The Open Notebook is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization that is widely regarded as the leading online source of training and educational materials for journalists who cover science. We are dedicated to fostering a supportive, diverse, and inclusive global community that enables reporters and editors who cover science to learn and thrive. Through our comprehensive library of articles on the craft of science journalism and our extensive training and mentoring programs, we empower journalists at all experience levels, around the world, to tell impactful, engaging stories about science.
We envision a world in which journalists are fully empowered to tell impactful stories about science that contribute to a more informed and engaged society, combat misinformation, and enable communities to navigate the complexities of our ever-changing world.
Why We’re Here
At no other time in human history has the meaning of what constitutes a fact—a valid piece of knowledge—been more at risk than it is today. Journalists’ ability to report stories about science clearly, accurately, and engagingly has never been more critical for public understanding of science and for a well-functioning democracy. Journalists who cover science play a crucial and demanding role in society—they must not only explain the newest advances in scientific research, but also provide critical context and analysis on issues ranging from climate change to infectious disease to artificial intelligence; shed light on the human beings behind the research; and serve as watchdogs to help ensure the continued freedom and integrity of the scientific enterprise.
To fulfill such a role takes skill. And the skills that science journalists need are endangered. Only a fraction of working science journalists are trained in formal journalism programs. And with the shrinking number of traditional staff jobs available, science journalism is fast moving toward a “gig economy” that relies on freelancers to produce work once done by staffers. One effect of that shift is that fewer journalists have the opportunity to master skills through the natural mentoring that takes place in newsrooms. In addition, science journalists who are from historically underrepresented communities face formidable barriers to entry and participation in the field. The Open Notebook is dedicated to helping journalists cultivate fundamental skills necessary for covering science and to helping foster a more inclusive community of voices covering science.
What We Do
Since The Open Notebook was founded in 2010, more than a million people from around the world have visited the site. Thousands of journalists have taken part in our courses, workshops, and mentoring programs. Below is a summary of our major programs.
- The Open Notebook has published more than 500 articles on the craft of science writing.
- In our Story-Behind-the-Story Interviews, The Open Notebook asks science journalists to deconstruct their working process, from inception to completion. These features, edited for length and clarity, also typically include supplementary materials such as pitch letters, notes, outlines, draft excerpts, edits, and other behind-the-scenes resources that illustrate how one story evolved over time.
- Our Reported Features focus on specific elements of the craft of science journalism, from finding ideas to taking good notes to writing effective ledes to covering risk and controversy—and much more.
- In The Open Notebook‘s Storygram series, begun with initial funding support from the Council for the Advancement of Science Writing through a grant from the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation, experienced journalists provide in-depth annotations of noteworthy science stories (along with Q&A interviews with the authors). Our goal is to show what makes the best stories great.
- Through our Diverse Voices in Science Journalism project, a collaboration with the National Association of Science Writers’ Diversity Committee supported by the Simons Foundation, we aim to examine the experiences, expertise, and perspectives of science journalists from communities that are underrepresented in science journalism.
- TON‘s A Day in the Life series asks science journalists to break down the habits and tricks and must-have tools that get them through the day.
- TON en Español is our collection of dozens of popular TON articles translated into Spanish.
- We’ve published dozens of articles and resource guides that center diversity, equity, and inclusion in science journalism. These include articles on topics such as covering Indigenous communities, reporting and writing with trans-inclusion in mind, navigating bias in newsrooms, finding diverse sources, tracking source diversity, using alt-text to make stories more accessible, freelancing on a student visa, and much more.
- The TON Pitch Database is a searchable resource containing 290 successful queries to a wide range of publications. This unique tool gives science journalists the opportunity to study the first—and often the most difficult—step in producing outstanding science stories.
- Our Science Journalism Master Classes, supported by The Kavli Foundation, help science journalists at all levels of experience sharpen their ability to find and vet story ideas, craft effective pitches, report and write impactful stories, collaborate with editors, and more. Each Science Journalism Master Class drills into one skill or habit, presented in a series of five to eight lessons, delivered by email.
- Our mentoring programs offer personalized support for science journalists.
- Our Early-Career Fellowship Program is supported by a grant from the Burroughs Wellcome Fund. This ten-month, paid fellowship provides an opportunity for early-career science journalists to develop their skills by conducting story-behind-the-story interviews and creating reported features for publication at The Open Notebook, working with a dedicated mentor.
- The Covering Science Slack, supported by the Burroughs Wellcome Fund, is a diverse, supportive peer-mentoring community for local and general assignment reporters and editors. Our goal is to support journalists who do not think of science, health, or environmental reporting as their beat but want to develop their skills and confidence in including scientific information and perspectives in their stories.
- The Sharon Dunwoody Science Journalism Mentoring Program, supported by the Simons Foundation and the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative, is a free, intensive mentoring program aimed at increasing the diversity of voices covering science and supporting journalists who are from underrepresented communities or who have experienced higher than average barriers to entry to the field.
- Our International Students Slack Community is a place for science writers who are current, past, or aspiring international students to share information and advice about university applications, securing financial aid, dealing with visas and immigration issues, and other academic and day-to-day challenges of being an international student.
- Our first book, The Craft of Science Writing, published in February 2020, offers an essential primer for science writers, students, and others who want to improve their science communication skills. A second, expanded edition of the book will be published by the University of Chicago Press in 2024.
- Just for fun! The #PeepYourScience contest, begun in 2019, is the world’s finest, and only, science-themed Peeps diorama contest, and it is … pretty sweet.
The Open Notebook is an affiliate member of the Institute for Nonprofit News.