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....

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