Day in the life: Science journalist Wilson da Silva

OnSET World-Wide Day in Science | 12 April 2006


Wilson da Silva with a poster of the first issue of COSMOS in the magazine's editorial office

An interview with Wilson da Silva for OnSET, the Online Science, Engineering & Technology blog of the Science Communication Program at the University of New South Wales for the 2006 World-Wide Day in Science. What did the editor of COSMOS do on April 12 ?


By Sarah Coggan


“I CAME TO THE office early for a telephone conference call with Jean-Marc Fleury in Ottawa, Canada – he's the executive director of the World Federation of Science Journalists, and I’m currently president of the federation.


“We discussed dates for the next board meeting in May, his fact-finding mission to Africa, and a workshop the federation is planning in Munich in July. We also discussed preparations for the World Conference of Science Journalists in Melbourne next year.


A board meeting in Washington of the World Federation of Science Journalists. L to R: Véronique Morin (Canada), Lisbeth Fog (Colombia), Diran Onifade (Nigeria), Wilson da Silva (Australia) and executive director Jean-Marc Fleury

“I then got started on my day job as the editor of COSMOS magazine. I spent a couple of hours editing two articles for an upcoming issue.


“I then emailed a number of writers to clarify questions I had about their stories, and seek contacts for images to go with the stories. I briefed our designer on some cover concepts, and then made a few phone calls to journalists and colleagues.


“Later that morning, I went to the ABC Studios in Sydney, where I did a live-to-air interview from a studio booth with Richard Fidler from ABC Radio Brisbane about energy shortages and the concept of peak oil – something we covered at length in the current issue of COSMOS in a great story called “End of an Era” by Jim Motavalli.

“I love science, and I love its expansive ideas, the fact that the world is still largely a mystery and that we as a species are slowly but surely decoding the great tapestry of the universe.”

“Afterwards, I joined radio producer Polly Rickard in another studio and recorded a six-minute story for The Science Show, to be broadcast on ABC Radio National. It was again about energy, this time about nuclear power, and I was arguing that it's a technology the world needs as it produces plenty of energy with no emissions, and there new designs like those for thorium reactors that are safer and very exciting as they burn up old nuclear waste as a fuel.


“Since I was in the building, I dropped into to say hi to Robyn Williams, the veteran ABC science broadcaster, and also had an impromptu chat with Susannah Eliott, CEO of the Australian Science Media Centre in Adelaide, who was visiting. I also bumped into to Niall Byrne, a science communications consultant who is managing preparations for the World Conference of Science Journalists in Melbourne.


Wilson da Silva with deputy editor Sara Phillips reviewing magazine layouts at the COSMOS office

“After grabbing lunch, I returned to the COSMOS office and reviewed pictures we had shot overseas for a profile of Jane Goodall, the English primatologist that will be included in a future issue, and I discussed an online content development issue with a colleague.


“My next agenda item was a phone interview with Tony Squires and Rebecca Wilson of Vega FM in Sydney, who wanted to discuss the energy features in the current issue of COSMOS as well as a sub-orbital trip into space I'm taking with Virgin Galactic.


“Our co-founder, Dr Alan Finkel, bought tickets for himself and his two sons last year, and then offered that I tag along. I still find it pretty unbelievable that I’m going.


“Looking back on the day, I guess it sounds rather fun. I would never in a million years have expected to be in such a position to be doing these things.


“I love science, and I love its expansive ideas, the fact that the world is still largely a mystery and that we as a species are slowly but surely decoding the great tapestry of the universe – only to find that there is so much more to discover.


“I also love that science is revolutionary – that ideas can be so powerful as to change the world, and the course of history. And I certainly never, ever expected to one day go into space – but that is what this job has landed me.”

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