EurekAlert Announces International Science Reporter Fellows

Vijay Shankar Balakrishnan, Xiaoxue Chen, Haonan (Simon) Liu, Julianna Photopoulos and Aayushi Pratap will attend the AAAS 2018 Annual Meeting as EurekAlert! fellows. | Photos courtesy of subjects

Freelance writer Julianna Photopoulos and mobile app reporter Xiaoxue Chen are among the five recipients of the 2018 EurekAlert! Fellowships for International Science Reporters awards, marking two firsts for the fellowship program – the inaugural recipient from the Balkan region and the first representing a daily mobile-app publication.

The winners of the journalism fellowship program were announced on Jan. 12. The program, now in its 14th year, gives early-career science reporters from emerging economies a free opportunity to attend the AAAS 2018 Annual Meeting and cover breaking scientific research and network with peers. The 2018 meeting, themed “Advancing Science Discovery to Application,” will be held Feb. 15-19 in Austin, Texas.

The five 2018 winners are:

  • Julianna Photopoulos, freelance
  • Xiaoxue Chen, The Intellectual
  • Haonan (Simon) Liu, Caijing
  • Vijay Shankar Balakrishnan, freelance
  • Aayushi Pratap, Hindustan Times

“The Balkan region, and eastern Europe more generally, have been largely left out of the global conversations on science and the media, partly due to language barriers and economic isolations of the regions – and in some cases, war,” said Mićo Tatalović, chair of the Association of British Science Writers and a judge of the 2018 EurekAlert! Fellowships program.

Past fellows have represented the Middle East, Africa, Central and South America, India and China.

“There are few, if any opportunities, for young science writers in the Balkan region to make their first steps and get first paid assignments, so this fellowship comes as a fresh breath of air and a rare opportunity to travel, work with international colleagues, and learn from experienced editors how to do quality reporting about the latest science advancements,” said Tatalović, a former editor of New Scientist who also serves on the board of the Balkan Network of Science Journalists.

Photopoulos, the first EurekAlert! fellow from the Balkans, works as a freelance journalist based in Greece. Her writing has appeared in BBC Earth, New Scientist and Chemistry World.

“A large proportion of the applications came from digital and social media, reflecting a changing media landscape in China,” said fellowship judge Jane Qiu, a Beijing-based freelance contributor to Nature, Science and Scientific American. “I’m particularly impressed by their energy, originality and a keen sense of the challenges facing journalists around the world.”

Chen was selected for her work for The Intellectual, a science-news channel on WeChat, a popular messaging app with 938 million monthly active users in 2017, behind only Facebook Messenger and WhatsApp. She writes for an outlet that publishes daily science stories on a mobile app. Her work focuses on topics ranging from neuroscience to paleoanthropology, and follow-up stories on a gene-editing tool, NgAgo, she co-authored with colleagues recently won China’s Annual Investigative Reporting Award in 2017.

“I’d like to learn about cutting-edge technologies in the U.S. and how American scientists view the process of translating basic science into application,” said Chen, who was a panelist at the 2017 World Conference for Science Journalists in San Francisco. “How could American laws or regulations protect the benefits of both investors and the institutions the scientists are affiliated with?” 

For Haonan (Simon) Liu, the AAAS Annual Meeting offers an opportunity to communicate directly with international scientists and public officials about artificial intelligence, a topic he covers frequently for Caijing, a Chinese financial magazine.

“As a young science reporter, I am encouraged by winning the 2018 EurekAlert! Fellowship, which represents an international and professional recognition of my work. I will remember this fulfilling feeling and use it to motivate myself to be a better journalist,” said Liu, who also hopes to learn new investigative reporting skills from his peers.

For the third straight year, EurekAlert! Fellowships will support two journalists from India, including Vijay Shankar Balakrishnan, a scientist-turned-freelance reporter who has written for Scroll.in, Nature India and The Lancet titles. Balakrishnan earned an interdisciplinary science Ph.D. from Aarhus University in Denmark before honing his journalistic skills at the City University in London.

“I’ve always loved science. After coming into science journalism, I love it even more, as I learned to recognize its often hidden human and economic values,” said Balakrishnan, who is currently based in Germany. “Professionally, the fellowship opens doors to cover one of the largest scientific world events and allows me to hear the back stories of the latest scientific advances directly from those who made them possible.”

Aayushi Pratap, a health correspondent with Hindustan Times, focuses her reporting on India’s governmental and social responses to pressing public health issues facing the country. With a background in biochemistry, she has covered drug-resistant tuberculosis, dengue-related deaths, government responses to HIV/AIDS and mental health disorders in India.

“The AAAS Annual Meeting will provide me with an excellent opportunity to network with leading minds, especially in the fields of neuroscience and cancer research,” Pratap said. “It will also give me a possible road map toward developing myself as a science journalist in India, a country which, at present, does not have a strong tradition in this field.”

The 2018 EurekAlert! Fellowships are supported in part by Rockefeller University Press.

“Sound scientific journalism has never been more critical, and Rockefeller University Press is thrilled to support the EurekAlert! Fellowships for International Science Reporters to enable these individuals to hone their skills and strengthen their global networks at a vital stage in their careers,” said Rory Williams, director of communications and marketing at RUP. “We congratulate the 2018 fellows, and wish them and all AAAS Annual Meeting attendees a productive and successful conference.”