Call for Proposals for Early-Career Science Journalism Fellowship

We are now accepting applications for the next two rounds of The Open Notebook/Burroughs Wellcome Fund fellowship for early-career science writers. (See here for stories written by our previous fellows.)


The Fellowship

The next TON/BWF fellowship period will begin on January 4, 2021 and end on August 31, 2021. The subsequent fellowship period will begin on July 1, 2021 and end on February 28, 2022. Applicants may express interest for one or both fellowship periods.

During the eight-month fellowship period, fellows will report and write six articles for publication at The Open Notebook—a mix of “story behind the story” interviews and reported features—with the guidance of a mentor who will help shape story ideas, provide reporting and writing guidance, edit final copy, and offer career-development mentoring. Fellows (and mentors) will also be part of a professional discussion group composed of former fellowship participants and TON editors.

The fellowship will be remote and will be part-time. Thanks to a generous grant from the Burroughs Wellcome Fund, each fellow will receive a stipend of $4,200.



The fellowship is open to early-career science writers with fewer than two years of regular professional science writing experience. (Internships and student work do not count toward this requirement.) Graduate students in the sciences who are interested in science writing are eligible.

PLEASE NOTE: Although it is part-time, this fellowship requires a significant weekly time commitment, and juggling the fellowship along with a full-time job can be challenging. Prospective fellows who have full-time jobs are welcome to apply, but should consider carefully whether they will be able to devote sufficient time to completing articles as specified in the fellowship description. This includes making time during regular business hours for 1) conducting phone interviews with sources, 2) weekly phone meetings with mentors, and 3) multiple rounds of editing and revision for most stories.

(International applicants are welcome. Note that applications, including writing samples and letters of recommendation, must be in English.)


Selection Criteria

Priority will be given to applicants who demonstrate:

  • A strong intention to work primarily as a professional science writer
  • Some training and/or experience (it does not have to be a lot) writing stories about science for the general public
  • Familiarity with The Open Notebook and the types of topics we tend to cover
  • An ability to generate good feature ideas suitable for The Open Notebook
  • Strong writing ability


Required Application Materials

  • A letter of interest explaining why you are seeking the fellowship, your previous experiences in writing about science for the public, and what you hope to learn from the experience. Please also tell us about your overall plans for during the fellowship period and about the time commitment you are able to make to this fellowship (500 words maximum)
  • Proposals for two TON features or multimedia stories. These can take the form of a behind-the-story writer interview; a reported feature on some element of the craft of science writing; or some other creative, feature-length project centered on the craft of science writing. (Combined length of these two proposals must be no more than 500 words.)
  • A resume or CV
  • One letter of reference
  • Up to three writing or multimedia samples of work aimed at the general public (not scientific/academic writing)
  • Optional: Additional background about you. We strongly encourage writers from all types of backgrounds to apply to our fellowship program. If you would like, you may share any information that you think might be relevant for us to know about you. That could include information about your membership in any communities that are historically marginalized or underrepresented in journalism, your educational, geographic, or socioeconomic background, circumstances that limited your ability to receive training in journalism or science writing, or anything else. This is entirely optional. (100 words maximum)



Applications, including letters of reference, must be received by 11:59 p.m. U.S. Central time on October 25, 2020. Note: The Submittable application process requires applicants to provide an email address for each person writing a letter of reference; the system will then send a unique link to each reference. Applicants should complete applications early enough to allow references to also submit their letters on time.

Selections for both fellowship periods will be announced by December 10, 2020.




If you have any questions, please email Siri Carpenter:

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