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Boosting diversity, inclusion, and representation in science journalism

By Tim Stephens
UC Santa Cruz, CA

October 30, 2019 — Santa Cruz, CA

(Photo above: Erika Check Hayden is director of the UCSC Science Communication Master’s Program. Contributed)

UC Santa Cruz has received a grant of $195,500 from the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative (CZI) to increase diversity, inclusion, and representation in its science journalism program. The grant will support efforts to attract a diverse set of candidates to UCSC’s Science Communication Master’s Program, the only graduate science writing program in the United States that requires a degree in science and experience in research.

A 2018 survey of the National Association of Science Writers—the field’s largest professional organization—found that more than 88 percent of its membership identified as white, 5 percent as Asian or Pacific Islander, 3 percent as Latino or Hispanic, approximately 2 percent as South Asian, and a similar percentage chose multiple identifications. Only 1 percent identified as Black or African American.

“Representation is a major issue in science journalism, which influences what stories are told and contributes to an inaccurate public narrative of who belongs in science,” said Erika Check Hayden, director of the UCSC Science Communication Master’s Program. “As we expand the workforce of this field, I’ve seen that the next generation of science journalists wants to offer a more inclusive and accurate vision of what science is, who does it, and how it impacts people’s lives.”

CZI’s two-year grant supports UC Santa Cruz to recruit diverse candidates, develop new training in innovative storytelling techniques such as podcasting, and identify internships for students at local and regional outlets around the country to focus on community-centered reporting. The grant will also support the diversification of science communication faculty and guest instructors, as well as fund tuition and living expenses for scholars to enroll in the nine-month curriculum. UC Santa Cruz’s program aims to establish a model for expanding the representation in science journalism that could be replicated at other training programs worldwide.

“We’re thrilled to support UC Santa Cruz in diversifying science journalism,” said Jeff MacGregor, director of science communications at CZI. “Supporting diverse researchers to write about science in communities around the country will strengthen the quality and variety of stories told about the important work that science contributes to society.”

An additional outcome of the support for UC Santa Cruz’s program is supporting a new communication class for students enrolled in science and engineering graduate programs at the school, aimed at boosting the engagement of scientists in public communication.

Established in 1981, the UC Santa Cruz program produces a range of professional science writers, with over 350 alumni working at the nation’s leading media outlets such as the Wall Street Journal, New York Times, PBS NewsHour, and Washington Post. The program accepts 10 students each year and focuses on practical training through rigorous coursework and diverse internships. In 2018, the program was approved as a Master’s program.

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