Science writing is not just for scientists. Ron Winslow, an acclaimed science journalist for the Wall Street Journal, is a testament to this fact.
An author of more than 1,400 articles and the 2011 winner of the Victor Cohn Prize for medical writing, Winslow will serve as the guest lecturer for the 22nd annual Hill Lecture series, which spotlights quality media communication with the public regarding science. Titled "Covering Science: Worst of Times, Best of Times," Winslow will present his lecture at the McClung Museum Auditorium tonight at 8 p.m.
Mark Littmann, the Julia G. & Alfred G. Hill Chair of Excellence in Science, Technology and Medical Writing, worked to bring Winslow to campus.
As the director of the Science Communication Program in the College of Communication and Information, Littman is keenly familiar with Winslow's field. But science writing, Littman "quietly" confessed, is not so different from other areas of writing.
Rather, he said, it is the language and public perception of science that make it intimidating for an average reader.
Lauren Gregg, senior in advertising with a minor in journalism and electronic media and business administration, is currently an intern at Oak Ridge National Laboratory in communications and media relations – a position she credits to Littmann's introduction to science writing.
At ORNL, Gregg helps cutting-edge researchers convey their research to the public and explain how their projects relate to real-world issues.
"After taking (Littman's class) I think I fell in love with the science." Gregg said. "... He showed us science in a way you can understand it and the public can understand it."
Part of the challenge, Gregg stated, lies in translating scientific terminology into plain speech. After federal budget cuts to scientific institutions like NASA and the National Institute of Health, she said it is now even more crucial that the public grasp the value of research.
"Their ultimate goal is to inform the public and in an entertaining way," Gregg said.
Politics, Littman argues, is not enough to develop and progress a nation.
"What has driven the success of America is scientific and technological innovation," he said.
Not everyone will become a scientist, Littman acknowledged, but he added it is important to view the field as an asset rather than "an aggravation."
"It's a way of providing useful information," Littman said, "but also information that I think that makes life richer, makes you appreciate our moment in the universe, and what people can do to make one another's lives better."