What is a Science Educational Writing?

“I am a science educational writer.” This, my standard response to the inevitable cocktail party question, “What is it that you do?” always elicits a blank look, so I’ll begin by explaining what a science educational writer does.

According to the Oxford dictionary an education is an enlightening experience. A science educational writer then, produces content that enlightens the reader, not just about the current state of scientific knowledge, but also about the scientific process.

Both children and adults are consumers of science educational content, which may be delivered in many different formats. Books, magazines, videos, apps, curricula, and podcasts all may contain science educational content.

I stumbled into the field of science educational writing accidentally, by completing an online survey. At the time I taught college biology and the purpose of the survey was to assess my interest in adopting a new textbook. A final question on the survey asked, incidentally, if I would be interested in contributing content. Yes, I said, and sent in some samples.

The lead editor liked my writing, but informed me that all of chapters had already been assigned. She then mentioned, incidentally, that she liked the figures accompanying my text. When I told her I had made one of the figures myself she hired me as scientific art advisor, a role in which I was responsible for supervising artwork development for the entire, forty-seven chapter textbook.

I learned a lot from my stint as scientific art advisor, but there was still a lot I didn’t know, a point that was driven home some time later, when a hiring manager for another project emailed me to ask, “Are you familiar with Bloom’s taxonomy?” I wasn’t, but Google was, enabling me to send an affirmative response a few minutes later. I got the job. Thanks, Google!

For a long time I considered science educational writing a stepping stone to another, more traditional writing venue, such as journalism or grant writing or medical writing. But the educational assignments kept coming: another biology textbook, and interactive physical science curriculum, virtual labs, test passages and assessments. Finally, it dawned on me that this is what I do. I am a science educational writer, and there is nothing I would rather be.

I am now intimately familiar with Bloom’s taxonomy, which is a method for classifying educational goals, and with other educational concepts including NGSS (Next Generation Science Standards) Dale-Chall (a readability formula), item (a question), and distractor (a wrong answer).

It me took a long time to amass this knowledge and I had to do it piecemeal, by reading up on various concepts as the need arose. I decided to start a blog to provide a one-stop source for finding information about science educational writing. Through feedback and suggestions I also hope to increase my own knowledge base, and to make some friends along the way.