Mission

About The Open Notebook

The Open Notebook is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization that provides tools and resources to help science, environmental, and health journalists at all experience levels sharpen their skills. We are guided by two principles: that high-quality science journalism is essential to society, and that everyone, including science journalists, learns best by practicing the craft as part of a supportive, diverse community of people who are all striving to master their skills.

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 communicate facts about science clearly, accurately, and engagingly has never been more critical for public understanding of science and for a well-functioning democracy. Science journalists play a demanding role in society—they must not only explain the newest advances in scientific research, but also provide critical context and analysis on issues such as addiction science, genetic engineering, and renewable energy; 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. The Open Notebook is dedicated to helping science journalists cultivate fundamental skills. Since The Open Notebook was founded in 2010, more than a million people from around the world have visited the site, and tens of thousands are regular users, returning dozens of times. The Open Notebook is widely regarded as the leading online source of training and educational materials for science journalists.

 


 What We Do

  • Since 2010, 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—and much more.
    • In The Open Notebook‘s Storygram series, begun with support from the Council for the Advancement of Science Writing, 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 Science Sandbox, 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.
    • The Open Notebook’s Ask TON advice column invites our audience to privately submit craft-related questions, which we then pose to experienced writers and editors, allowing journalists of all experience levels to tap into the expertise of their peers. 
  • TON en Español is our collection of popular TON articles translated into Spanish.
  • The TON Pitch Database is a searchable resource containing 273 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 fellowship program for early-career science journalists 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.