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New Popular Science Magazine Debuts in Australia

ScienceWriters | Summer 2005


by Jim Cornell

EVERYTHING IS ANTITHETICAL in the Antipodes. Summer is winter, spring is fall, and water goes down the drain in the opposite direction. Well, okay, that last point is debatable. But science journalism is definitely going against the flow Down Under.

While the rest of the world seems to be getting less and less quality science coverage—particularly from traditional media outlets—Australians and New Zealanders found a new monthly popular science magazine on their newsstands this summer.

Cosmos, according to its advance blurbs, is “a magazine of ideas, science, society, and the future” produced by Luna Media of Sydney, Australia. Published 11 times a year, with a double issue in December/January, Cosmos specialises in major articles on trends and results in science and technology solicited from writers worldwide.

Regular features include interviews, photo essays, a travel section, book and movie reviews, new gadgets, humour, and an opinion piece or two. The magazine’s editor is Wilson da Silva, a veteran Australian science journalist and NASW foreign member, who notes that,

“In Australia, there are well over a million people who are regular consumers of science on television; yet there isn’t a high-quality glossy popular science magazine that caters to this audience. Cosmos will seek to be that magazine.” Apparently others agree, and the ambitious effort has gotten praise and encouragement from such well-known science popularisers as Robyn Williams and Paul Davies.

The Cosmos editorial team: (l to r): Editor's assistant Edwina Perkins, Deputy Editor Sara Phillips, Editor Wilson da Silva, Art Director Nick Howlett, Chief Sub-editor Belinda Bonham.

World Federation Gets Serious

Wilson da Silva is also the current President of the World Federation of Science Journalists (WFSJ) which, since the last issue of ScienceWriters, has expanded its membership base to 25 national organisations and shortened its Web address to the more easily manage- able and memorable

The WFSJ also used the AAAS annual meeting last February to hold both the first formal meeting of its executive board and its first general informational meet- ing for interested journalists since its grand “coming-out party” in Montreal last fall. The federation’s new executive secretary, Jean-Marc Fleury, of Canada, organised both events and, more important, compiled an impressive agenda for the year ahead.

Subsequent to the Washington meetings, the WFSJ Program Committee, chaired by Nadia el-Awady, of Egypt, developed a plan of action based on several board suggestions. Among those activities is an offer of help and assistance to fledgling groups of science journalists hoping to strengthen—or establish—national associations.

The committee also hopes to conduct mentoring programs for both individuals and organisations in the developing world and to set up a registry of “experts,” experienced journalists drawn from the ranks of WFSJ member organisations who would be available to teach, to mentor, or to speak in training sessions and education courses worldwide. Other plans call for WFSJ-sponsored seminars and symposia at major meetings, such as the World Science Forum, in Budapest, this November and ESOF, in Munich, in July 2006.

Later this spring, Fleury made an exploratory trip to Europe to meet with potential funders and supporters, as well as to formalise ties with several national associations there. The initial scorecard was most encouraging: several major international NGOs and foundations expressed an interest in supporting WFSJ programs.

Past NASW president Deborah Blum is our official emissary to the WFSJ. She also serves on the Program Committee, as do I. Either of us would be delighted to hear from NASW members with ideas or suggestions for greater cooperation and collaboration between U.S. journalist and their foreign counterparts.

Specifically, WFSJ is seeking experienced journalists, especially those with experience in coaching and/or mentoring other science writers, who might help establish the proposed mentor- ing programs.

Jim Cornell is president of the International Science Writers Association.


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