First science journalists from the Balkans, App-only news outlet among 2018 EurekAlert! Fellows

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Credit: Courtesy photos provided by the winners

For the first time, journalists from the Balkans and a WeChat-only news outlet have been awarded the 2018 EurekAlert! Fellowships for International Science Reporters.

The journalism fellowship program, now in its 14th year, funds early-career science reporters from emerging economies to attend the AAAS Annual Meeting. The 2018 meeting, themed "Advancing Science Discovery to Application," will be held in Austin, TX Feb. 15-19.

The 2018 Fellows are:

  • Vijay Shankar Balakrishnan, Freelance (@VijaySciWri)
  • Xiaoxue Chen, The Intellectual (@tobescarlett)
  • Haonan (Simon) Liu, Caijing (@Lets_jam77)
  • Julianna Photopoulos, Freelance (@juliannaphos)
  • Aayushi Pratap, Hindustan Times (@aayushipratap)

Mićo Tatalović, Chair of the Association of British Science Writers and a judge of the 2018 EurekAlert! Fellowships, emphasized the importance of expanding the program to the Balkans.

"The Balkan region, and eastern Europe more generally, have been largely left out of the global conversations on science and the media, partly due to language barriers and economic isolations of the regions – and in some cases, war," said Tatalović, a former editor of New Scientist who also serves on the board of the Balkan Network of Science Journalists.

"There are few, if any opportunities, for young science writers in the Balkan region to make their first steps and get first paid assignments, so this fellowship comes as a fresh breath of air and a rare opportunity to travel, work with international colleagues, and learn from experienced editors how to do quality reporting about the latest science advancements."

Julianna Photopoulos, the first EurekAlert! Fellow from the Balkans, is a freelance journalist based in Greece. Her writing has appeared in BBC Earth, New Scientist, and Chemistry World.

"The EurekAlert! fellowship will allow me to grow both personally and professionally," Photopoulous said. "It is a unique opportunity to join conversations on crucial issues in science, explore and learn about the latest scientific advancements, and build relationships with scientists and fellow journalists from all over the world."

Also for the first time since the program's 2004 launch, a fellowship was awarded to a journalist from an outlet that publishes everyday on a mobile App.

"A large proportion of the applications came from digital and social media, reflecting a changing media landscape in China," said fellowship judge Jane Qiu, a Beijing-based freelance contributor to Nature, Science, and Scientific American. "I'm particularly impressed by their energy, originality, and a keen sense of the challenges facing journalists around the world."

Xiaoxue Chen was selected for her work for The Intellectual, a science-news channel on WeChat, the popular messaging app with 938 million monthly active users in 2017 (only behind Facebook Messenger and WhatsApp). She covers topics ranging from neuroscience to paleoanthropology, and her follow-up stories on a gene-editing tool, NgAgo, with her colleagues recently won China's Annual Investigative Reporting Award in 2017.

"I'd like to learn about cutting-edge technologies in the U.S. and how American scientists view the process of translating basic science into application," said Chen, who was a panelist at the 2017 World Conference for Science Journalists in San Francisco. "How could American laws or regulations protect the benefits of both investors and the institutions the scientists are affiliated with?"

For Haonan (Simon) Liu, the AAAS Annual Meeting offers an opportunity to communicate directly with international scientists and public officials about artificial intelligence, a topic he covers frequently for Caijing, a Chinese financial magazine.

"As a young science reporter, I am encouraged by winning the 2018 EurekAlert! Fellowship, which represents an international and professional recognition of my work. I will remember this fulfilling feeling and use it to motivate myself to be a better journalist," said Liu, who also hopes to learn new investigative reporting skills from his peers.

For the third straight year, EurekAlert! Fellowships will support two journalists from India, including Vijay Shankar Balakrishnan, a scientist-turned-freelance reporter who has written for Scroll.in, Nature India, and The Lancet titles. Balakrishnan earned an interdisciplinary science PhD from Aarhus University in Denmark before honing his journalistic skills at the City University in London.

"I've always loved science. After coming into science journalism, I love it even more, as I learned to recognize its often hidden human and economic values," said Balakrishnan, who is currently based in Germany. "Professionally, the fellowship opens doors to cover one of the largest scientific world events and allows me to hear the back stories of the latest scientific advances directly from those who made them possible."

Aayushi Pratap, a health correspondent with Hindustan Times, focuses her reporting on India's governmental and social responses to pressing public health issues facing the country. With a background in biochemistry, she has covered drug-resistant tuberculosis, dengue-related deaths, government responses to HIV/AIDS, and mental health disorders in India.

"The AAAS Annual Meeting will provide me with an excellent opportunity to network with leading minds, especially in the fields of neuroscience and cancer research," Pratap said. "It will also give me a possible road map towards developing myself as a science journalist in India, a country which, at present, does not have a strong tradition in this field."

The 2018 EurekAlert! Fellowships are supported in part by Rockefeller University Press.

"Sound scientific journalism has never been more critical, and Rockefeller University Press is thrilled to support the EurekAlert! Fellowships for International Science Reporters to enable these individuals to hone their skills and strengthen their global networks at a vital stage in their careers," said Rory Williams, Director of Communications and Marketing at RUP.

"We congratulate the 2018 Fellows, and wish them and all AAAS Annual Meeting attendees a productive and successful conference."

About the Fellowships

Established in 2004 with a seed grant from the William T. Golden Endowment Fund for Program Innovation and sponsored by EurekAlert!, the AAAS-operated science-news service, the EurekAlert! Fellowships for International Science Reporters support early-career science reporters from emerging economies by providing them with opportunities to cover the latest research and network with peers from around the world at AAAS Annual Meetings.

Applicants must have five years or less of professional science journalism experience, meet EurekAlert!'s longstanding reporter-registrant eligibility criteria, and submit a complete application including published writing samples, a letter of recommendation, and an original essay.

Past Fellows have represented the Middle East, Africa, Central and South America, India and China – and for the first time in 2018, the Balkan region. For more information about the 2018 Fellowship winners and their Meeting coverage, as well as a list of all EurekAlert! Fellows since 2004, visit: http://www.eurekalert.org/fellows.

Biographies of 2018 Fellows (in alphabetical order)

Vijay Shankar Balakrishnan (@VijaySciWri) is a journalist, writer, and podcaster from India. Currently, he freelances from Marburg, Germany, covering science, environment, health, and development for international outlets such as The Lancet Infectious Diseases, Nature Biotechnology, New Scientist, SciDev.Net, and The Scientist. Before launching his career in journalism, Balakrishnan earned an interdisciplinary science PhD from Aarhus University, Denmark. After a brief internship at the now-defunct magazine, Lab Times, he freelanced for two years before earning an M.A. in Science Journalism from City University, London. For his Indian audience, Balakrishnan has reported on the booming diabetes and insomnia epidemics in his homeland for Scroll.in, and on research by Indian scientists for Nature India. For the WHO Bulletin, he wrote about the transgender health issues in India and abroad, as well as on dementia care in India and other developing countries. Balakrishnan has won the Novozymes Crystal Ball Challenge at the EU conference of science journalists in Denmark for his science fiction short story. He has also voiced an audio guide to an art module on climate change created by the Spanish-American digital artist Yolanda Del Riego. Balakrishnan is also an entrepreneur, creating podcasts about books by launching BookPodia. In his spare time, he enjoys cooking, singing, hiking, doing yoga, and watching films along with his scientist wife.

Xiaoxue Chen (@tobescarlett) is a science editor at The Intellectual (知识分子), a WeChat-based news outlet headquartered in Beijing, China. With a strong passion in science journalism, she mainly covers neuroscience and paleoanthropology. Her reporting about gene-editing generated significant impact in the scientific and greater communities in China. One of her follow-up stories on a gene-editing tool called NgAgo and its reproducibility problem was awarded China's Annual Investigative Reporting Award in 2017. She was recently invited to speak about her experience at the 10th World Conference of Science Journalists in San Francisco. Before entering science journalism, Chen wrote business stories, sold sports gear and apparel, and worked at a crayfish restaurant. She graduated from Zhengzhou University with a Bachelor's degree in English Literature and received her Master's in International Journalism from Beijing Foreign Studies University.

Haonan (Simon) Liu (@Lets_jam77) is a journalist at the Chinese financial magazine Caijing, where he writes about technology. His focus includes artificial intelligence, big data industry, and intelligent healthcare. In only his second year as a science journalist, he monitors the technical and market profiles of artificial intelligence and intelligent healthcare in both China and abroad. Using his investigative and analytical skills, Simon is striving to bring first-hand science reporting to Chinese readers.

Julianna Photopoulos (@juliannaphos) is a freelance science journalist based in Greece. Her writing has appeared in BBC Earth, New Scientist, Chemistry World, and The BMJ. She has also produced and presented the award-winning radio program Vértice in Mexico and been involved in numerous film productions for the BBC's Natural History Unit and The Royal Institution of Great Britain. She holds a Bachelor's degree in biology and Master's in both developmental genetics and science communication. In her spare time, she enjoys working on direct science engagement projects, including science festivals and events. Since 2015, she has served as the Web Producer and Editor for both the Athens and Thessaloniki Science Festivals.

Aayushi Pratap (@aayushipratap) is a health correspondent for Hindustan Times. She lives and works in Mumbai, India's most populous city, allowing her to explore governmental and social responses to some of the most urgent public health issues facing its citizens. Notable work in the past two years includes coverage on drug-resistant tuberculosis, dengue deaths, government responses to HIV/AIDS prevalence, and mental health disorders, especially depression. Her special interests lie in assessing the impact of public health policies on the daily lives of people. Her background in of biochemistry fuels her keen interest in staying abreast with the latest scientific developments in laboratories across the city. She hails from Baroda, a city with a long-standing tradition in fundamental research.

2018 EurekAlert! Fellowship Judges

Malathy Iyer is a senior editor (health) with The Times of India, Mumbai, with over 20 years of experience. When not chasing the big outbreaks of bird flu and swine flu, or tracking the emergence of total drug-resistant tuberculosis, she focuses on issues of urban health care systems and women and children with special needs.

Milica Momčilović has been a science journalist since 2006. She is currently a journalist, editor and TV anchor. She covers life sciences, medicine, health, climate change, and more. Momčilović is also a science correspondent at POLITIKA, the oldest and the most influential daily newspaper in Serbia and the Balkan, for which she writes on science, medicine, and health. Since 2016, Momčilović is the editor and anchor of "The New Technologies in Education" program on Radio Television of Serbia (RTS), a public broadcasting service, organized in partnership with the British Council in Serbia that aims to raise awareness on the significance of using new technologies in education to help modernize the teaching and learning process. Before that, she was the editor of Cafe Scientific, a TV-forum to debate science issues, and of FameLab, the world's leading science communication competition. Next to that, she has interviewed various national and international scientists, science communicators, and activists, such as Richard R. Ernst, Prof. Venki Ramakrishnan, and John Ellis. Momčilović was recently elected vice-president of The World Federation of Science Journalists and is a board member of the Balkan Network of Science Journalists, a regional network of professionals from Balkan countries.

T. V. Padma is a Delhi-based science journalist, who has written extensively on and science policies in India, South Asia and developing countries. She currently writes for Nature, Nature India, New Scientists, Physics World, Chemistry World, BioWorld and The Wire. Padma began her career as a science correspondent at the Press Trust of India, where she reported on science daily and handled the production of the fortnightly PTI Science Service bulletin. She later ran development communication projects at the South Asia office of Panos Institute. In 2005, she joined SciDev.Net as its first South Asia Regional Coordinator to set up the first South Asian network of science writers. She was part of SciDev.Net's award-winning team in 2005 that won the Association of British Science writers (ABSW) prize for best science reporting on the web, for their coverage of the Dec 2004 Asian tsunami. She is also a recipient of the FAO's World Food Day prize for best reporting on health and nutrition issues in India.

Jane Qiu is a globetrotting science writer from Beijing, regularly contributing to Nature, Science, Scientific American, and The Economist. She is currently a fellow of the Knight Science Journalism Fellowship Program at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge, MA in the 2017-18 academic year. A recipient of many prestigious fellowships and travel grants, she has covered a wide range of topics from the Arctic, the Antarctic, and the peaks of the Himalayas. She is passionate about the Tibetan Plateau and surrounding mountain ranges — a vast area half the US landmass known as the Third Pole because it boasts the largest stock of ice on Earth outside polar regions — and strives to highlight its increasing fragility and pressing environmental issues. Her writings have won awards from the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the Association of British Science Writers, the South Asian Journalists Association, and the Asia Environmental Journalism Awards.

Zixue Tai joined the media arts and studies faculty at the University of Kentucky in 2007. He teaches courses in multimedia and interactive game development, global communication, telecommunications policy and regulation, and other courses examining the interplay of new media and society. Previously, he taught at Southern Illinois University Edwardsville (SIUE) and Shanghai International Studies University (SISU). His research interests focus on global communication with a special emphasis on the transformation of Chinese media in the new millennium. His research has appeared in journals such as International Communication Gazette, Journalism & Mass Communication Quarterly, New Media & Society, Journal of Communication. He is the author of The Internet in China: Cyberspace and Civil Society (Routledge, 2006). Prof. Tai holds a doctorate in mass communication from the University of Minnesota – Twin Cities, a Master of Software Systems from the University of St. Thomas (Minnesota), and an MA from Shanghai International Studies University.

Mićo Tatalović is a Knight Science Journalism fellow at MIT. Before that he was an editor of New Scientist's environment and life sciences news section. He previously worked on the news desk of SciDev.net, helping to coordinate a global network of science journalists reporting from South America, Africa, and Asia, as well as freelancing for a wide range of science magazines. He is chairman of the Association of British Science Writers, and sits on the board of the Balkan Network of Science Journalists.

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The American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) is the world's largest general scientific society and publisher of the journal Science as well as Science Translational Medicine, Science Signaling, a digital, open-access journal, Science Advances, Science Immunology, and Science Robotics. AAAS was founded in 1848 and includes nearly 250 affiliated societies and academies of science, serving 10 million individuals. Science has the largest paid circulation of any peer-reviewed general science journal in the world. The non-profit AAAS is open to all and fulfills its mission to "advance science and serve society" through initiatives in science policy, international programs, science education, public engagement, and more. For the latest research news, log onto EurekAlert!, the premier science-news Web site, a service of AAAS. See www.aaas.org.

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