A two-week workshop on science writing was held at IISER TVM from the 3rd to the 15th of October 2016. This is the third in the series of two-week science writing workshops catalysed and facilitated by Vigyan Prasar. The first two were held in IISER Pune in 2014 and 2015.
The response to the announcement of the workshop was quite encouraging: 134 applications for 14 seats. Associate and Assistant Professors, school teachers, more than half with a PhD as well as some media professionals… Selections were done on the basis of the aims and capacities of the workshop.
Thirteen people participated. Two from IISER Thiruvananthapuram, three from Odisha, two from Delhi. Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, Maharashtra and Andhra Pradesh were also represented. One post-doc, four pursuing a PhD, two school teachers, one journalist, two activists… There was a great diversity of disciplines, though biologists were in the majority. And it was thrilling to find that one participant had an Earth Sciences background.
The Director, IISER Thiruvananthapuram, Prof V.Ramakrishnan, inaugurated the workshop. He talked about the changes in the process of writing scientific papers from a personal and historical perspective.
Energy levels were high as the workshop began. TVV was in his element and introduced fresh ideas. Participants discussed among themselves, even over lunch and snacks. And by day three they had started to write news. Real news, based on publications from different laboratories in India.
A workshop designed for interactions between the participants
They edited each others’ writings and learned about editorial decision making by arranging the news items.
Many of these items have been featured in the 25 October issue of Current Science, in a column titled Science Last Fortnight.
The participants went on to write features. They went through editing processes where each actively played subeditor. Multiple rounds of feedback on the work of each participant improved clarity and style.
The reason for organising such workshops in research rich environments is that the participants get to see real scientists in the process of research. Participants interacted with scientists at the new IISER Thiruvananthapuram campus .
Though time was at a premium, some participants even managed interviews with select IISER Thiruvananthapuram scientists.
Though there was nobody with a background in layout and design, one of the IISER students took on the task and a dummy science magazine was born out of the workshop. Thus, every participant gained something unique from the workshop, not only in terms of knowledge about handy tools and tips but also from the point of view of their own hidden potential and the ability to draw on general principles of writing and aesthetics.
The Director of Vigyan Prasar, Dr. R. Gopichandran, interacted with the participants at the closing session and talked about the need for scientific temper in all walks of life.
These participants were eager to continue writing. And, as with the previous workshops in this series, they add to the growing numbers of a team dedicated to bring fresh vigour to science reporting in India.
Where will the next workshop be held? Which IISER will host the next workshop? Watch this space for further developments.