From left, Tabassum Barnagarwala, Huang Tianle, Disha Shetty, and Zeng Ding are the winners of the 2017 EurekAlert! Fellowships for International Science Reporters.
Winners of the 2017 EurekAlert! Fellowships for International Science Reporters say the opportunity to attend the world's largest general scientific meeting and network with reporters and scientists offers validation for their hard work while strengthening their resolve to communicate science to the public.
The fellowship program, now in its 13th year, funds four early-career science reporters from emerging regions to attend the AAAS Annual Meeting. The 2017 meeting, themed "Serving Society Through Science Policy," will be held Feb. 16-20 in Boston.
A total of 23 applications from China and India topped last year's record, with candidates newer to science journalism careers than previous years.
"One of the main goals of the EurekAlert! Fellowships is to encourage science reporters at the dawn of their careers, and to help them build a network of mentors, peers, and contacts in the journalism and scientific communities," said Brian Lin, director of editorial content strategy at EurekAlert! "The number of applications have improved steadily and many past Fellows are now leaders in science journalism in their countries."
Disha Shetty, a health reporter with the Daily News and Analysis newspaper, based in Mumbai, is only one year into a full-time job as a health beat reporter. She has reported on tuberculosis in rural India with the help of the REACH National Media Fellowship.
She strives for solution-based journalism to "tell my readers the small but concrete things they can do to help conserve our planet at a time when global warming is at its peak," Shetty said. "I believe that [the AAAS Annual Meeting] will be a great learning opportunity for an early-career journalist like me to interact with such a diverse gathering including journalists from across the globe."
Tabassum Barnagarwala has worked with daily newspaper Indian Express for the past three years. Like Shetty, Barnagarwala covers health news but says the theme of the 2017 Annual Meeting is close to her heart. She has been a keen observer of "the micro and macro levels of governmental policies and the obstacles in their implementation" in Mumbai.
This is the third year the fellowship program has featured India. The 2017 fellows were selected by an independent panel of judges, including Malathy Iyer, senior editor with The Times of India. "Winners of the EurekAlert! Fellowships from India will gain immensely from attending the Boston conference as they will get to meet, listen and interact with science leaders," she said.
The two Chinese judges agreed that this year's applicants, with an average length-of-service of 2.5 years, showed "outstanding performance in science news reporting," said Tai Zixue, an associate professor in the School of Journalism and Telecommunications at the University of Kentucky.
"I am impressed by their solid grasp of timely and important issues on the frontlines of science and technology at both the domestic and global levels, and their acute understanding of the relevance to everyday life," he added.
Zeng Ding has been reporting for Phoenix Weekly, a popular Chinese current affairs magazine, since 2013. In addition to winning an international journalism contest, he earned a series of awards for an in-depth report on Chinese herbal medicine. "Since I do in-depth reporting, what attracts me the most [about the Annual Meeting] are sessions on medical sciences and public health," Zeng said. Winning this fellowship "offers me the opportunity to listen and have face-to-face chats with the best scientists from all over the world."
Huang Tianle is the second winner in as many years from Chinese science news website Guokr.com. He is excited about the science communication seminars at the meeting. "Now I have the opportunity to learn how the world's best science communicators do their job," he said. "I'd love to humbly learn from them, push myself to the next level and encourage young people to make their own [career] decision and prove themselves right."
Both Huang and Zeng have a background in science, which may have contributed to their reporting. "They are producing high-quality science news stories with sound and accurate scientific information," said Joy Ma, editorial content manager at EurekAlert! Chinese, adding that many Chinese applicants submitted entries with "easily accessible and relatable writing styles providing in-depth analysis and perspectives."
Established in 2004 with a seed grant from the William T. Golden Endowment Fund for Program Innovation and sponsored by EurekAlert!, the AAAS-operated science-news service, the EurekAlert! Fellowships for International Science Reporters support early-career science reporters from emerging economies by providing them with opportunities to cover the latest research and network with peers from around the world at AAAS Annual Meetings.
Applicants must have five years or less of professional science journalism experience, meet EurekAlert!'s longstanding reporter-registrant eligibility criteria, and submit a complete application including published writing samples, a letter of recommendation, and an original essay.
Past fellows have represented the Middle East, Africa, Central and South America, and China. For more information about the 2017 fellowship winners or to find their meeting coverage, visit http://www.eurekalert.org/fellows.