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ScienceNOW Celebrates 10 Years of Breaking Science News on the Web
This month, Science's premier Web portal ScienceNOW celebrates 10 years of daily dispatches, making it an official pioneer of online science news.
Every weekday, the staff of ScienceNOW delivers a variety of short and intriguing stories on everything from beetle horns to stem cell policy, often breaking news in the process. For instance, ScienceNOW correspondent Robert Irion was the first to report in January 2006 that the recently discovered dwarf planet "Xena" (renamed "Eris" in September) was bigger than Pluto, a finding that contributed to Pluto's controversial demotion from major to minor planet this summer.
The ScienceNOW site logs 210,000 article downloads each month and receives about 70,000 unique visitors each week. Stories are freely available for a month, and Science subscribers have access to all archived ScienceNOW stories.
The online proliferation of daily science news since 1996 has certainly provided competition for the site, but ScienceNOW still offers a unique take on science news, according to its current editor, David Grimm.
"One of the things that distinguishes ScienceNOW from something like the New York Times science page is that we tend to go a lot more in depth in terms of the methodology, not just what happened and why it's important, but we also give the reader a general sense of the science that went into it," Grimm said.
"Unlike many other sites, we cover news about science policy as well as new scientific findings. We also keep the items short and easy to understand, so they should be accessible to a broad audience," said Colin Norman, Science's news editor.
ScienceNOW doesn't shy away from covering the big science stories of the week, but Grimm said some of his favorite stories are those that come from conferences or smaller journals that "fall below the radar of almost all the other outlets."
The site brims with multimedia features and links to other information, "a really nice touch that most other sites surprisingly in this age don't always do," Grimm said.
Grimm said audio clips of bird songs, video of deep sea creatures or links to other sites on human and ape cognition, for instance, give a reader "more of a three-dimensional experience than just reading a story."
ScienceNOW was launched in 1996—"when the Web was still in its infancy"—as an outlet for breaking scientific news and a way to lure viewers to the Science Web site, Norman said.
"The news department wanted to make use of the Web to get stories, which are reported from around the world, to our readers as quickly as possible," explained Erik Stokstad, ScienceNOW's managing editor.
In its early years, ScienceNOW worked with Academic Press to post two exclusive stories to the now-defunct InSCIght Web site. "In addition, we had four stories that appeared exclusively on ScienceNOW. It was backbreaking!" Stokstad joked.
After ScienceNOW's partnership with Academic ended, the site began publishing about 15 to 20 stories a week. Readership has fluctuated over the years, as the site moved from free access to Science subscriber-only access and back again to free access last October.
Grimm thinks that the return to free access has probably introduced the site to a wider audience.
"Having our stories show up on Google News and Slashdot has really expanded the types of readers we get," Grimm said.
Norman said the site will continue adding new features and "getting the word out to groups like teachers and students that this is a great resource for keeping up with the latest developments in science."
24 October 2006