“Someone once told me: “The only reason to be a writer is because you can’t help it”, I think that sums it up.”
This is part of a series of interviews with science communicators about science communication. Today we are Speaking to… Frank Swain
Where are you based?
Right now, no place. I’ve just finished a running a journalism training project in London, I haven’t decided where to live next.
Who do you work for?
Whoever will pay me. Being a freelancer means you don’t really get to be fussy. I’m lucky to have supportive editors at Wired, New Scientist, Slate and the Guardian, and many other great outlets, who continue to employ me.
What type of science communication do you do?
I write, I speak, on occasion I’ll do some broadcast work. The hourly wage of each increases respectively, but so does the difficulty in securing a commission.
Who is your main audience?
It depends on who I’m writing more, but “science-interested public” covers it mostly.
How did you get into it?
I’ve always written – I ran a blog for years and before that I was publishing a paper-and-glue zine. Eventually, to my surprise, people started paying me to do it.
Why do you do it?
Someone once told me: “The only reason to be a writer is because you can’t help it”, I think that sums it up.
Why do you think science communication is important?
I think science deserves a place in the centre of of our culture; we’re immersed in the products of science so it’s essential that we have a public who are engaged with science and can take part in the discussions and decisions of how we allow it to shape our lives.
What do you love about science communication?
Love might be an overstatement. It’s the most enjoyable way I’ve found to get paid, yet.
What has been your favourite project?
A trip to Aberdeen Proving Ground in Maryland, USA, to meet the people who disarm and disable stray chemical weapons. A really smart, compassionate group of people.
Do you have any new science communication projects coming up?
I’ve always got a dozen projects on the back burner, but whether any of them will ever see the light of day is another question. I’m working on a few unusual ones right now – a fictional science column, and something I call an anti-blog. The goal is to learn a bit more about writing by breaking all of the rules…
Any tips for those wanting to get into science communication?
Work like a dog and build up a body of work. Shamelessly self-promote. Get to know other people in your chosen field. And never, ever work for free.