Nicholas Wade on Writing Science for a General Audience
  Nicholas Wade     Biography    
Recorded: 30 May 2003

Well, I think the most important thing is to make sure you understand the science you’re describing. Because the more fully you understand it, the more confident you are in describing it in simple language. If you don’t really understand what’s happening, you shall hesitate to abbreviate because you don’t know what’s underneath. But I find—I just go on asking questions, til’ I feel I really understand what someone has done. And then once I have it clear in my own head then I can write it in ways that readers can at least get an idea of what’s going on. And I usually try and write it so at least in the last paragraphs I will try and say something so that even scientists can understand. There are so many science stories that are so vague and so full of metaphor, I’ve got an idea of what happened and scientist must find it baffling too. I mean, you recognize the name of some scientist or laboratory and you’ve got no idea what the reporter is trying to tell you because it’s so sort of imprecise.

One should always keep writing for general readers because they’re the people who read newspapers. But it’s nice if scientists are after all among those general readers can have some idea of what’s happening.

Nicholas Wade received a B.A. in natural sciences from King's College in Cambridge (1964). He was deputy editor of (italics) Nature magazine in London and then became that journal's Washington correspondent. He joined (italics) Science magazine in Washington as a reporter and later moved to (italics)The New York Times, where he has been an editorial writer, concentrating his writing on issues of defense, space, science, medicine, technology, genetics, molecular biology, the environment, and public policy, a science reporter, and science editor. He is the author or coauthor of several books including (italics) LIFE SCRIPT: How The Human Genome Discoveries Will Transform Medicine And Enhance Your Health (2002).

Covering the Human Genome Project for the (italics) New York Times since 1990, Wade has interviewed Watson on various occasions and visited Cold Spring Harbor for the annual Genome symposium.