. Her work has been published in The Atlantic, Slate, and The New Yorker online, and in the anthology Best American Science and Nature Writing. She co-founded Culture Dish, an organization dedicated to enhancing diversity in science journalism, and was the founding chair of the Diversity Committee for the National Association of Science Writers. Apoorva has a master-of-arts degree in journalism from New York University and a master-of-science degree in biochemistry from the University of Wisconsin at Madison. She is fluent in English, Hindi, Tamil, Telugu, and Kannada.
Fen Montaigne began his journalism career at the Houma Courier, a small daily in Louisiana’s Cajun country. He went on to spend 20 years as a newspaper reporter, 15 of them at The Philadelphia Inquirer. He was the Moscow correspondent during the collapse of the Soviet Union and was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in feature writing. He spent a dozen years working as a freelance writer, with articles appearing in National Geographic, The New Yorker, The Wall Street Journal, and other publications.
Fen is the author of several books, including the travel/adventure tale Reeling in Russia, and an account of climate change in Antarctica, Fraser’s Penguins, for which he received a Guggenheim fellowship. He helped launch the magazine Yale Environment 360 in 2008 and is its senior editor.
Melinda Wenner Moyer is a science journalist and a visiting scholar at New York University’s Arthur L. Carter Journalism Institute. She is a contributing editor at Scientific American and regularly writes for The New York Times. She was the recipient of the 2019 Bricker Award for Science Writing in Medicine, and her work has been featured in Best American Science and Nature Writing 2020.
Melinda writing has also taken first place in the American Society of Journalists and Authors’ Annual Writing Awards and the Awards for Excellence in Health Care Reporting. She lives in New York’s Hudson Valley with her husband and two children.
Neel V. Patel is senior editor for science and innovation coverage at The Daily Beast. He was previously the space reporter for MIT Technology Review and an associate editor at Inverse. He has written for Popular Science, Slate, The Verge, New York, Wired, and other publications.
Neel has a master’s degree from New York University’s Arthur L. Carter Journalism Institute. He fell into science journalism after a brief and terrible stint in an immunology lab in college. He lives in Brooklyn.
Ashley Smart is associate director of the Knight Science Journalism Program at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and a senior editor at Undark magazine. He is a co-editor of A Tactical Guide to Science Journalism: Lessons From the Frontlines, published in 2022 by Oxford University Press.
Ashley was previously a senior editor at Physics Today magazine and a 2015-16 Knight Science Journalism Fellow. Smart has served on the advisory boards of the Council for the Advancement of Science Writing and The Open Notebook, and he holds a Ph.D. in chemical and biological engineering from Northwestern University.
Yasmin Tayag is a science editor and writer. She previously led the Medium Coronavirus Blog and was a science editor at the science-tech website OneZero and the health-and-wellness website Elemental.
Yasmin was the founding editor of Future Human, a site about using science to shape the future. She was also the senior science editor at Inverse. Her writing has appeared in The Atlantic, The New York Times, The Guardian, Quartz, Vox, and Slate. She lives in New York.
Elisabetta Tola is a scientist and data journalist who holds a Ph.D. in microbiology. She was a Tow-Knight Fellow in 2019 at the Craig Newmark Graduate School of Journalism at the City University of New York. As founder of Facta and chief executive of the science-communications agency formicablu, she applies scientific methodology to journalism.
Tola is the author of the international data and multimedia investigations Seedversity.org, SEEDcontrol.eu, and Hearing Voices. She is a radio presenter at RAI Radio3scienza and has freelanced for publications including ESMH, IlBOLive, AGI, and WiredIT. She is also a media trainer and lecturer on data-science journalism and the author of a handbook for journalists on environmental science for the European Forest Institute.
Tom Zeller Jr. is an American journalist who has spent more than two decades covering energy policy, poverty, science, technology, and the environment for a variety of national publications, including 12 years as a staff reporter and editor at The New York Times
Tom is the founding editor of Undark, an independent digital magazine devoted to coverage of science in the public interest. Under his leadership, Undark’s journalism has been included in the “Best American Science and Nature Writing” book series and honored with numerous awards, including the George Polk Award for Environmental Reporting and the Al Neuharth Innovation in Investigative Journalism Award from the Online News Association.
Deborah Blum is a Pulitzer Prize-winning American science journalist, columnist, and author of six books, including The Poison Squad (2018) and The Poisoner’s Handbook (2010). She is also co-editor of A Field Guide for Science Writers (2005). She is a former president of the National Association of Science Writers, was a member of the governing board of the World Federation of Science Writers, and currently serves on the board of advisers of the Council for the Advancement of Science Writing. In 2015 she was named director of the Knight Science Journalism Program at MIT.
Joshua Hatch is director of digital platforms and audience at The Chronicle of Higher Education and The Chronicle of Philanthropy. He was a Knight Science Journalism Fellow at MIT in 2018 and served eight years on the board of the Online News Association, including two as president. Hatch teaches online journalism at American University, in Washington, and was formerly interactives director at USA Today. He also writes nonfiction children’s educational books on subjects ranging from the history of flight to modern communications. He has written for Nature Outlook, Aerospace America, The Chronicle of Higher Education, USA Today, and other publications.
Nicholas Jackson is a National Magazine Award-winning editor and writer who believes that good storytelling is at the root of making change, and that an informed public is essential to a functioning democracy. He is director of growth content for Built In, a network of technology sites across the country where tech professionals — current or aspiring — learn about the industry. He is also an independent publishing consultant, providing strategic advice and editorial services to a variety of clients. He was previously editor in chief of Pacific Standard and Atlas Obscura, and has worked as an editor, writer, and digital director at The Atlantic, Outside, Slate, Texas Monthly, Encyclopaedia Britannica, and other publications, both online and in print.
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