In 2012 a number of us working in the science communications field had an idea.
At the Science Online conference in Raleigh, North Carolina, a presentation suggested that Canadian science communication was somewhere between sparse and non-existent. A British science writer in attendance suggested that Canadian science communicators needed to be "smart bombed".
The Canadians in the room - including me - knew we were not that bad. We put our heads together, clinked our glasses later that evening, and vowed to do something.
It was a time when social media was gaining steam and the Canadian Science Policy Conference was in its infancy. Media dedicated to the 'science beat' were out there, but in decline. Science bloggers were not in the same numbers as the UK or the US, but they were on the rise.
As the Captain said in Cool Hand Luke, "What we've got here is a failure to communicate".
We joined forces with other like minded writers and less than a year later Jenny Ryan, Lisa Willemse, Sarah Boon, Steph Taylor, Maryse de la Giroday, Raytmond Nakamura, Pascal Lapointe, Kim Moynahan, and Mike Spear (that's me), launched the Science Borealis website
at the annual Canadian Science Policy Conference.
The Science Borealis team has grown to more than 40 people in Canada and ex-pats in the United States and the United Kingdom. it is a not-profit corporation powered by volunteers
who put in 1,800 hours of time annually. Apart from showcasing Canadian science writing (we currently have 100+ blogs syndicated on the site), we were looking for ways to help more scientists and students try their hand at science writing.
Our Pitch & Polish Program does just that, and offers top-of-page exposure on the Science Borealis website which this year to date has had 428,600 page views from 341,500 users.
The mentoring program helps budding science communicators develop their writing skills for lay audiences. This not only helps spread the stories of great Canadian science, but also develops valuable career skills.
In the Pitch & Polish Program, groups of 4-10 students pitch their ideas to the science writing mentor leading their program. Over the course of 8-10 weeks, the mentor helps the students refine their pitches and produce, polish,and publish their posts. Students will receive feedback on their pitches as well as three rounds of one-on-one feedback on their submissions, and professional editing to ensure they can proudly add their post to their portfolio.
Our mentors are all seasoned, published science writers and editors who will apply professional tools and ensure students successfully rise to the challenge.
If you are looking for a 2022 resolution, upping your communications game could pay off more than a new gym membership!