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Good Night and Good Well-Defined Statistical Distribution of States

Posted: 19 Sep 2014

That's it. Today was my final day as a BSA Media Fellow at the Financial Times.

It passed quickly and relatively smoothly but took every joule of energy that I had to give.

I'm glad its done and I'd do it over again in a heart beat.

What should I write about? Should I write about how my last day happened to be the morning after the Scottish referendum? Or about trying to help the UK News desk but probably just getting in the way? Maybe about finding a hidden little gem of a paper buried deep in the embargoes that I doubt the other big news papers will cover?

A Job by Any Other Name

Posted: 17 Sep 2014

Yesterday, I had the wonderful chance to accompany Clive Cookson on an interview of Dame Ann Dowling, who had only been elected President of the Royal Academy of Engineers the night before.

Dowling is a mechanical engineer, whose career has been spent studying acoustics of combustion and flight. She still has a month as head of Mechanical Engineering at Cambridge.

Some Secrets Are Just Too Good to Keep

Posted: 16 Sep 2014

One day while at the British Science Festival, I didn't have a clear story from the press briefings, so I spent the day attending the public talks searching for something to cover. I did eventually find an exciting story but I didn't write about it.

I'm going to be annoyingly oblique in this blog post and I'm sorry about that but you'll see the reasons become clear in a moment.

I went to a presentation that I thought was pretty interesting but by the end of it I was unclear whether or not the material was novel and newsworthy.

A week at the BSF

Posted: 16 Sep 2014

The reason why I didn't post last week was because I was covering the British Science Festival for the Financial Times.

It was great. I did all the normal things that I'm used to at a festival, like attend talks and go out in the evening (we BSA Media Fellows won second place at the BSF pub trivial night --- that's right second place).

PUNder the Many Differences

Posted: 07 Sep 2014

A few days ago my first news article was published. Although certainly tied to science it is most certainly a news story and not a science story.

Ahead of a pair of papers being published in scientific journals, the UK authors called a press conference to vocalize their criticism of the WHO's recommendations for countries to enact stronger regulations on e-cigarettes.

Frazzle-dazzle

Posted: 07 Sep 2014

Off to Birmingham for the British Science Festival. This is a totally novel and even foreign experience for me. I don't know that there were science festivals in Canada while I was growing up. If there were, I certainly don't remember attending any. The British seem to be great at this sort of thing.

While I am excited, I am also a bit frazzled. I'm not sure what to expect, I don't feel organized and, as a cherry on top, I'm sick.

I'm sure that I'm sick because I've been going non-stop since I started my placement at the FT.

This Just In: Cake!

Posted: 04 Sep 2014

I spent a portion of the day working on a press release. It's an interesting one with a scientific contribution and immediate international consequences. That's great. Except...

The press release relies on a submitted manuscript that is referenced as a footnote. In preparing to interview the scientist, I requested the manuscript so that I could do a intelligent interview. But the researchers don't want to give it to me because it's not peer-reviewed yet. Does anyone else notice an inconsistency here?

You can't have your cake and eat it too, name-of-scientists-redacted-here!

Rotten Apples

Posted: 03 Sep 2014

Are you a scientist who thinks the media doesn't do your field of research justice?

Do you study differences in the brain related to gender?

If you answered “yes” to the first question but “no” to the second, you have no idea. I can't say anything specific because it involves another embargo but this morning I watched a neurologist present an argument against biologically intrinsic differences between genders.

Down the Rabbit's Hole

Posted: 02 Sep 2014

Today was a day of prescribed distractions.

I started the day working on an article about domestication. While doing research for it, I got entirely fascinated by the process of domestication. I learned that dogs were domesticated from a now extinct population of Eurasian wolves tens of thousands of years ago. [url=http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_domesticated_animals]The majority of domestic animals were tamed in the mists of prehistory.

Let's be Honest

Posted: 30 Aug 2014

One week done. I've gotten to write five stories so far. Most of them should come out in tomorrow's weekend edition. They've all been nice and short with no frills --- just present the news of the science as concisely as possible. That might not be an easy task but at least it's straight forward. I've covered biology, psychology and fundamental physics. As a wonderful treat, I even got to write a brief about some non-equilibrium statistical mechanics (my field), which may be accompanied by an interactive that I helped to put together.

A Sheep in Wolf's Clothing

Posted: 27 Aug 2014

Today was all business. I got in knowing exactly who I needed to contact for the stories that I was working. By the time the newsroom started to fill, I was well on my way, which is good because my deadline got moved ahead. By the end of the day, I had finished two brief articles, which will published this weekend. They both needed a substantial working over by real journalists before they could be submitted but they got done.

Small World

Posted: 27 Aug 2014

Day one done.

It started off pretty slowly. I woke up early (for an academic) and caught the bus into London. While riding in, I wrote today's first blog post and got to the FT with plenty of time to spare. I even sat in a cafe and did a bit of physics.

When I arrived in the newsroom, I was shuttled off to sign forms and and learn the content management system at the FT. This is a program that organizes the article submission and metadata.

Getting my Ducks in a Row

Posted: 26 Aug 2014

I'm on the bus heading into London for my first full day at the FT. It's the Tuesday after the long weekend but I'm not as rested as that might lead you to believe. Being a BSA media fellow will take me out of the lab for an entire month, which is a long time for a post-doctoral researcher. It will be entirely worth it but disappearing for such a long amount of time requires putting my house in order.

Over the weekend, I had to write up a brief contribution to the Supporting Material of a collaborator's thesis, re-submit a manuscript and complete a response to referee reports.

First Time to the FT

Posted: 30 Jul 2014

Today I visited the Financial Times newsroom for the the first time.

There was no immediate reason to visit except that the FT science editor, Clive Cookson, and I had yet to meet in person. We'd only spoken briefly over the phone back in May before the BSA placements were announced but that was an interview. This was an introductory visit.

Hello, World!

Posted: 27 Jul 2014

Hello, world. Welcome to Scientist on Assignment, a blog that I will use to share my personal experiences as an Oxford scientist working at the Financial Times for a month.

I have this wonderful opportunity to see how the media covers science through a British Science Association Media Fellowship.