Best Shortform Science Writing: January-March 2018

(A Highly Subjective Round-Up of Standout Science Writing)

Behind every great science story, there’s a lot of editing. (And behind every SciShortform list, there’s a lot of discussion.) Photo by Nic McPhee via Flickr (CC BY-SA 2.0)

After nearly a year away, the Best Shortform Science Writing Project is back with a new round-up of stand-out science stories.

Why return now? The simple fact is: I missed putting together the @SciShortform list. Daily news stories, front-of-book infographics, and blog posts remain among the most prevalent forms of science writing, and I missed having a forum dedicated to discussing them.

Assembling this list entailed a lot of spirited discussion about what makes an article excellent. Most would agree that reporting, narrative structure, readability, choice of topic and angle, fact checking, and writing flair are all important, but how much weight should each of those factors carry in choosing a list of stand-outs?

There’s no right answer to that question, but hearing different people’s answers is always interesting. (We hope you’ll share your take in the comments.)

This cycle’s editors read through about 250(!) pieces and narrowed them down to the thirty-odd pieces included here.

This edition’s editors include: science writer Jimmy Brancho, PhD, of University of Michigan; graduate student Jess Hudgins, currently working with Sharks and Rays Australia; writer, newsletter editor, and digital strategist Lauren Hudgins, MFA; NIH postdoc Aparna Kishor, MD, PhD; Center for Cancer Research Fellow Christina Ross, PhD; Massive Science contributor and Carnegie Mellon postdoc Dan Samorodnitsky, PhD; science writer and editor Beth Skwarecki of Lifehacker; science writer Rachel K. Spurrier; and me (science writer Diana Crow).

As always, our selection is highly subjective and driven by serendipity and whoever decides to send suggestions via our crowdsourced nomination/submission form. The form for the April-June is here.

The stories are grouped into “Top Picks” and “Honorable Mentions” but are not ranked within those groups. Instead, the stories are in alphabetical order by the author’s last name.

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

If we’ve left out short piece that you adored, please share them in the comments.

You can follow the Best Shortform Science Writing Project at @SciShortform on Twitter and on Medium.

Onward to the standout stories!

Best Shortform Science Writing: January-March 2018

Short Shorts (600 words & under)

Top Picks:

Honorable Mentions:

News & Trends (601–1200 words)

Top Picks:

Honorable Mentions:

Single Study Deep Dives & Profiles (700–1200 words)

Top Picks:

Honorable Mentions:

Columns, Op/Eds, and Blog posts (601–1200 words)

Top Picks:

Honorable Mentions:

Data & Investigative (601–1400 words, uses infographics and/or investigative techniques)

Top Picks:

Honorable Mentions:

Honorable Misfits/ Not Sure

[for pieces we loved that were over our word count cut-offs, published outside the time window, in a foreign language, or just hard to classify]