Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash
The new year has so far brought new signs of hope – hope for an eventual end to the COVID pandemic as vaccination ramps up and hope for a more science-friendly climate in our neighbour to the south where the new president has appointed his science advisor to the cabinet.
Because COVID is still very much with us, the SWCC conference will once again be virtual this year. After last year’s successful conference, I’m looking forward to seeing what conference chair Rhonda Moore and her team come up with this year. The AGM will also be virtual again.
At last year’s AGM in November, we were pleased to welcome some new board members and to say farewell and thanks to some departing members.
We said goodbye to treasurer Aniruddho Chokroborty-Hoque and to board members Carolyn Fell, Michelle Reddinger and Natasha Waxman. I’d like to thank all of them for their service.
And we have new board members to welcome: Ki-Youn Kim and Sunita LeGallou joined the board in the course of the year, and Beth Gallagher, Cristina Sanza and Shirene Singh joined the at the AGM. Ki-Youn heads the 50th Anniversary committee, Sunita is chair of the Book Awards Committee and Cristina chairs the Digital Media Committee. You can read the bios of all the board members at sciencewriters.ca/board-members
Getting involved with the SWCC is a great way to hone your skills, to network, to add to your resumé, and it can be a lot of fun as well. If you’re interested in helping out on any of the committees or getting involved in any way, contact us and let us know what your interests are.
Best wishes for a bright new year.
SWCC Awards (Year Unknown)
On October 15, 2020, Canada marked the 50th anniversary of the invocation of the War Measures Act by Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau, in response to the kidnappings of James Cross and Pierre Laporte by the Front de libération du Québec. Historians and political scientists still argue about the necessity of Trudeau’s move, but the outcome of another event that happened that day is much less ambiguous – the founding of the Canadian Science Writers Association (CSWA), which has, of course, since morphed into the Science Writers and Communicators of Canada (SWCC).
The story of how the CSWA/SWCC came to be is told elsewhere on this site by Andy Visser-deVries who himself has played a large role in our organization’s history.
Over the past 50 years, the SWCC has grown into a nation-wide organization of almost 300 science communicators in print, radio, television, web, social media and more.
As our website notes, we include media professionals, communications officers in science and technology-related institutions, technical writers and educators – all of whom are involved in communicating science and technology to non-specialist audiences.
SWCC operates several national programs, including its annual conference, which highlights current science and technology issues and brings together scientists, engineers, journalists, communicators, educators, youth and interested citizens. Pre-COVID, the conference was held in a different Canadian city each year, while this year it went online for the first time. Whether virtual or geographical, the conference highlights local developments in science and technology and combines public forums and educational workshops to produce a serious focus on ways of communicating the importance of such developments to the Canadian public with the greatest impact.
Our 50th anniversary committee, led by new SWCC Board member Ki-Youn Kim, has a number of events and projects to mark the first 50 years of the SWCC lined-up, including:
Every two months, we will be releasing a new decade for our 50thAnniversary Yearbook, highlighting the growth of the organization and the scientific advances of the decade.
To bring our community closer, we will be hosting monthly social Coffee Klatches starting in November (details to follow). Come with a cup of coffee or even a glass of wine to chat with old and new friends in small online groups.
Keep your skills sharp and knowledge up to date with online professional development workshops in new media, such as social media and podcasting, and much more.
In 2021, we will launch our special science communication lecture series, where we’ll host five trailblazers from the field to share their experiences and insights.
Towards the end of our celebration, we’ll reveal our new logo for the Science Writers & Communicators of Canada. Members will be able to order an exclusive enamel pin for the 50th Anniversary.
We’ll be updating you on plans through this website as well as e-mail, Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter. Also, feel free to share the celebration with the hashtag #SWCC50. If you’d like to volunteer some of your time or have any suggestions, please reach out to firstname.lastname@example.org
A big thank you to Ki-Youn and the other members of the 50th anniversary committee – Brigid Prouse, Cristian Zaelzer, Marina Rowbotham, Pippa Wysong and Tim Lougheed. Their energy, innovation and creativity epitomize the spirit of our organization over the past half-century.
It’s a great start to our next 50 years. Happy birthday, SWCC!
Dear SWCC members:
As you know, we recently held a membership vote to reconfirm changing the name of our organization to the Science Writers and Communicators of Canada and to ratify amendments to the Constitution and Bylaws.
Voting was open from August 1 to August 27. Sixty-six votes were cast (286 members were eligible to vote).
Question 1: Do you support the proposed name, Science Writers and Communicators of Canada?
In favour: 64
In favour: 64
Question 2: Do you support the proposed amendment to our Constitution and ByLaws?
In favour: 66
In favour: 66
Therefore, I declare the motions carried.
Thank you to everyone who participated in the vote and the special general meeting on August 27. Special thanks to Tim Lougheed for providing background on the reason for revising the constitution and bylaws, and to Nikki Berreth for arranging the vote and the meeting.
Science Writers and Communicators of Canada
This year the AAAS Kavli Science Journalism Awards team is making a special effort to encourage more entries from Canada in all categories. There is no entry fee for the contest, which is judged by independent panels of journalists.
The entry deadline is 1 August 2020. Entries must have been published, broadcast or posted online from 16 July 2019 to 15 July 2020.
We will present two awards in each category, a Gold award worth $5,000 and a Silver award worth $3,500. Please read the Contest Rules and Frequently Asked Questions before submitting.
For more information and to enter, go to: https://sjawards.aaas.org/enter.
SWCC's Annual Conference in Guelph during the speed dating session.
Conspiracy theories about the origin of new coronavirus, exaggerated claims about “cures” and vaccinations, conflicting advice on wearing masks, pundits accusing each other of being armchair epidemiologists … all of a sudden, thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic, science communication is in the spotlight.
Here in British Columbia, I’ve been struck by the difference in communication style between U.S. President Donald Trump and our own provincial health officer, Dr. Bonnie Henry.
Trump, of course, has been making all sorts of wild and sometimes dangerous statements, very few of them based on evidence. Dr. Henry, on the other hand, has been speaking calmly, clearly, and without exaggeration or conscious bias. She doesn’t speculate, she admits what she does not know, and she speaks plainly and without condescension or judgement. She comes across as trustworthy. It’s no wonder that many attribute B.C.’s success in containing COVID-19 in part to her daily public statements.
But it’s not just Bonnie Henry who’s providing a good example of how to communicate. Science communicators in Canada and globally have been doing an outstanding job in sorting through the deluge of news, opinions, claims, rumours, media releases and social media feeds. (See this story in Nature for a great analysis of how science communicators and researchers are fighting COVID-19 rumours.)
Science communication often goes unacknowledged, but its importance cannot be underestimated, especially now. Whether we work for the media, freelance, host a podcast, write a blog, or do corporate, non-profit or university communications, we are needed, we are important. It will be interesting to see whether the public perception of science communication changes once the current crisis is over. I hope not.
And organizations such as the Science Writers and Communicators of Canada (SWCC) also play their part; in providing opportunities for education, networking and more. As it says on our website, we “foster quality science communication that links science and technology communicators from coast-to-coast.”
The SWCC is run by a volunteer Board of Directors. As you know, we’ve had to postpone our AGM and Board elections until November. If you’re interested in running for the Board, we’d love to have you! You can find out more information, and download the nomination form, at https://sciencewriters.ca/election-2020
Stay safe and healthy.
Terry Lavender, SWCC President
Due to the necessity of postponing the June 2020 conference, the SWCC Board of Directors has voted unanimously to postpone the Annual General Meeting until November 2020. The AGM will be held online, as provided for in the SWCC constitution.
Because of the postponement, the Board also voted to postpone the 2020 Board elections until that time. We will provide further details on nominations, voting and the AGM as soon as possible.
Terry Lavender, President
Dear friends and members of the SWCC:
In light of current events, the Science Writers and Communicators of Canada board of directors has made the decision to postpone the 2020 conference to spring 2021.
The board did not take this decision lightly. The best scientific evidence available from Canada’s public health officials advises the current wave of COVID-19 will not subside in Canada until the middle of the summer. In the interest of protecting the health and well-being of our members, friends of the organization, and the front-line workers across Canada, the SWCC are postponing our annual conference.
The 2021 conference will still be held in Ottawa. We are working hard to announce the dates and location soon.
The interim period will be an uncertain time for the SWCC. The annual conference represents a primary source of income for the organization and is the organization’s main event for professional development and networking among our members. In the coming weeks, the SWCC will be reaching out to members to support us through this time, and to tell them more about how we will be giving back to them, through a new professional development series to supplement professional development and networking in the absence of an annual conference.
Rhonda Moore, 2020-21 SWCC Conference Chair
The Science Writers & Communicators of Canada will be electing new members to its board at the upcoming Annual General Meeting in May — three directors and the treasurer, vice-president and president. If you have ever wanted to have a hand in the way our organization operates, you are asked to please put your name forward.
Please visit the nominations page and complete your nomination package by May 29, 2020!
I am excited to celebrate the news with you that 4 weeks before her 100th birthday, Joan Hollobon was named an Officer of the Order of Canada on 28 December 2019 in recognition of her contribution to Canada during her career as a medical reporter for The Globe and Mail from 1959-1985.
Joan's appointment as an Officer of the Order of Canada appears on the website of the Governor General of Canada (www.gg.ca), along with a short Citation:
"For her career in journalism focused on increasing the public's understanding of scientific concepts related to health and medical advances".
By Andy F. Visser-deVries
Welcome to 2020.
I'll skip the jokes about perfect vision (my own eyesight is far from 20/20) and get right down to things.
P.O. Box 75 Station A