Writing Science

Some scientists would call writing the most excruciating part of their jobs. Others would say it's an act of joy, or at least it doesn't cause great pain. For a small cadre, writing for audiences outside of their peers--the communications that generally don't count toward promotion and tenure--is also a second career. To be sure, writing for the popular press is nothing new in science. Veteran scientist-authors such as Carl Sagan were profiled in The Visible Scientists,1 a book that was p

Karen Young Kreeger
Jan 9, 2000

Some scientists would call writing the most excruciating part of their jobs. Others would say it's an act of joy, or at least it doesn't cause great pain. For a small cadre, writing for audiences outside of their peers--the communications that generally don't count toward promotion and tenure--is also a second career.

To be sure, writing for the popular press is nothing new in science. Veteran scientist-authors such as Carl Sagan were profiled in The Visible Scientists,1 a book that was published more than two decades ago. These researchers and many more are attracted to writing for general audiences in various outlets--books, magazine articles, newspaper columns, encyclopedias, educational CDs--for many reasons.

"The motivation is a very sincere desire to get the word [about discoveries] beyond the academy out into the culture," says Angela von der Lippe, a senior editor with W.W. Norton & Co. in New York....