Highlights from the March meeting of the SANDSWA Social Justice in Science Writing club

By Monica May

Photo of a notebook and glasses
David Travis/Unsplash

Whether you are navigating getting a COVID-19 vaccine, helping children return to school or determining if you should go back to the office in person, we know this is a busy time. 

In an effort to share insights with club members who weren’t able to make it to the March meeting of the SANDSWA Social Justice in Science Writing Club, here are highlights of our discussion that may be helpful.

What is working well for us:

  • Finding diverse sources: freelance writer Ramin Skibba (he/him) shared several devices he employs, including: 
    • Asking sources who else they recommend he speaks with (Miller uses the phrase, “bonus points if you suggest a person of color or woman.”).
    • Looking up 10 potential sources instead of pursuing the first three people he finds, as scientists who are members of underrepresented communities often receive more interview requests. 
    • Leveraging the Diverse Sources database, citing advice from Mollie Bloudoff-Indelicato. He also recommends the databases listed in the Open Notebook story “Finding Diverse Sources” and reading their Diverse Voices in Science Journalism series.
  • Diversifying science: Gabriela Goldberg (she/her), a Ph.D. student at UC San Diego, teaches science courses as part of a re-entry program for incarcerated individuals at San Diego County Jails. Courses are taught in both English and Spanish and she emphasizes the deep scientific knowledge that Indigeneous communities have in her teaching, including astronomy, ethnobotany and ecology. She is also a co-organizer of the Graduate Diversity and Science Lecture Series (DASL) at UC San Diego, which shines a light on the research of graduate students and postdoctoral researchers who are members of underrepresented communities in science.
  • Diversifying press releases: Monica May (she/her), former science writer at Sanford Burnham Prebys and current communications officer for the Department of Neurological Surgery at UC San Diego Health, has found that including the first author of a study–in addition to the faculty author–in press releases has been an easy way to showcase diversity in science (a tip gleaned from a ScienceWriters2020 panel). See an example. Faculty members are usually happy and eager to help showcase an early career scientist, so this has been an easy action to adopt.

Helpful insights: 

  • Using the term LatinX is an ongoing discussion in the Hispanic/LatinX community, as many don’t identify with the term and LatinX is difficult to say in Spanish. The term “Latine” is being introduced more, which sounds much better in Spanish. A safe term to use in the meantime is Latin American, as that doesn’t assume gender.
  • If you have a story that needs to be reviewed by a member of a community that is not your own, diversity/sensitivity readers are the best resource to turn to (versus a team member who is a member of that community). This Open Notebook article is a great resource, and includes links to several places to find sensitivity readers and anticipated cost ($31-$35/hour, according to the Editorial Freelancers Association’s rate list). 

Our next meeting takes place on Friday, May 21, from 2pm-3pm PT and will center on the Open Notebook article, “Making Your Writing and Reporting Transgender-Inclusive.” Register today (must be a SANDSWA member): https://bit.ly/3b8NvO2 

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