New global science of learning website launches

International publishing group Nature Research has launched a global online community dedicated to improving knowledge on the science of learning, in partnership with The University of Queensland.

The npj Science of Learning Community website is a space for communicators, teachers, policymakers and scientists working in neuroscience, education and psychology to discuss how to enhance learning in schools.

The website’s launch content includes:

  • An opinion piece from leading education researcher Professor John Hattie
  • Interviews with education thought-leaders and policymakers including Microsoft Corporation Teaching and Learning director Dr Cathy Cavanaugh, Google Australia Engineering Community and Outreach manager Sally-Ann Williams, and social commentator and writer Jane Caro
  • An article by the Harvard Graduate School of Education’s Dr David Dockterman

The site is a place to discover and share information and news, learn from experts, and collaborate to advance the science of learning. You can explore and share content, follow your favourite contributors, and make your own contributions to the Community.

The website is live now and free to join.

Contact: Donna Lu, npj Science of Learning Community managing editor,, +61 7 3346 6419.

Professional Development Grant: Science Features


The 2015 ASC Professional Development Grant I received, for which I am very grateful, enabled me to complete a journalism course on feature writing through the Extension program at the University of California, Berkeley.

I work as a science writer for the Queensland Brain Institute, which is based at The University of Queensland. My role there involves communicating neuroscience knowledge and research news through a variety of channels, ranging from social media through podcasts to press releases.

Of the science communicator/science journalist divide, about which Bianca Nogrady wrote an excellent ASC piece last year, I’d likely sit in the communicator camp: I didn’t study journalism at university, and prior to my UC Berkeley course, I had no significant reporting experience.

In this golden age of distraction, with our 24-hour news cycle and the shift to online media consumption, with social media and the rising dominance of mobile Internet usage, attentions spans have steadily been eroded and information is reduced to as small as tweet-sized chunks. It isn’t uncommon to read a 400-word piece of science news that is little more than a fleshed-out media release.

Despite all this, the feature as a journalistic form is far from dead: the success of publications like The New Yorker signals that the demand for long-form, well researched reportage is as great as ever. Features get down to the nitty-gritty of a subject, whether it’s CRISPR gene editing or tardigrades, where shorter news pieces don’t have the scope to do so. The devil is in the details, after all.

So it was partly to expand my skillset, and partly out of interest in the feature as a journalistic form, that I chose the UC Berkeley course. The ten-week online program took us through the basics of writing a feature, from conception to pitch.

The required reading for the course was William Blundell’s The Art and Craft of Feature Writing, which is based on the Wall Street Journal guide—it’s a fantastic resource that I’d highly recommend to anyone who is interested in testing out or improving their feature-writing abilities. The book is a good guide to the entire process, from generating ideas (start with general topics of interest and brainstorm potential specific stories from there), to shaping the direction of a story (conflict always makes things interesting!) to self-editing (let your written piece rest for a while and then read it again with fresh, reader’s eyes). The course co-ordinator was herself a freelance journalist, and also gave great advice and feedback when it came to writing, as well as pitching editors.

The course had weekly assessment that culminated in the submission of a 1500–word feature article. I wrote a tech piece on ethical hackers, which I successfully pitched to The Atlantic’s science editors. The feature was fascinating to research, and I was lucky enough to interview individuals ranging from a hacker in the Philippines to a former counterterrorism analyst at the NSA.

When I talk to ‘non-sciencey’ friends, I am occasionally surprised by the discrepancy between what a layperson knows and what most people with a science background consider as being basic information. Well written, engaging science feature articles are a great way to make science accessible and bridge the knowledge gap, and I’d recommend the UC Berkeley course to anyone interested in writing them.