TON Workshop for Science Editors

Ann Althouse/Flickr; Siri Carpenter; Richard Hurd/Flickr


An Intensive, Hands-On Workshop for Science Editors

April 24-27, 2020   |   Madison, Wisconsin

[Applications Have Closed]




Jacqui Banaszynski, Laura Helmuth, Siri Carpenter

[Note: Applications for this workshop have closed. Please watch for announcements of future workshops.]



As an editor, how do you decide whether to assign or pass on a pitch from a freelancer? How do you work with writers to shape story ideas and to support their reporting? How do you identify what’s missing in a draft and figure out what revisions will make a story sing? How do you communicate your edits effectively and build collaborative relationships with writers? How do you advocate for stories and writers to higher-ups?

Science editors have few formal opportunities to learn these skills. To help fill this critical gap, The Open Notebook is holding an intensive, hands-on workshop that will give editors the skills and confidence to work with writers on selecting and sharpening story ideas, planning and carrying out reporting, anticipating and troubleshooting problems in the reporting and writing process, and crafting accurate and compelling stories.



This workshop is for early-career and mid-career editors—whether staff or freelance—who want to improve their skills in key technical areas of editing and to develop better coaching skills. We’ll work through issues that arise throughout the story process, from idea generation to final fact-checking. The program will be tailored to the needs of the selected participants, and will focus heavily on workshopping real-life editing challenges and solutions. Examples of likely topics of instruction and discussion include:

  • Selecting and sharpening story ideas
    • Following scientific issues and developments
    • Analyzing story ideas
    • Matching writers to stories
  • Helping develop reporting plans
    • Working with writers to focus story angles
    • Coaching for narrative
    • Keeping equity and inclusion in mind
    • Writing clear assignment letters
  • Collaborating with writers on drafts
    • Identifying issues with structure, clarity, and flow
    • Fact-checking science stories
    • Writing headlines
    • Giving feedback productively
    • Having difficult conversations
  • Thinking strategically about social media, visuals/multimedia, and headlines
  • Advocating for writers to higher-ups


A key element of the workshop will be its emphasis on providing participants with individualized help with their own editing, using samples submitted to instructors in advance.



Jacqui Banaszynski

Jacqui Banaszynski

Jacqui Banaszynski is a Pulitzer Prize–winning reporter who now works as an editor, teacher and coach with other journalists around the world. After more than 20 years as a field reporter, Banaszynski moved to editing and teaching. Her edited projects have won ASNE Best Writing, Ernie Pyle Human Interest Writing, and national business, investigative and science-writing prizes. She held an endowed chair professorship at the Missouri School of Journalism for 17 years, where her students’ projects often placed in the Hearst Awards, considered the Pulitzer Prizes of college journalism. She he is an affiliate faculty member of the world-renowned Poynter Institute, and now serves as editor of Nieman Storyboard. In 2008, she was named to the Association of Sunday and Features Editors Features Hall of Fame. Follow her on Twitter @JacquiB.

Laura Helmuth

Laura Helmuth

Laura Helmuth is the Health and Science Editor for The Washington Post and the immediate past president of the National Association of Science Writers. She has been an editor for National Geographic, Slate, Smithsonian, and Science magazines. She is a member of the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine’s standing committee on science communication, and she serves on the advisory boards of SciLine, High Country News, Knowable Magazine, Society for Science and the Public, and Spectrum, and is a council member of the Geological Society of Washington. She has a Ph.D. in cognitive neuroscience from the University of California at Berkeley and attended the U.C. Santa Cruz science writing program. Follow her on Twitter at @LauraHelmuth.


Siri Carpenter

Siri Carpenter

Siri Carpenter is co-founder and editor-in-chief of The Open Notebook, whose mission is to help science journalists improve their skills. She is an award-winning science journalist and editor whose writing and editorial work has appeared in The New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, Science, Discover, National Geographic online, Scientific American, bioGraphic, O, The Oprah Magazine, Science News, Science News for Students, and many other publications. She has a Ph.D. in social psychology from Yale University and is first author of Visualizing Psychology, a textbook for undergraduates. She is the current president of the National Association of Science Writers. Follow her on Twitter @SiriCarpenter.





The Pyle Center, University of Wisconsin-Madison

The Pyle Center, University of Wisconsin-Madison

Venue and Accommodations

The workshop will be held at the Pyle Center on the campus of the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Our classroom is a comfortable, sunny space overlooking Lake Mendota, the largest of Madison’s chain of lakes. We’ll have all-day access to snacks and drinks, and lunch will be served in a foyer area just outside our classroom.

A block of hotel rooms has been reserved at the Lowell Center, next door to the Pyle Center. Standard rooms are $132/night for one queen or two double beds; there is no tax on rooms at the Lowell Center.



We’ll begin with a catered reception on the evening of Friday, April 24. Participants should plan to arrive in Madison by about 5:00 p.m. if possible.

We’ll then have two full days of workshops on Saturday and Sunday, April 25 and 26. (Participants who choose to depart on Sunday night could catch a flight out of the Madison airport that evening after 6:30 p.m. and not miss out on the day’s workshopping.) 

On Monday, April 27, we will gather informally over breakfast at the Lowell Center and/or at the Memorial Union, half a block away. At least two instructors will be available for individual or group conversations until noon.


We’ll have a catered reception with heavy appetizers at the Pyle Center on the evening of Friday, April 24.

Kelly Tyrrell

Memorial Union, University of Wisconsin-Madison.

The Lowell Center offers complimentary buffet breakfasts for all guests.

Lunches will be provided during the workshop on Saturday and Sunday.

For dinners, there are nearby options for any budget. The workshop venue is two doors down from the Memorial Union, UW-Madison’s student union, which offers several inexpensive meal venues (and is also a great place for late-night shop-talk, indoors or outdoors depending on weather). The Pyle and Lowell Centers are also a block away from the foot of State Street, the main shopping/dining area in central Madison. At the top of State Street (a 15-minute walk or 7-minute bus ride from the Pyle Center) is the Wisconsin State Capitol, with more dining options around the Capitol Square.


Community Guidelines

The Open Notebook is dedicated to providing a welcoming and harassment-free workshop experience for everyone, regardless of gender, gender identity and expression, sexual orientation, disability, physical appearance, body size, race, age, or religion. We do not tolerate harassment of workshop participants in any form. Workshop participants violating these rules may be sanctioned or expelled from the conference without a refund at the discretion of the workshop organizers.



The registration fee is $625.

To reserve your spot, your payment must be received within three weeks of acceptance. All participants are expected to cover their travel and accommodation costs. A sliding scale may be available in cases of financial hardship.


Getting to Madison

The Dane County Regional Airport (airport code: MSN) is a 10-minute Uber/Lyft ride from the Pyle and Lowell Centers. Flights into Milwaukee (1.5 hours away) or Chicago O’Hare (2.5 hours away) tend to be cheaper than flight into Madison, and there is an inexpensive bus service from both of those airports that drops passengers near the hotel.

If you are driving to Madison, the Lowell Center offers onsite parking for $10/night (spaces are limited); complimentary parking is available about three blocks away. (More information about parking options is here.)


The Weather


During the past five years, late-April highs in Madison have ranged from 55 to 75 degrees. It might be sunny and sort of like early summer. It might be cool and/or rainy. It almost certainly won’t still be winter. And there won’t be mosquitoes.


Application Process

Applications can be submitted anytime and will be assessed on a rolling basis beginning on December 6. If spots remain after that, applications will continue to be accepted until all slots are filled. Priority will be given to applicants who are currently working as science editors (part-time or full-time; staff or freelance). Notifications for early admission will begin on December 13. Your payment will secure your place, and payment instructions will be included in your admission letter.




Have Questions?

Email Siri Carpenter: