Hello Bio Careers® Community! I have been invited to share my experiences as a Science Writer with you in the form of blogs. I must say that I am a bit intimidated because there is a lot of good content already posted here that covers a lot of topics. Bloggers Sandlin Seguin and Clement Weinberger have written at length about the value of Networking and the power of Serendipity in finding that next job among other important subjects. I hope to add my thoughts and experiences to the mix. I’m also happy to research and report back on topics that you’d like to hear more about. Please leave comments below, and I’ll do my best to make sure to touch on any subjects you are curious about.
Subjects that I plan to discuss include:
• Doing a Postdoc- choose wisely
• Inductive and Deductive writing
• Structuring an Intro
• Business and Tax issues
• Body Language and F2F skills
• Synonyms, fine tuning and precision in scientific writing
Today, I’d like to start with a simple description of the different types of “Science Writing” to help those of you who are considering the profession but do not know the many facets there are. Below are the seven sub-disciplines within Science Writing that come to mind. Of course, there are many others….
• MedComm (Medical Communications) – this is the writing/publishing/presentation side of pharmaceutical companies. Pharmaceutical companies contract out a lot of their writing and media development to MedCom companies (for example: http://www.knowledgepoint360.com/). In MedComm, you will find yourself working in a relatively corporate situation, with the pay and benefits to go with it. However, you will be expected to develop high quality product under stress and with deadlines. You may be asked to put together a literature review, synthesizing three major papers on a particular compound and writing a mini-review for the researchers at the pharmaceutical company. You may have to put together a slide presentation of their recent results for someone to present at a conference. You may have to manage the deployment of a new drug and put together a full publication plan (organizing abstract submissions, posters, presentations, papers etc.).
• Curriculum – This area is a little new to me, but from what I understand this encompasses writing textbook entries, quiz generation, and making slides for teachers. In general, you would be putting together any number of different educational materials that the provider (for example http://www.edgenuity.com) would then sell to schools or school districts.
• Journalism – Science journalism is exactly what it sounds like, these are the people who research and write stories for the media/periodical publications (for example http://www.nytimes.com/pages/science). This is basically taking primary science literature and presenting it to the masses. Very few of these jobs are staff jobs. They are mostly done via freelancers. One way to break into this arena is to write an article (or a pitch) and send it to various companies. If they like what you have to say, they’ll publish it. You end up doing a lot of the leg work in the beginning.
• Patents/technical – This is technical writing that may be done for a pharmaceutical company, the FDA, or law firms. There are pages and pages of technical details that accompany patent applications, drug trials, and any other number of documents. This will include detailed protocols and pharmacology minutiae. I believe that specialized training (patent law) or previous experience is required.
• Blogging – This is the most laid-back, versatile, personal, and vulnerable medium for science communication. This is a way to get your name out there, and add some publications to your portfolio. However, blogging does not necessarily pay well, and your posts may not be widely viewed.
• Academic – This type of writing would involve drafting primary research manuscripts, grants, and abstracts. Additionally, this could include editing for non-native speakers and manuscript review for companies like http://www.edanzediting.com and http://www.rubriq.com
• Publishing – This area covers the publication and editing of manuscripts for research periodicals. You’d be part of the editorial team at a journal like http://www.cell.com/home reviewing publications, finding reviewers, coordinating all parties involved and trying to keep things moving. Accepting and rejecting manuscripts under the supervision of editors. Securing authors for special issues and reviews.
These are superficial descriptions of the main types of “Science Writing.” Personally, my experience is largely in Academic writing and editing. Blogging is new to me, so I hope I have not let anyone down with this first introductory post. I look forward to your comments (I think?!) and to future posts and interactions.
Until next time, remember, “Success is stumbling from failure to failure with no loss of enthusiasm.” W. Churchill