From Bench to Desk with help from UKCSJ Scholarships


by Josh Howgego one of five students awarded scholarships to attend the Conference

This year the ABSW has awarded five scholarships for student members to attend the second UK Conference of Science Journalists, on 25th June. Alongside free admission, the students get a chance to report on all the sessions at the conference and hear from some of the best writers in the industry.

But are scholarships like this important, and who are the recipients of these awards?

Like several of the other students awarded a scholarship, I am a science PhD student who wants to make the transition from the lab bench to the (science) news desk. For me, the main reason why such awards and prizes are important is because getting into the media is a tough challenge, and any kind of recognition and encouragement helps.

The scholarships are also important because of the experience, exposure and potential for learning that attending the conference offers to fledgling journalists.

For example, I like the idea of trying out data journalism – looking at some data and trying to spot trends and patterns that could make a good story. As a scientist I'm no stranger to data, but when it comes to using it in journalism, I don't know where to start. How would I choose amongst all the data out there? How would I manipulate and present it?

So, the session on data journalism – along with other talks on essential skills – should be a useful training exercise for people like me. I hope to come away with new ideas and an understanding of some of the online tools to get me started.

But I'm a scientist, right? The reason I don't have the skills to do things like data journalism is because – well, that's not my job yet. Perhaps I should just stay a scientist and be happy that I get to do a very interesting job.

Well, maybe. Certainly I think there are scientists who see science writing as an easy option.

But in defence of scientists with healthy journalistic aspirations, a 2010 report commissioned by the Department of Business, Innovation and Skills ('Science and the media: securing the future') recommended that more scientists should work in the general news media because they understand the subject matter better, and could improve the way science is reported across a broad range of publishing platforms.

More scientists working as professional journalists could have a positive impact on the way science is reported. These UKCSJ scholarships provide encouragement to those scientists who really want to enter the media.

The Student Scholarships are supported by The British Psychological Society


Covering Wicked Problems

In his keynote speech Jay Rosen will explore the concept of ‘Wicked problems’ in science journalism.   

“Wicked problems have these features; it is hard to say what the problem is, to define it clearly or to tell where it stops and starts." Said Rosen. "There is no "right" way to view the problem, no definitive formulation. The way it's framed will change what the solution appears to be.” 

Rosen thinks that from a scientific perspective, climate change is one of the biggest wicked problems facing us now: “Probably the best example in our time is climate change. What could be more inter-connected than it? Someone can always say that climate change is just a symptom of another problem--our entire way of life, perhaps — and he or she would not be wrong. We've certainly never solved anything like it before. Stakeholders: everyone on the planet, every nation, every company.”

When dealing with wicked problems the framing of the problem is crucial: “We would be better off if we knew when we were dealing with a wicked problem, as opposed to the regular kind. If we could designate some problems as wicked we might realize that "normal" approaches to problem-solving don't work.”

The challenge to journalists is to think and behave differently when reporting these stories: “Journalists who covered wicked problems differently than they covered normal problems would be smarter journalists.”

Rosen touches on the issue of 'Wicked Problems' here:



Jay Rosen to give keynote address at UKCSJ12

Jay Rosen, Associate Professor of Journalism, New York University has accepted an invitation to give the keynote address at the UKCSJ12.   The planning committee were unanimous in their wish to invite Professor Rosen to address the conference, and were delighted that he was able to accept. Professor Rosen's key note address will kick off the UKCSJ12 and set the tone for a day of thought provoking discussion on the current and future practice of science journalism in the UK.

Professor Rosen teaches journalism at New York University, where he has been on the faculty since 1986 serving as chair of the department from 1999 to 2004.  For those who may not be familiar with Rosen's work you should look no further than PressThink, Rosen's blog about journalism's ordeals in the age of the Web, which he launched in 2003.   

A full biography can be found in our speakers section.


UKCSJ12 Open for Registration

Welcome to the UKCSJ12.  Registrations are now open and fees are being held at 2010 levels for a limited time so do make the most of this early-bird offer by registering before March 30th.   Everything you need to know about the Conference you should find here on our newly designed website but to guarantee that you are the first to hear about programme developments join us on Facebook, Twitter or Google Plus.   We look forward to hearing your thoughts either by connecting with our social media or via This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..   




2nd UK Conference of Science Journalists - 25th June 2012

The 2nd UK Conference of Science Journalists (UKCSJ)  Monday 25th June 2012 at The Royal Society, London.

A full day of discussion and debate with three key aims: 

  • To discuss and debate contemporary issues in science journalism
  • To encourage and provide skills for newcomers
  • To promote professional development
The first ever UKCSJ was held in 2010 and followed in the footsteps of the 2009 World Conference of Science Journalists (WCSJ) held in London.  The WCSJ saw nearly 1000 delegates from all around the world meeting to discuss issues affecting the profession of science journalism. Demand for delegate places at the London Conference was high amongst UK science journalists and revealed a real desire for a forum in which professional issues could be discussed. To meet this demand the ABSW organised the UKCSJ - a WCSJ on a far smaller scale with the focus on the profession in the UK.   For 2012 the ABSW has increased capacity due to demand and we can now accomodate 300 delegates.  The UKCSJ runs on alternate years to fit with the alternate year programme of the World Conference of Science Journalists.   The next WCSJ will take place in Helsinki, Finland in 2013. 


The ABSW would like to thank the following organisations for their support for UKCSJ12:

Lead Conference Partner

City University London



If you would like to support the conference in 2012 please contact the Conference Director, Sallie Robins This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.