Bora Zivkovic’s Visit

10 Sep

Picture taken by David Kroll, Ph.D.

Bora Zivkovic is a unique, energetic, multidisciplinary scientist communicator and blogger. I was amazed to read that after almost ten years in graduate school he left his graduate program before defending his dissertation or publishing any of his work relevant to his Ph.D. research. Yet he has earned the title of the “BlogFather” and is the current Blog Editor and Community manager at Scientific American. With the overproduction of Ph.D.s in today’s society it is no surprise that many scientists are finding alternative careers, including becoming science writers and journalists. But, how does a scientist become a successful journalist like Bora?

Bora offered valuable advice on how to become a good science journalist. He claims that the difference between a research scientist who blogs and a research scientists who writes publications is very small. Both have scientific expertise and enjoy writing on a topic that they are passionate about. One significant difference, and possible advantage, of being a science journalist is that the position offers an individual to become a temporary expert in the topic they are writing about – if they put the extra effort to seriously study the topic. I like that notion because in graduate school an individual has to focus their research to one specific problem. Becoming specialists with narrow perspectives can be limiting as it hinders curiosity and creativity. I think Bora would agree with that thought, as some of his favorite science writers are individuals who do something unusual in their articles. Science writers fulfill the need for interdisciplinary involvement by bridging science with other disciplines, such as history, humanities, and social science.

What I found to most encouraging about starting a future career in science journalism is how supportive the community is. Bora’s enthusiasm for discovering new writers, their work and helping them reach their goals is a pleasure to hear. Often the world of journalism, like academia, can seem like a very intimating and competitive area to transition into. But, Bora offered some reassurance that it is possible to be successful a science writer. I am saddened that I missed the opportunity to meet the “Blogfather” in class. I hope that I get another chance to be introduced to him in person and perhaps pitch a story for his Guest Blog.

Sources: The line between science and journalism is getting blurry…again
Science blogs — definition, and history
Blogs: face the conversation
Telling science stories…wait, what’s a “story?”
The SA Incubator or why promote young science writers?

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