What Makes a Great WCSJ2017 Session? Helpful Resources for Crafting Your Proposal

Sessions at the World Conference of Science Journalists 2017 will cover scientific and professional development issues of interest to science writers across the globe. As WCSJ2017 Program Chair Deborah Blum notes, “Proposals should be very like what you would submit to a national science journalism meeting but with an international emphasis and a global diversity of panelists.”

To help jumpstart your thinking, Blum and Conference Co-Chair Ron Winslow muse on selected sessions from previous World Conferences, and Conference Co-Chair Cris Russell shares her successful proposal submitted for WCSJ2015.

You can view the range of topics covered at WCSJ2015 via the archived program. Dive deeper by perusing session summaries in this collection of WCSJ2015 daily synopses. WCSJ2013 organizers in Helsinki webcast plenary sessions.  Watch those videos and view session title and descriptions here or check out the whole WCSJ2013 program schedule with clickable links to read session descriptions and see speakers.

Blum notes that “the most memorable session I attended in South Korea was Martin Enserink’s panel on reporting the Ebola crisis, which included journalists from Sierra Leone, Canada and Germany and a representative of Doctors Without Borders. It was a stunning presentation on the different perspectives in covering the outbreak — and in the courage of journalists on the ground.”  Read Mark Zastrow’s coverage of the session  in this WCSJ2015 newsletter.

Winslow recalls the following session description from WCSJ2013 in Helsinki:

Making Sense of Uncertainty

Scientific uncertainty is prominent in research that has big implications for society: Could the Arctic be ice-free in summer by 2080? Will a new cancer drug be worth its side effects? Will a new strain of flu cause a dangerous epidemic?  Uncertainty is part of scientific research, but in public discussion uncertainty about the frontiers of research is seen as worrying and is presented as a deficiency of research. However, these are distortions of the working knowledge that we have, and they reveal a gap between what scientific uncertainty means and how it is portrayed.  The panel will discuss the communication of scientific uncertainty and some recent examples.

Says Ron: “Here’s one of my tweets from the session: ‘Uncertainty doesn’t mean we know nothing and it doesn’t mean that anything can be true.’

“This panel really addressed and gave me some insight around an issue science writers deal with every day — how to handle the gap between knowledge and speculation and how to embrace that science — and covering science — is a process. . . not an ending . . . or, to use a cliché – a journey and not a destination. It offered a remarkable and reassuring validation of what we do.”

Finally, here’s a proposal that Blum and Russell submitted successfully for WCSJ2015:


Session Proposal for the World Conference of Science Journalists

Seoul, Korea, June 2015

Proposed for Track 2 – Science Journalism: New Tools, New Challenges


Deborah Blum
Cristine Russell

Description: New concerns have emerged that gender bias, inequity, and sexual harassment continue to hold back the advancement of women in journalism and science writing, as well as women in science. The Internet and social media have magnified the problem, with often-virulent attacks on women writers who raise these issues. On the editorial side, men still have a strong leadership edge in traditional print and broadcasting media, as well as digital media. The effect of this can be measured in everything from distribution of assignments to distribution of writing awards.

This session would take a global look at gender-based challenges for women in science writing and potential approaches for improving advancement and leadership. Prominent female journalists and educators from different parts of the world—the US, UK, Kenya, Argentina and Japan—will provide broad and diverse professional perspectives on the existing climate for women in science writing, both similarities and differences. They will also examine what individuals, media organizations, and local and international professional societies can do. After an introductory overview, there will be a roundtable, fast-moving discussion that engages the WCSJ audience in this important discussion.

The issue of gender bias and sexual harassment surfaced in the United States at professional meetings in 2013-2014, sponsored by the US National Association of Science Writers. Deborah Blum, an organizer, presented new data documenting barriers to women science writers’ advancement, including fewer female bylines, awards and other forms of recognition. Another survey found sexual harassment a continuing problem among US women science writers. This followed a widely publicized case in which a prominent blog editor for Scientific American was accused of sexual harassment by several young women science bloggers.

The session will also introduce gender bias parallels among women in science, many of whom are also writers. Do women in science and women in science journalism face some of the same barriers and should there be new anti-discrimination strategies? Should there be greater efforts to have female scientist voices in media stories? We will look as well at strategies for educating and mentoring the next generation of women science writers.


Deborah Blum Science Journalist & Journalism Professor, University of Wisconsin, US (confirmed)
Overview of the Impact of Gender Bias on Advancement of Women in Science Journalism

Rosalia Omungo Television journalist and science news editor for the Kenya Broadcasting 
Corporation (confirmed)
Perspectives from Kenya and Africa

Valeria Román Science Journalist, Clarín Newspaper, Buenos Aires, Argentina (confirmed)
Perspectives from Argentina and Latin America

Mariko Takahashi Senior Staff Writer, The Asahi Shimbun (confirmed)
Perspectives from Japan and Asia

Connie St. Louis Senior Lecturer & Director MA Science Journalism, City University London, UK (confirmed)
Closing Comments: Improving the global status of women in science writing and educating the next generation.


Cristine Russell Science journalist and senior fellow, Harvard Kennedy School, US (confirmed)

Short bios were also provided with the proposal.

We are also interested in your ideas for science sessions.

Ready to submit a proposal?  Visit the Call for Proposals page.