As a science writer you'll research, write and edit scientific news, articles and features, for business, trade and professional publications, specialist scientific and technical journals, and the general media. Science writers may not even work for traditional outlets, but may be independent bloggers or bloggers affiliated with the web sites of magazines or other media. Much of a writer’s time may be spent using social media tools to filter breaking science news and interact directly with audiences.
Book authors produce the most in-depth science reporting, devoting often years of work and hundreds of thousands of words to explaining their topics. In addition to fulfilling the traditional work of an author, they may also be involved in producing audio, video and interactive content for ebooks and tablet apps.
Getting into the industry
Any degree subject is possible but a science/engineering /IT degree combined with good English is ideal. Get writing experience in student journalism or other settings. Send speculative CVs to technical publishers. Visit a technical author to see what they do. Foreign language skills increasingly in demand
A number of organisations, such as Harcourt and the Royal Society of Chemistry (see below) recruit graduates for this. You need to be an excellent communicator and team workers comfortable with making decisions, organised and able to work under pressure. Other essential qualities include excellent English and a keen eye for detail. Increasingly much of the work is on-line and publications in electronic format rather than on paper.
These have to write protocols, clinical trials reports, and patient information for the pharmaceutical industry regulatory authorities. They also have to write, design and develop marketing literature for medical sales representatives, posters and presentations for conferences. They are involved in the design of training and learning resources and articles for journals. You may get the chance to attend conferences in the UK and abroad. Salaries can be very good.
They are currently in demand. Many writers have a PhD. It is an excellent career move for a postdoctoral research assistant who is not able to obtain a permanent contract. You can get in with just a BSc in the life sciences, but would need to have good evidence of relevant skills, for example writing regularly for the student newspaper and other publications (even writing a blog), organising events for student societies or fluency in a second European language.
Jobs are available with pharmaceutical companies, contract research organisations and medical communications agencies (see below). There are often jobs in Europe for experienced technical writers whose native language is English.
What skills will they be looking for?
- Able to communicate large amounts of complicated information clearly and concisely.
- A good listener
- Good scientific knowledge and a fascination with science.
- Ability to research and learn new information quickly.
- Numeracy: you need to be able to understand and use statistical information
- Able to accept criticism of your work.
- Project and time management skills. You may be working on several projects at the same time.
- Able to work well in a team
- Able to work to tight deadlines
- The Royal Society of Chemistry (RSC) is a major publisher of books and journals such as ChemComm, The Analyst, PCCP, Chem Soc Reviews and J Materials Chem.
- Informa provider of specialist information to the global academic & scientific and professional communities via publishing, events and performance improvement.
- BioMed Central London based science open-access publishing house.
- Thomson Reuters
- Future Science Group group of independent science publishing companies that recruit assistant editors in life sciences and chemistry.
- Symphony Health
- Elsevier Science and Health academic publishers
- European Medical Writers Association advertises jobs on the web site
- Jobs in the Academic Community occasional vacancies for science writers.
- New Scientist quite often has vacancies for science writers.
- Adelphi Communications medical communications company with a graduate scheme
- ID Search & Selection recruitment agency specialising in medical communications placements.
- Complete Medical Group
- Communications independent ‘boutique’ medical communications agency, delivering high quality projects with a personal service. Based in Westerham, Kent.
- Ashfield healthcare communications healthcare communications
- Oxford Pharmagenesis medical communications consultancy
- Open Health Medical Communications
- inScience Communications (Springer Healthcare) medical communications
- NonStop Pharma Recruitment medical communications recruitment consultancy
- Paramount Recruitment medical communications recruitment consultancy
- Zenopa Recruitment medical writing recruitment consultancy
Find out more
- From academic to medical writer superb guide to becoming a medical writer
- Brilliant article from the Guardian on how NOT to do science journalism
- European Medical Writers Association
- International Society for Medical Publication Professionals
- MedComms Networking
- European Association of Science Editors
- Association of British Science Writers Has a downloadable guide "So you want to be a science writer?" which has info on routes in, postgraduate courses etc. 8 Welcome Trust-ABSW Bursaries worth £10,000 are normally available each year for science graduates to train as journalists or in science communication.
- Science Careers
- Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry (ABPI) trade association for more than 70 companies in the UK producing prescription medicines.
- See also our Publishing and Journalism Npages