ScienceAlert: science communication for the masses

Earlier in the year I won a grant from the Australian Science Communicators to fly down to Sydney, and spend some time with the ScienceAlert team.

ScienceAlert has over seven million fans on Facebook. They have over 1000 views at any one time on their website. They are one of the leading science communication channels in this country, and yet the team is just three hard working writers, two freelancers and a programmer who keeps everyone together.

The team was nothing like I expected. Having just spent a week with the ABC as an intern, and one day a week at Brisbane Times earlier this year, I was expecting the science version of that. An office in the heart of Sydney, 10-20 employees all working hard to make science content for the masses. Probably taking shifts to ensure content was always being generated. Instead, I found a tiny group of incredible writers all working from home, each contributing three or more stories a day to make ScienceAlert what it is.

A Master’s project for one of the founding members, ScienceAlert has become something incredible since it was created in 2004 republishing press releases of Australian research. It has grown a long way since then, taking the Facebook and science communication scenes by storm.

Chris Casella, the managing director, flew up from Canberra to see me in Sydney on the first day and we spent the morning discussing the history, my past work and how ScienceAlert works. Fiona MacDonald, one of the editors was there as well, but she still had two more stories to write that afternoon so she was busily tapping away on her laptop at the coffee shop we were in.

Later that day, when Chris went off to meet with a contact from Google, Fiona and I worked in the coffee shop finding stories, interesting pictures and basically just working out how the ScienceAlert system works.

That night we enjoyed dinner and drinks with the rest of the team, and they were just as kind and interesting as Fiona. It was great to get to meet the whole team, and even after a full day of writing, they still seemed excited to meet me and have a good time.

The next day we spent in an open hire office in Sydney CBD, the team incredibly accommodating with my errors or silly questions. Chris headed back on a plane south, and we got into writing.

Surprisingly, I felt like my most intense three days were not the days in Sydney, but instead the days I spent at home, working with them from a laptop.

Since that morning in the office, I have done close to six original articles, one that has been posted on ScienceAlert and about the same amount of reposts of Business Insider and the Conversation, two of their business partners. One of the original articles has been published, and there are more on the way.

I’m finally adjusting to the style guide and the quick paced nature of online publication, and I love it.

ScienceAlert definitely wasn’t what I was expecting and I think it’s better.

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