Two months with two COSY Journalists in Residence


Jul 13, 2022

COSY JiR: The COmplex SYstems Journalist in Residence program

 

CSH Vienna launched the COSY JiR program in January with the aim “to promote the exchange of journalists with experts in the field to disseminate an understanding of complex systems and the chances and challenges of using large datasets to understand and manage them.”

W. Wayt Gibbs and Aleszu Bajak | Our first journalists in residence

 

May and June were certainly our busiest months in the past academic year. In the midst of hive-like buzzing and humming at the Hub also arrived our first two COmplex SYstems Journalists in Residence: W. Wayt Gibbs in May and Aleszu Bajak in June.

 

W. Wayt Gibbs: all about climate change

 

Wayt is a senior science writer with a 30-year career as

 

The project Wayt applied with—and was working on during his stay—is a book intending to present facts about the complexity of climate change and the necessary technological adaptation, facts that because of their complexity are often neglected in climate change communication.

 

During his whole sojourn, Wayt interviewed experts from within and outside of the CSH. “I didn’t expect to go home with so many interviews,” he said shortly before he left Vienna.

 

Student tutorial: What to expect from journalists?

 

Wayt was also highly engaged in communicating with CSH scientists.

 

Apart from his introductory talk, he gave a tutorial on “What to expect (or what not to expect) from interacting with (science) journalists.” A great opportunity especially for our younger scientists to learn that the only obligation and responsibility journalists have is their commitment to their readers. “Even when we write about your work, we are not your friends,” Wayt made clear. Scientists—like any interviewed person—must always be aware that a given statement is a potentially published statement. “So think well in advance of what you want to tell [or not to tell] a reporter,” he recommended.

Moderating a large panel discussion

 

Wayt also kindly accepted our invitation to moderate one of our big outreach events on May 30: a podium discussion with [from left to right] Luciano Pietronero, Simon DeDeo, J. Doyne Farmer, Helga Nowotny, Henriette Spyra, and Peter Klimek, reflecting on “Managing a dramatically changing world: What science can contribute.”

 

Not an easy task, given the large number of panelists.

 

Thanks a lot for your valuable contributions, Wayt—and we can’t wait to read your book! 🙂

Aleszu Bajak: Data, data, data vis!

 

Two days before Wayt left, our second COSY JiR flew in: Aleszu arrived in mid-June from Cleveland, USA.

 

Aleszu is a data journalist working in the USA TODAY investigative data team.

 

During his stay, he intended to “develop, select, and apply the most appropriate data science methods and social science questions to a self-collected dataset from US 2022 election candidate messaging.”

 

As it turned out, Aleszu knew (former) CSH scientists already: While teaching and managing the graduate programs at Northeastern University’s School of Journalism, he had met Ancsa Hannak (now CSH External Faculty) for instance, or has worked remotely with David Garcia or Anna Di Natale in the past. He reconnected with this team immediatley.

 

Aleszu was also participating in practically all CSH events taking place during his stay, such as Márcia’s and Fariba’s or Diego Rybski’s workshop. He climbed some Austrian mountains and connected, professionally as well as privately, with many scientists in- and outside the Hub.

 

“What a privilege to spend the summer in Vienna learning from network scientists, physicists and psychologists about topics as diverse as pandemics, supply chains and misinformation,” he said.

 

(Unfortunately he somehow managed to escape my camera. So if anybody happens to have taken pictures with Aleszu that can be shared: Send them over! 😉 ).

End of June 2022, CSH Journalist in Residence Aleszu Bajak gave a tutorial on data viz in journalism.

Tutorial on principles for good data visualization

Aleszu also was so nice to give our (younger) scientists a tutorial. He focused on storytelling with data and the principles for clear and comprehensible data visualization.

 

“A common mistake is to put too much information into a single visualization,” he said. “Yet, most of the time you gain a lot of clarity by leaving things away.” He summarized this procedure with the words “annotate, curate, don’t overwhelm.”

 

Aleszu also highlighted that any visualization task should be started with questions like:

  • Who is the audience?
  • What are my/our goals?
  • What is our capacity, budget, timeline?
  • But also: What inspires me?

After almost four densely packed weeks, Aleszu headed back home to his wife and adorable kids [he showed us pictures!] last week.

 

We will miss you!

The next in line: Julia Sklar

 

The COSY JiR program allows for up to three-month stays. Because Wayt and Aleszu only spent a month each with us, we decided to invite a third applicant from our 2022 call.

 

Julia Sklar, an independent journalist from Boston, will arrive in November and stay until to January 2023.

 

Stay tuned!


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