One of my favorite SciLance traditions is SciLance Spotting — giving an email shout-out to a story by one of our members or a member of a fellow tribe. Because, let’s face it — when you’ve toiled over a story and vented about your struggles and frustrations and roadblocks with your friends, there’s nothing quite like sharing the final product with them.
Unfortunately, we really hate to do it. I’ve known the writers of SciLance long enough to say that most of us would rather confuse percentages with percentage points than toot our own horns. So that’s why we like to recognize one another’s work when we see it. We also heartily endorse “self-spotting,” or letting the rest of SciLance know when a piece you’re especially proud of, but that may fly under the radar, has come out.
It’s not a perfect system — inevitably, there are SciLancers whose work isn’t spotted as frequently as others’ (another reason we encourage self-spotting). And we’re all vaguely squeamish about sharing this tradition with our readers, lest we come across sounding like a bunch of self-congratulatory jerks. But hey, if Hollywood can have its award season without offending legions of moviegoers, we can publicly recognize a few of our favorite stories, right? To that end, we present a SciLance (and friends) Spotting Sampler:
Stories We’ve Loved
Many SciLancers praised Liza Gross’(bio) cover story for Discover on facial reconstruction and other advances in combat medicine. “It’s a classic piece of science writing,” Amanda Mascarelli (bio) said. “Her imagery is raw and vivid. And it has a compelling narrative about both the researcher/surgeon and his patient who are at the center of the story.”
We also enjoyed hearing Doug Fox (bio) tell us, in a video he narrated, about what lives beneath Antarctic ice and reading Emily Sohn’s (bio) tale about the hunt for malaria vectors during the long dry season in Africa’s Sahel. And after reading Kendall Powell’s (bio) feature on scientists who must juggle the logistics of extended research travel and fieldwork with the demands of parenting, I began to wonder why I complain so much when my husband needs to occasionally head out of town for a day or two.
SciLancer Jill Adams (bio) belongs to another writing tribe whose members do monthly check-ins, where they share successes and failures from the past month as well as a favorite published piece. “This is a great way to get to know what my fellow [writers] are up to and where they publish,” Jill said. It’s also how she learned about Brooke Borel’s cover story for Popular Science on sleep.
Jill, by the way, recently covered the more personalized approach to this year’s flu vaccine offerings in the Washington Post. She also wrote about Chick-fil-A’s decision to source chickens raised without antibiotics. Of this piece, she said “It was really fun to write Slate-style and it got a ton of comments and tweets.”
When Others Do the Spotting
And then there are times when the Times does the spotting for us — Emily Gertz (bio) pointed out to us the major praise Andrew Revikin had for Emma Marris’ writing in his Dot Earth blog. Revkin also recently spotted Helen Fields‘ (bio) fine reporting about how mercury affects bird songs.
Dan Fagin also gave a nice tip of the hat to Bryn Nelson‘s (bio) “poo-litzer worthy” reporting on fecal transplants. As Kendall noted after reading Bryn’s piece, “I’m a little deflated that I’ll probably never, ever top this quote in a medical story: “You plop a turd in the blender and draw it up in a syringe. Voila! There’s your transplant.””
On the topic of far more pleasant bodily fluids, nursing mothers everywhere will likely cheer when they read Michelle Nijhuis’ (bio) recent account of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology “Make The Breast Pump Not Suck!” hackathon. Nursing mothers also know the incredible thirst that comes with producing liquid nutrition for another human being, so it seems fitting somehow that Michelle also has a piece in the current National Geographic on extreme drought in the West.
And finally, I will sheepishly spot Plum Landing, the WGBH and PBS KIDS environmental education project I’ve been working on since last year, plus the accompanying classroom resources on PBS Learning Media.
At its core, SciLance Spotting is all about celebrating the craft of science writing by science writers everywhere. Readers, we would love to hear from you, and would especially love for you to spot yourselves. Add your favorite stories in our comments section below!
Image Credit: Pixabay