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EurekAlert! Fellowships a 'Stepping Stone' for Early-Career Science Reporters

A collage of five headshots
The winners of the 2019 EurekAlert! Fellowships for International Science Reporters will attend the 2019 AAAS Annual Meeting, Feb. 14-17, in Washington, D.C. | Courtesy of the fellows

Five early-career science journalists have won the 2019 EurekAlert! Fellowships for International Science Reporters, as the program celebrates its 15th anniversary and the contributions of its alumni to science journalism.

The winners, from China, India, Slovenia and Egypt, will receive travel support to attend the 2019 AAAS Annual Meeting, Feb. 14-17, in Washington, D.C. Two 2018 Fellowship winners, Vijay Shankar Balakrishnan (India) and Haonan Liu (China), will also attend the Meeting.

Mohammed Yahia, a 2008 EurekAlert! Fellowship recipient and current president of the World Federation of Science Journalists, highlights the need for more opportunities for science journalists in developing countries.

"Being a science journalist in developing regions is tricky because there are very few formal education opportunities available," said Yahia, a co-founder and vice-president of the Arab Science Journalists Association and executive editor of partnership and custom media at Nature Research. “At the same time, there is a growing need to cover science, and there is growing demand, especially with science being integral to the development of these regions. We need more and better science journalists who can play this important part, and to deliver stories that are relevant to their audiences.”

“I was one of the recipients of the fellowship early in my career and it made a huge difference to me,” Yahia added. “The AAAS [Annual Meeting] was by far the biggest science conference I'd ever been to, and it was exciting to have some of the best scientists and researchers in the world in one place.”

Federico Kukso, a 2011 EurekAlert! Fellowship recipient from Argentina and current board member of the World Federation of Science Journalists, said the fellowship gave him the opportunity to travel outside "the bubble" of Latin America and learn from scientists and science journalists from other regions.

“In an era dominated by fake news, anti-vaccine movements, climate change deniers, flat-earthers and promoters of magical thinking, it is more important than ever to communicate science. And to do it well,” said Kusko. “For this reason, fellowships such as the EurekAlert! fellowship are important: they help young science journalists from the farthest corners of the planet to improve their skills and give them the unique opportunity to participate in important scientific meetings where they can get to know the debates around the main scientific topics of the moment,” said Kukso.

Yahia and Kukso are among 68 other journalists who have received the fellowship. Other winners who have gone on to enjoy successful and respected careers in science journalism include Gan Xiao (2014), now a senior reporter with China Science Daily, and Dalia AbdelSalam (2008 and 2010), now chief editor of For Science للعِلم and former board member of the Arab Science Journalists Association. AbdelSalam is also a judge in this year's competition.

The 2019 winners are:

  • Mohamed Elsonbaty Ramadan, freelance (@ElsonbatySciCom)
    • Egypt
  • Spoorthy Raman, Research Matters
    • India
  • Jyoti Singh, India Science Wire (@ashajyoti11)
    • India
  • Lea Udovč, Slovenian Press Agency (@LeaUdovc)
    • Slovenia
  • Li Zheng, freelance (@elise901)
    • China

Mohamed Elsonbaty Ramadan, a scientist-turned-freelance journalist based in Brussels, Belgium, focuses his writing on areas such as global healthscience and technology, and has reported for outlets such as the Scientific American Arabic Edition, SciDev.Net MENA Edition, MIT Technology Review Arabic Edition and the Scientific Arabi magazine. Ramadan says he is eager to network with policymakers and fellow journalists at the Annual Meeting.

“Winning the EurekAlert! Fellowship and attending the AAAS Annual Meeting in 2019 will give me the opportunity for exposure to world-class science and science journalism,” said Ramadan.

The last fellowship winner from the Middle East was Nadia El Dakroury in 2011.

Mićo Tatalović, chair of the Association of British Science Writers and a judge for the 2019 fellowship program, echoes the importance of providing more opportunities to science reporters in developing economies like the Balkans. "Scientific research and science reporting have long been dominated by a small number of mainly Western countries. Science is now becoming ever more global and we need journalists in developing regions to make sense of it all to local audiences.

“This is why opportunities such as this fellowship are so crucial as a stepping stone for young science reporters, and as a validation of their hard work, perseverance and striving to get into this difficult but important business of reporting on science and technology,” said Tatalović.

The EurekAlert! Fellowship program expanded to the Balkans last year and applications from the region doubled this year. Among them, Lea Udovč was selected for her work with the Slovenian Press Agency. She covers sciencetechnology, and innovation and has authored interviews and stories on topics ranging from microbiology and zoology to astrophysics. Udovč was recently nominated for the European Science Writer of the Year Award 2018, which is coordinated by the Association of British Science Writers.

“Winning the EurekAlert! Fellowship has implications beyond my personal interests and benefits,” said Udovč. “I believe this fellowship has an important role in promoting and encouraging good science journalism in the Balkan region, which has been largely left out of from the global science journalism map.”

Li Zheng, a freelance journalist with Guokr.com, a new media news platform in China, is the third winner from that outlet in the last four years. With a background in international politics and sociology, she focuses her writing on the societal and human aspects of science and technology. She has written in-depth reports about algorithms, technology ethics, and gender in science and technology.

“It is truly a great honor to be representing the science communication field in China and to showcase what we have - a vibrant community with loads of new ideas as well as deep, reflective thinking,” said Zheng.

“The applications from China this year reflect an impressive sense of cosmopolitanism,” says Jane Qiu, an award-winning science writer in Beijing and a judge of this year's program. “Their works are original and capture the cutting edge of science and technology and its societal implications.”

The 2019 fellowship program received partial support from Johns Hopkins Medicine.

“At Johns Hopkins Medicine, we work towards the goal of increasing the public understanding of science across the globe. We are thrilled to support international science journalism and enable a journalist from China to travel to the 2019 AAAS Annual Meeting,” said Audrey Huang, director of media relations and director of marketing and communications for research and education at Johns Hopkins Medicine.

For the fourth year in a row, the EurekAlert! Fellowship program will support two early-career journalists from India.

“India is a developing country and there are lots of issues that need to be addressed and science can help,” said 2019 Fellowship winner Jyoti Singh, a journalist with India Science Wire who writes about chemistry, healthcaremathematics and nuclear energy. “Science is essential for progress in any country. International events like the AAAS Annual Meeting give an opportunity to journalists to learn from these platforms.”

Spoorthy Raman, a managing editor with Research Matters, began a career in information technology before switching paths. Raman, who reports on physics, engineeringecology, geology and environmental disciplines, hopes to gain greater exposure to global scientific advances at the AAAS Annual Meeting.

“Personally, I am happy to have gained international recognition,” said Raman. “When I quit my high-flying career as an engineer, little did I know the possibilities in science writing. When I look back, I feel lucky to be doing what I love and making a career out of it.”

 

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Sarah Tagg