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Science Broadcasting: Feature Index

We are children of a televisual age. And no matter how inspiring our school teachers were, I'm willing to bet that many of us can trace our fascination with science back to a TV show that we were regularly glued to as children. (Our parents didn't mind because it was educational, right?). I personally loved lots of science and wildlife programmes, but I can link my own determination to go into research to a docudrama about the discovery of the structure of DNA. (This had absolutely nothing to do with the fact that the very lovely Jeff Goldblum played James Watson--honest. ...)

In reality, of course, doing research is rarely as exciting as are the edited highlights we see on our screens, so it's no surprise that some of us decide that talking and writing about it is a lot more fun than doing it. More?

Next Wave has invited a plethora of scientists-turned-broadcasters to tell you how they broke into the field. So, read on for lots of top tips?

A Bit of Both

Canadian Nicole Johnston tells us about her double life--PhD student by day, journalist in any spare moments, including those normally occupied by sleep. After proving her abilities in print, Johnston received invitations to talk science on radio and TV.

Val Mellon is pursuing her PhD in materials science at the University of Cambridge. But she also appears on TV every week. Mellon explains how joining in with a weekly student show on the local cable channel led to the opportunity to make her own monthly science programme.

Jorge Mira Pérez is an assistant professor in the department of applied physics at the University of Santiago de Compostela in Spain. His current second gig is to present a weekly science slot on the radio--and he previously took part in a weekly television show. Mira Pérez explains how he became an accidental broadcaster.

Ellen Messner Rogers didn't mean to end up on TV either. A vet, she grabbed an opportunity to travel, all-expenses-paid, to Africa to learn more about wildlife capture for conservation purposes. The catch was that her every move was captured on film!

Full Timers

Paul Appleby wheedled his way into the British Broadcasting Corp.'s Natural History Unit after receiving a degree in zoology. Several years of making TV programmes later, he's now involved in the Beeb's new media enterprise. He describes the making of the 'learning journey' Web site that accompanied the recent blockbuster BBC series, The Blue Planet.

Jennifer Callahan undertook an internship at a local TV station at the same time as finishing up her PhD. What may have seemed foolhardy at the time, even to her, paid off handsomely when she landed a job with U.S. public television's premier science series, NOVA.

Jens Degett tells us how he made the transition from research scientist to host of the most-listened-to talk show on Danish radio. His show's popularity proves that even complex science can make great listening.

Now an editor in charge of science programming at German radio station DW-Radio, Ute Hänsler started out a few years back as a research chemist. She offers tips for those who'd like to follow in her footsteps.

So you want to be a TV producer? Hilary Marshall spoke to several and found that there are a host of opportunities at independent production companies for scientists with great ideas and plenty of get up and go.

Bob McDonald has 25 years of experience in science journalism and is well known across Canada as the host of the Canadian Broadcasting Company radio show, Quirks and Quarks. He spoke to Next Wave Canada's Lesley McKarney about what it takes to break into broadcasting.

Ivan Semeniuk, a producer for Discovery Channel, Canada, explains the essential similarities and differences between working in television and print for a science journalist.

In a career lasting almost 70 years Heinz Sielmann has become one of Germany's most renowned wildlife film producers. In his experience, being a film-maker is not always a dream job (in German).

TV producer Axel Wagner coordinates scientific news coverage for all of Germany's broadcasting stations, and he also produces reports for the popular science show Nano. Wagner explains his transition from biology student to science broadcaster.

Interactive broadcasting is the latest thing at the BBC. Former physicist Richard Williams explains the 'sit forward' experience and the opportunities it creates for science communicators to add value to series like the brand new Walking with Beasts.


Homegrown science programmes are few and far between in Singapore. But the time could be ripe for that to change, suggests Next Wave's Singapore editor Jennie Wong, as she rounds up the broadcast media training opportunities available in the island-state.

Imperial College London has been running a well-respected master's course in Science Communication for 10 years. Now they've launched a new course, in Science Media Production, aimed at would-be science broadcasters. We hear from Nick Russell, director of Imperial's Science Communication Group, and one of the first students, Richard Scrase, about what the course has to offer.

The Discovery Campus Masterschool in Leipzig, Germany, aims to help European documentary-makers develop programmes that are both excellent and commercially viable in a world-wide market place. Freelance TV producer Silvia Beutl describes how the school works and what documentary-making has to offer the scientist interested in a career transition.


As if all these role models weren't enough, the Next Wave team has also compiled for you a whole slew of Internet resources that may help you start your career in broadcasting.