Choosing To Be A Science Writer
Science writing is a great way to use the skills that you already posses, but in a different medium. Staying involved in science means that you are still using your formal education. Oftentimes, somewhere during your graduate training or your postdoc, you realize what you enjoy most is not the lab bench but instead writing about your science and that of others. At this point, you would begin to explore the field of science writing and editing/publishing to see if this is indeed how you want to proceed.
Get involved in professional organizations related to science writing/editing and find a mentor. The advice of an individual who has already made the transition from the laboratory bench can be extremely useful. The more information you gain the better. Take courses and do self study to improve your skills. Many of the professional organizations offer classes or certifications that can boost your resume and improve your knowledge base as well as your confidence. It is important to seek out opportunities or make your own. If you cannot find a freelance opportunity, determine if you can volunteer your services to members of your own department: editing grants and manuscripts, writing for your departmental or society newsletter.
There are some professional societies in the United States that are very helpful in providing information on career opportunities and educational programs to train you in science writing, editing and publishing. A source of information is the American Medical Writers Association (AMWA; www.amwa.org). They have regional chapters that are active throughout the year, often hosting regional seminars. The organization also has an annual meeting with more courses and seminars, and they offer course certificates. Another is the Board of Editors in the Life Sciences (www.bels.org). They offer a certification examination that is recognized in the editing community as denoting a high standard in biological editing abilities. Finally, the Council of Science Editors [formerly known as the Council of Biology Editors (CSE); www.councilscienceeditors.org] is also useful. They put on an annual meeting and cover editing, publishing, and policy issues. They also publish "Scientific Style and Format," an excellent style guide. AMWA and CSE post freelance opportunities, and AMWA has active listservs.
For information on publishing the Society for Scholarly Publishing (SSP; www.sspnet.org) is an excellent resource. SSP hosts an annual meeting as well as webinars and seminars. There is also Professional Scholarly Publishing (PSP; www.pspcentral.org), a division of the American Association of Publishers. PSP sponsors educational workshops and an annual conference.