Four early-career journalists from China and India have emerged from the fiercest competition to date to win the 2016 EurekAlert! Fellowships for International Science Reporters.
An independent panel of judges selected Dinsa Sachan, Swagata Yadavar, Boran Zhang, and Cui Zheng from 20 applications, the largest cohort since the Fellowship program began in 2004.
"The 2016 EurekAlert! Fellows truly embody the mission of the Program, which was designed to encourage reporters from emerging economies who are making great strides in science journalism, changing the media landscape, and serving society," said Brian Lin, director of editorial content strategy at EurekAlert!, an editorially independent, online science news service operated by the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS).
For Zhang, a writer for the Chinese science news website Guokr.com, science reporting is personal. He began writing four years ago "as a form of therapy" after his Ph.D. training in paleobiogeography at University of California, Berkeley was interrupted by a bout of depression.
Winning the Fellowship has validated his career choice. "For a long time after [recovering from] depression, I was not sure I could do anything valuable," he said. "Maybe [now] I will finally admit to myself that I can do this, I can do a good job."
Zhang will join the other EurekAlert! Fellows at the 2016 AAAS Annual Meeting in Washington, D.C., 11-15 Feb 2016.
Cui Zheng has covered environmental policy, genetically modified organisms, and scientific breakthroughs for Caixin Media from Beijing, China. She is looking forward to presentations on CRISPR - a controversial gene editing technique - and to learning "how the new media platform would influence approaches to engaging a public audience on scientific topics."
This is the 7th year the Fellowship program has designated China as a feature country and many Fellowship alumni are now senior journalists and editors.
"Over the years, we've seen dramatic changes in science journalism in China through the lens of our Fellows," said Joy Ma, editorial content manager for EurekAlert! Chinese. "This year, we received a large number of applications from reporters working in online or 'new media' outlets, which are thriving on the availability of new technology and social media."
For the second year, EurekAlert! Fellowships will be awarded to journalists from India.
Swagata Yadavar of Mumbai is a health correspondent for THE WEEK, a major English weekly news magazine in India. She has tackled local health issues such as drug-resistant tuberculosis, forced female feticide, and insurance scams leading to unindicated hysterectomies on illiterate rural women. "For the first time, I would not have to rely on agencies and news wires to know about path-breaking research, but would be able to witness it myself when leading researchers from all over the world present their papers," Yadavar said.
The 2016 Annual Meeting's theme of Global Science Engagement is of special interest to Dinsa Sachan, a New Delhi-based freelancer who covers the intersection of science and society. "[It is] a great platform for me to explore questions such as these: How can technological solutions focusing on healthcare and environment secure immediate funding and become mainstream quickly? How can innovators in developing countries make these enterprises sustainable?"
The 2016 Fellows are:
- Cui Zheng [崔筝] (Caixin Media - Beijing, China)
- Boran Zhang [张博然] (Guokr.com - Beijing, China)
- Swagata Yadavar (THE WEEK - Mumbai, India)
- Dinsa Sachan (Freelance: Discover, Science Friday, Nature.com, Science - New Delhi, India)
American Association for the Advancement of Science