Every year I ask some of the attendees of the ScienceOnline conferences to tell me (and my readers) more about themselves, their careers, current projects and their views on the use of the Web in science, science education or science communication. So now we continue with the participants of ScienceOnline2012. See all the interviews in this series here.
Today my guest is Sarah Webb.
Welcome to A Blog Around The Clock. Would you, please, tell my readers a little bit more about yourself? Where are you coming from (both geographically and philosophically)? What is your background? Any scientific education?
I’m a science journalist, but I came to science writing and journalism about 10 years ago while I was a chemistry Ph.D. student at Indiana University. Though I finished, I went straight into journalism internships after I defended my Ph.D.– at Discover magazine and as a AAAS Mass Media Fellow at WNBC-TV. I stayed in the New York City area for 8 years until my husband and I moved to Chattanooga, Tennessee last August.
Tell us a little more about your career trajectory so far: interesting projects past and present?
My brain has always been split between science and the humanities. In college, I double-majored in German and chemistry. I did a Fulbright fellowship in an organic chemistry lab in Giessen, Germany before I started my Ph.D. work.
When I decided to move away from research, I first explored science writing through a master’s level journalism course taught by Holly Stocking in the Indiana University School of Journalism. She pretty much hooked me on science journalism from day one. At the same time I was volunteering at a local hands-on science museum, WonderLab, so I’ve had my hands in informal science education, too.
After my Ph.D. defense and internships in New York, I took on various types of freelance work. One of my favorite projects was working with a team at the graphic design firm C&G Partners in Manhattan on the permanent astronomy exhibits at Griffith Observatory in Los Angeles. I worked as a content developer, gathering images, objects and research information for the exhibit writer. All my skills– my science background, my research skills and the ability to call scientists up on the phone to ask about their work– played into that project.
Since that work wrapped up in 2006, I’ve worked as a freelance science journalist, writer and editor.
What is taking up the most of your time and passion these days? What are your goals?
My big project lately has been a book and website with more than 30 close friends and colleagues. The Science Writers’ Handbook: Everything You Need to Know to Pitch, Publish and Prosper in the Digital Age will be published by Da Capo Press in April 2013. I contributed one chapter on “The Diversity of Science Writing,” how to build a balanced mix of work both inside and outside of traditional science journalism. I am also the editor in chief of our book’s newly launched blog and website. (Emily Gertz and I will be giving a BlitzTalk about the site at ScienceOnline 2013).
Like many freelance journalists, I keep my hands in many different projects. I spend the bulk of my time writing news and feature articles for journals and trade publications. But I have written about science for a variety of kids’ publications, and I have written for many general interest science magazines including Discover, Science News, and ScientificAmerican.com
In terms of goals, I really want to spread my wings into more narrative writing– longer magazine pieces or even, potentially, a book of my own.
How does (if it does) blogging figure in your work? How about social networks, e.g., Twitter, Google Plus and Facebook? Do you find all this online activity to be a net positive (or even a necessity) in what you do?
I started my own blog 4 years ago. It’s an independent blog, Webb of Science, that has become my primary digital calling card and a way for me to introduce myself to readers, sources and the world at large. In setting up the website for The Science Writers’ Handbook, I’m more of a project manager and editor, but I’m posting there, too.
Twitter is my primary social network for work. Facebook, for me, tends to be more about connecting with friends from all parts of my life. One of my goals this year is to build an active Google+ presence. I think social networks are increasingly important (if not essential!). Time management is always tricky, but it’s worth the investment.
Thank you. See you next week!