Science Writing

Jill Clatanoff

Arelatively new field emerging out of the technical writing genre is science writing. The purpose of this specialized technical writing field is to write about discoveries and developments in all branches of science, medicine, and engineering. The goal of a science writer is to inform and explain about the benefits of scientific advances to the average individual. Science writers usually work in one of four areas: science journalism, industry, public communications, and editing.

Science journalists write articles for magazines geared towards the general public, science magazines for scientists and engineers, and newspapers. Some are employed by television and radio networks. Science writers in the industry field write technical bulletins, advertising and press releases, and also might assist corporate researchers in writing technical papers. Science writers specializing in public communications are employed in federal and state government agencies, research institutes, universities, and professional societies. Their main function is to prepare press releases and reports, and to assist researchers in the preparation of grant proposals. Science editors edit articles for science and technology journals, books, magazines, and government reports.

All types of science writers must keep current with major scientific and technical developments. To do this, they can attend science and technology conferences, read press releases, articles, and research papers, interview scientists and engineers, and conduct online literature searches for background information. "Science writing offers some wonderful adventures," notes Patrick Young, a former editor of Science News. "Iíve visited the South Pole, stared into a steaming volcano, covered the first human landing on the moon, and dived with an underwater archaeology team investigating an old fur trade route." <>.

If a person is interested in becoming a science writer, a college degree is a necessity, whether in science or journalism. Technical writing or journalism majors should take at least the basic science courses. Likewise, science majors should take technical writing or journalism courses. Many colleges and universities offer specialized courses and degrees in science writing. It is a good idea to take at least the basic chemistry courses to develop a chemistry background. There are many developments in the biotechnology and medicine fields, and biology and biochemistry courses can be very useful.

The demand for science writers and editors is expected to increase due to the continuing expansion of scientific and technical information and the need to communicate it to others. The employment of science writers and editors is expected to increase faster than the average, approximately 36%, through the year 2010 <>. If you have a strong interest in science and want the general public to understand its recent advances, then science writing would be an excellent career for you. CC