#Sciviews #1: Signe Dean’s ‘never too curious’ approach to science storytelling.
13 September, 2019

#Sciviews #1: Signe Dean’s ‘never too curious’ approach to science storytelling.

This is part one of #Sciviews, a series of interviews with top science story tellers around the world . If you don’t know anything about it, read what got us here.

The story of science goes way back and it wasn’t always this pretty. Millions of failed experiments and tests have continued to imply an important thing. If you’re curious enough to get up and try to find the right answers, there’s a huge probability that you eventually will.  

“Almost in the beginning was curiosity” was the first thing Signe Dean quoted as  she began a 365 day long science blog project in 2014. Today, Signe is the managing editor of one of the leading science news websites, ScienceAlert. Surely a lot must have changed in the past 5 years but one of the things that has remained unmovable is her love for science and telling it’s stories.

We were lucky enough to have a humble conversation for our interview project #Sciviews with one of the best science storytellers and it went better than we imagined. Here are some of the things she shared:

It's not easy dealing with so many stories every day, simply because science has so many stories to tell. I don't have to say, that what you do is an amazing responsibility, and it does come with a certain pressure to pick what people would like. How do you manage to pick the right one?

Any editor of any publication, anywhere, will have to balance what they think their readers need to know, versus what the audience might want to know. We try to apply this basic principle at ScienceAlert, too, by balancing the important breakthroughs in science with more curiosity-driven pieces, along with lighter stories that don't always cover a study published in a journal.

In online media, there's always the risk of falling prey to traffic and algorithms. I strongly disagree with the mindset that one must only serve the content that generates the most clicks. There needs to be a journalistic balance there.

Before becoming the editor you've spent quite some time writing health stories, you still do. How did you end up in science journalism? Tell us your story.

As I was completing my M.Sc degree in cognitive science and philosophy, I was pretty certain I'd become an academic. Then life happened and I moved to Australia, where my 'immigrant CV' landed in quite a few bins, at least at first. But radically changing your life path can sometimes open up the opportunity to ask yourself - what would you do even if you weren't getting paid? For me, the answer was "tell people about science", so I started doing just that, applying for internships and pitching freelance stories to various publications. Once, as part of my career development, I even committed to a 365-day science blog, where I wrote an entry every single day for an entire year. Few things show commitment to science writing as much as that insane project, and it certainly opened some doors!

I am an outspoken proponent of evidence-based medicine, hence my initial interest in reporting on health and medical stories. These days, however, I'm very much a generalist - you have to keep up when you're the editor of one of the most-read science news websites in the world, and all your team are brilliant award-winning reporters!

What are you hopes when it comes to science and technology over the next few years?

My own hopes when it comes to technology don't lie so much with new inventions as with a shift in existing policies that should be informed by scientific consensus - mainly, we need to sort out our priorities to avert the worst effects of the climate crisis.

What do you think about The Omni Calculator Project, which calculator you would be likely to recommend to your curious science audience?

There's so much cool stuff on your website, it would be impossible to pick just one calculator to recommend! I quite like the one that told me I can get a 0 on my carbon footprint tally if I wipe my freshly washed hands on my pants.

What is that one science quote that speaks to you? There can be more than one :)

Rather than a quote, I want to recommend a whole book, by my greatest inspiration in the science world, the wonderful Carl Sagan. Everyone should read The Demon-Haunted World: Science as a Candle in the Dark, it's truly excellent.

Science has always taught us that it's okay if you don't always have the right answer. What's important is to be curious. Signe's contribution have continued to help people stay inquisitive about the magic of science and we hope this drive reaches many more.