World Federation of Science Journalists

User's Guide to the Online Course in Science Journalism




Welcome to the WFSJ's Online Course in Science Journalism, created in partnership with the Science and Development Network (SciDev.Net). To find out more about the Online Course and how to use it, please see the Frequently Asked Questions below.

What is the Online Course in Science Journalism?

This Online Course in Science Journalism is a world-first, created by the World Federation of Science Journalists in close cooperation with SciDev.Net, the London-based Science and Development Network. It is available in French, English, Spanish, Arabic, Portuguese, Mandarin and Turkish.

So far there are eight lessons in the online course, written and translated by experienced journalists and trainers from all continents. They cover major practical and conceptual issues in science journalism, for example: how to find and research stories, exposing false claims, how to pitch to an editor, turning crisis reporting to advantage and so forth - topics that are relevant to beginners in journalism as well as more experienced reporters and editors in all regions of the world.

The course can either be approached in sequence, from Lessons 1 to 8, or by dipping into individual chapters in any order; they are designed to be self-contained, and used according to suit different interests and needs.

For further details, and to see the individual lessons, click here http://www.wfsj.org/course

Who is the Online Course for?
The online course is for journalists, journalism tutors and students anywhere in the world wishing to develop their science journalism skills further, and for teaching science journalism to others.

Why is the WFSJ providing an online course for free?
The World Federation of Science Journalists is committed to improving the quality and impact of science journalism worldwide. We know from our member associations and training activities that there is enormous interest in, and demand for, high quality science journalism, but in many countries there are insufficient resources to enable individuals to develop the necessary expertise. This Online Course was initiated in response to the needs of professional journalists in Africa and the Middle East wishing to specialise in science journalism. The lessons, however, can be applied and adapted in any country, in any world region.

How can I use the Online Course?
Each lesson in the online course is divided into three parts: an e-Lecture, Self-Teaching Questions, and Assignments. The e-Lecture and Self-Teaching Questions are designed for individuals to work on alone, and do not require input from a mentor or tutor. However, for maximum learning opportunity, it would be useful to discuss with a colleague the concepts and illustrations provided in the e-lecture, and your answers to the self-teaching questions. The Assignments are designed to be done in consultation with a more experienced science journalist mentor or tutor.

Do I need a mentor or tutor?
We would strongly advise that to make the most of the chapters it is best to work together with a group of other students or journalists, or with a tutor or professional journalist buddy, for a better understanding, and to find local examples to illustrate the concepts. Strictly speaking, you do not need a mentor or tutor to do the Online Course - it is there for anyone to use at their leisure, either whole or in part, via the internet. WFSJ is also creating a pdf version which users will be able to download, for convenience. However, it is better to do the course together with a colleague, or in consultation with a mentor or tutor, to gain maximum benefit. There are many ideas and examples, and a more experienced person will be able to share their own views and anecdotes with you.

You may otherwise prefer to find a mentor or tutor, or to enrol in a science journalism course at a university, and then make use of this Online Course as a supplementary learning resource.

To find a mentor, consult your local or national science journalist association to see if they have any formal or informal mentoring and networking activities, and details on how to become a member. The WFSJ has 42 member associations http://www.wfsj.org/associations/

We shall be compiling a list of science journalism courses that you might like to enrol in. So check back to this site regularly. In Europe, for example, a range of science journalism masters degrees are taught, summarised here [http://ec.europa.eu/research/conferences/2007/bcn2007/guide_to_science_journalism_en.pdf]

When can I start?
The Online Course in Science Journalism is ready for use immediately by any journalism students, tutors, or professional journalists wishing to improve their science journalism skills.

What do I have to do in return?
The WFSJ would like to request that anyone using the online course kindly acknowledges the source of the material, including the WFSJ logo on all printed versions, and sends feedback on its usefulness, and recommendations for improvement, to the editors: Julie Clayton and Jan Lublinski (info@wfsj.org).

Is the Online Course available to download and print?
WFSJ is in the process of creating a pdf version which users will be able to download, for their convenience. Please check back here for updates.

Who else has used the Online Course?
The Online Course has already been used as a resource in the WFSJ's own peer-to-peer science journalism mentoring programme (SjCOOP) http://www.wfsj.org/projects/page.php?id=55, for individual learning and in tutor groups. The course material has also been incorporated into teaching by tutors in South Africa and in The Netherlands.

What do others have to say about the Online Course?
Feedback and comments from journalists participating in the WFSJ's SjCOOP mentoring programme in Africa and the Middle East:

 

"I believe the lessons are good and they can help journalists in their work. Thanks for the work."
Esther Nakkazi, Uganda
"The lesson has helped me to re-look at issues that I thought I knew. Sitting on the computer after a research I am forced to rewrite the intro four to five times. I guess this is because I don't have a research sentence. This has helped me know where to start.
It has also helped me to know that asking is not bad. Sometimes I fear people will laugh when I ask a "stupid" question. Now I know where to start. I think this lesson is also important to other journalists, not necessarily science journalists, as it builds both basics skills but goes further and helps you specialize.
"
Kimani Chege, Kenya
"The lesson helped me sharpen my skills now as a science writer. I never knew of such a database as Pubmed. Its also interesting to walk around universities and put names down of researchers, which you will contact a year down. What interested me is the issue of fraud. It makes me more careful with scientists seeking to use me to get publicity."
Abiose Adelaja, Nigeria
"Of course I can recommend this course to someone who want to specialise on science reporting, it gives you some basics and background on how to get started."
Mabutho Ngcobo, South Africa
"For the last couple of years, I've been teaching a course for graduate students in the sciences about how to communicate. As part of that course, I have some handouts with resources. I recently found the WFSJ online science journalism course, and it's wonderful! It's now a key part of how I help the students learn the basics of writing about science. Thank you for developing it and making it so widely available."
Bruce V. Lewenstein
Professor of Science Communication
Director of Graduate Studies for Communication
Cornell University, USA