So you want to be a science communicator. You need to read this article on becoming a science writer. Here’s a short list of tips:
- Obtain the highest education possible and dismiss the notion to not pursue formal schooling and, instead, “learn on the job.” The latter is damaging advice, usually given by people without specialized education, or by those who benefit from your unpreparedness. If you actually get the job, you will always “learn the praxis” while on it. But you will never compensate, “on the job,” for the formal education you missed. Science, math and technology are not taught in the streets.
- Read by far more topics than you can write about; develop a sense for science.
- Travel internationally to scientific meetings and try to understand the cultural contexts in which science is done elsewhere; this could be difficult since we all see the planet through parochial preconceptions. However, modern science is done collaboratively and international partnerships are ubiquitous. Writing from home will keep your mind at home.
- Write about science itself, rather than people in science. Do not celebritize individuals, but grant credit to all who deserve it.
- Do not become enticed by the ivory-tower institutions as the sole source of science stories to report; that will turn you into a snob writer.
- And remember that a good science tale should be good by itself, no matter its origin, but only a good story teller would make it shine.
I had some reservations about that first point — the amateur or citizen scientist can be a good contributor. But the good ones have a lot of discipline and drive and focus, and get a specialized education unconventionally, so it’s actually an important point.
What is a total disaster, though, are all the people who think they can master a subject via a combination of Google and Wikipedia. You absolutely can not. You can get quick bits of information, but you don’t acquire this abstract thing called knowledge: you need the depth you get from reading books and soaking in the details of the literature, so that you can make connections and grasp the broader context.
The rest is good advice. I’m putting this on my list of things to hand out to the students in my fall term writing course.