WCSJ2017 Organizers Announce Program Themes, Fellowships, Speakers

BOSTON, MA (February 16, 2017)Organizers of the 10th World Conference of Science Journalists (WCSJ2017) unveiled details of the upcoming event at an information session held today at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. Announcements included program themes, new plenary speakers, an initiative to serve attendees from Latin America and the Caribbean, pre- and post-conference activities, an update on conference fundraising, and travel fellowships.  

WCSJ2017, which will take place October 26-30, 2017 in San Francisco, California, marks the first time that this international gathering of science journalists from the Americas, Africa, Asia, Australia, and Europe will be held in the United States. The conference will continue its tradition of welcoming colleagues from across the globe. Organized by the National Association of Science Writers (NASW) and the Council for the Advancement of Science Writing (CASW) in partnership with the World Federation of Science Journalists (WFSJ), it is expected to attract 1,200 attendees from over 80 countries and will be based at the San Francisco Marriott Marquis. The University of California San Francisco and UC Berkeley will together host a day of sessions and activities, followed by a day of science-themed field trips.

Announced at the information session were:

–The selection of 47 breakout sessions by the WCSJ2017 Program Committee, a science committee, and the Association of Health Care Journalists (AHCJ), which will produce a global health journalism track. The sessions were chosen from more than 400 submitted proposals. Program themes will include:

  • Ethical Issues in Science & Science Journalism
  • Science Storytelling: New Modes, Timeless Techniques
  • Climate, Environment, & Sustainability
  • The Science-Innovation Frontier
  • Science Reporting Skills for the 21st Century
  • Special Focus: Latin America & the Caribbean
  • Global Health Journalism (AHCJ track)
  • New Horizons in Science

–The addition of five plenary speakers to the program:

  • Jeffrey Bluestone of UCSF, president and CEO of the Parker Institute for Cancer Immunotherapy
  • Alberto Cairo, Knight chair in visual journalism at the University of Miami
  • Susan Desmond-Hellmann, chief executive officer of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation
  • Mary Roach, bestselling author of Stiff and Packing for Mars, in a joint plenary session with Ed Yong, writer for The Atlantic and author of I Contain Multitudes

The program will also include a plenary session on Pseudoscientific Policies and Authoritarian Governments. Previously announced podium speakers include Thierry Zomahoun, president and chief executive officer of the African Institute for Mathematical Sciences, and UC Berkeley biologist Jennifer Doudna.

The organizers announced that The Hastings Center, a bioethics research institute in New York, will organize a pre-conference symposium, “New Genetic Technologies: Ethical Debates and Global Science Policy.” The Hastings Center symposium is part of an international scholarly project exploring “Gene Editing and Human Flourishing,” with funding from the Templeton Foundation. Other planned pre-conference activities are training for student journalists and a full-day workshop for Latin American and Caribbean journalists.

The Hastings Center and AHCJ are among several sponsors and partners who have recently joined to support WCSJ2017. Others include the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, Bayer, The Brinson Foundation, and Nature. Johnson & Johnson Innovation is the conference’s Diamond Sponsor and lead underwriter.

Post-conference field trips are being organized by the Northern California Science Writers Association. NCSWA President Bob Sanders reported that the committee has “neat trips set up to the Monterey Bay Aquarium and to the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute (MBARI), the UC Davis enology field station in Napa Valley’s wine region, a seismology walk along the Hayward Fault, a USGS trip to coastal slide hazard areas, a visit to X, Google’s moonshot factory, and an interactive immersion in drug development at Bayer.”

In a fundraising progress report, the organizers announced that more than $1.1 million in commitments have been secured toward the $2 million in sponsor and partner funding needed to support travel, program delivery, networking, and infrastructure for the conference. CASW and WFSJ are jointly recruiting conference sponsors. Varied sponsorship opportunities are available for foundations, science and media organizations, businesses, and individuals.

A special fund for individual donations to support international travel fellowships to WCSJ2017 has been set up by CASW in honor of David Perlman, the longtime science editor for the San Francisco Chronicle and a past president of CASW and NASW. An anonymous donor is matching all donations until the fund reaches its goal of $20,000 in individual contributions. Organizers said they are within $4,000 of meeting the goal and continue to welcome donations online at wcsj2017.org.

More than 75 online applications for travel fellowships have been received since the application window opened four weeks ago, including 17 applications for student fellowships. Fellowships will be awarded to attendees from the U.S. and around the world, with an emphasis on enabling attendance by those in developing countries, Latin America, and the Caribbean. The deadline for submission is March 15. Conference registration will open in early May.

The organizers emphasized that the conference partners will do everything possible to bring colleagues from all nations to the conference. In a February 8 statement about travel to the U.S., they said:  “We are resolute in our determination that the conference will continue its tradition of welcoming colleagues from across the globe, and we oppose any restrictions that would prevent participants from attending WCSJ2017. As October approaches, we will do everything we can to make the meeting accessible to all.”


CASW: Founded in 1959, the Council for the Advancement of Science Writing is a panel of distinguished journalists, science communication specialists, and scientists committed to improving the quality and quantity of science news reaching the public. CASW has joined with WFSJ to raise funds to support travel to WCSJ2017 for developing-country journalists, as well as hospitality and conference program expenses.

NASW: Founded in 1934, the National Association of Science Writers is an association of more than 2,000 members chartered to “foster the dissemination of accurate information through all media normally devoted to informing the public.” NASW’s programs improve the craft of science writing, fight for the free flow of science news, and honor excellence in science writing.

WFSJ: The Montréal-based World Federation of Science Journalists connects science journalists in more than 50 associations around the world through conferences, competitions, and networking, and encourages strong, critical coverage of issues in science and technology, environment, health and medicine, agriculture, and related fields. Current programs help journalists worldwide learn about infectious diseases, including Ebola and hepatitis C. WFSJ offers an online science journalism course in 10 languages.

UCSF and UC Berkeley: UC San Francisco is the leading university in the U.S. exclusively focused on health. UCSF is dedicated to advanced biomedical research, graduate-level education in the life sciences and health professions, and excellence in patient care. UC Berkeley is the flagship of the University of California system. Its undergraduate program ranks third overall among the world’s universities in the latest U.S. News & World Report rankings, while its graduate research programs uniformly rank among the best in the world. Combined, current UCSF and UC Berkeley faculty have earned more than 25 Nobel Prizes.


Rosalind Reid, executive director, Council for the Advancement of Science Writing: ros@casw.org

Tinsley Davis, executive director, National Association of Science Writers: director@nasw.org

Damien Chalaud, executive director, World Federation of Science Journalists: dchalaud@wfsj.org