SciShortform
Published in

SciShortform

Best Shortform Science Writing: January-June 2021

Image by Tanuj Abraham via The Noun Project

Reading the nominees for this edition of Best Shortform Science Writing, I was struck by how thoroughly remote reporting has come to dominate the landscape.

Some stories, like Payal Dhar’s “Social Media Becomes a Lifeline During India’s COVID Crisis” and Marion Renault’s “The Weird Comfort of Getting Vaccinated at an Abandoned JC Penney”, wear their digital origins more or less on their sleeves. Others featured elegant and astute descriptions of sources that left me unsure whether the writers conducted on-site reporting — or simply applied their “eye for detail” to a video call or livestream. A few stories, such as Rosanna Xia’s “Stunning DDT dump site off L.A. coast much bigger than scientists expected” and Max Kozlov’s “Deep-Sea Jelly Reignites Debate on Remote Species Identification,” included carefully-observed scenes of scientists reacting to remote telemetry.

My point here is that many of us have spent the last 18 months striving to follow a vast universe of events without leaving our homes, and this round-up includes a lot of success stories in that endeavor. (It includes stories with in-person reporting, too, but not as many as a typical year. ) Recording and sharing events that most people cannot bear witness to in-person is the core of both science and journalism.

Seeing so many scientists and writers apply their craft during a pandemic has been fascinating.

Our Team

This edition’s editors include: Anne Berlin; writer and content creator Atula Gupta; graduate student Kiran Gurung of University of Groningen; postdoc Aparna Kishor, MD, PhD; digital marketer/writer Lauren Hudgins; Silke Kramprich of Laser Zentrum Hannover; undergraduate student Tejashree Murugan of IIT Madras; freelance science writer Stephen Riffle, PhD; chemist, medical/science writer/editor, and retired teacher Elliot Richman, PhD; and me (freelance science writer Diana Crow).

Our team of story scouts included freelance science writer and Plant Crimes podcast host Ellen Airhart and sea turtle researcher/science writer Ashwini Petchiappan.

Special thanks to freelance science writer Dani Leviss (NYU SHERP ‘19), who has been managing our social media and who recently moved on to pursue other projects.

This project was funded in part by a grant from the National Association of Science Writers. Reference to any specific commercial product, process, or service does not necessarily constitute or imply its endorsement or recommendation by the National Association of Science Writers, and any views and opinions expressed herein do not necessarily reflect those of the National Association of Science Writers.

About the Round-Up Format

Stories in each tier are in alphabetical order by the author’s last name.

There were a few outstanding pieces nominated for this cycle that were actually published in July, so we rolled them over to consideration for the July-December round-up. You can nominate pieces for the July-December 2021 round-up here.

Anyone interested in our selection criteria can check out our rubric here.

A gloved hand holds a vial of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine. Photo by Lisa Ferdinando for U.S. Secretary of Defense via Wikimedia Commons (CC BY 2.0)

Pandemic, Part 3

Top Picks:

Honorable Mentions:

A male house sparrow stands in an urban environment. Photo by Enoch Leung via Wikimedia Commons (CC BY-SA 2.0)

Short Shorts (600 words & under)

Top Picks:

Honorable Mentions:

Barrels of the pesticide DDT created a long-lasting environmental hazard. Photo by unknown photographer (circa 1974) and USDA Forest Service via Flicker (public domain)

News, Data, or Investigative (601–1400 words)

Top Picks:

Honorable Mentions:

Launched in 2018, the Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS) is mapping new solar systems. Photo by Official SpaceX Photos via Wikimedia Commons (CC0 1.0)

Single Study Deep Dives (601–1200 words)

Top Picks:

Honorable Mentions:

A plume of smoke emerges from the Stromboli Volcano. Photo by Steven W. Dengler via Wikimedia Commons (CC BY-SA 3.0)

Essays, Op/Eds, & Blog Posts (1400 words & under)

Top Picks:

Honorable Mentions:

Medium-sized “nanoplankton” are often left in the research lurch in favor of studies on larger or smaller plankton. Photo by Hannes Grobe via Wikimedia Commons (CC BY 3.0)

Institutional (1200 words & under)

Top Picks:

Honorable Mentions:

Honorable Misfits

(Stories that were too long, too old, or too hard to classify…but we loved them anyway)

And those are our picks for January through June 2021!

What pieces would you have included? Sound off in the responses!

Nominations for July-December can be submitted via this form OR on Twitter by tagging or DMing @SciShortform with a link to the piece.

--

--

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store
Diana Crow

Diana Crow

1.8K Followers

Fledgling science journalist here, hoping to foster discussion about the ways science acts as a catalyst for social change #biology