Phase Two


The best-laid plans of lab mice and science writers often go awry.

OK, that’s a tad hokey maybe. To the point: The Sieve began about a year-and-a-half ago as a way for students in the full-time science writing program at Johns Hopkins University to test the waters of blogging. It was a fun way to practice our writing, interact lightly with the rest of the science writing community on the Web, and learn what it’s like to obsess over pageviews and reshares. We even passed the blog on to the science writing class that came after us, and it seemed like it could become a long-lasting fixture of the program.

Then, to our bewilderment, the university closed the program this year.  Many of us who graduated from the program had become attached to it. Ann Finkbeiner, who ran the program, is an amazing instructor who never failed to challenge our bad writing habits. Also, the classes were small: The number of grad students ranged from four to six, each class soldiering through one intense year of a ton of writing, workshopping, rewriting, more workshopping, and more rewriting. You would graduate with a feeling that this unique program that had only shaped a few careers in its 30-year history had become a piece of you. So its closure left much of us feeling dumbfounded, no matter the rationale.

On top of the dumbfounded feeling, there was another thing. Our poor little blog was bobbing along at the surface without its anchor. (I’ve used that metaphor maybe three times now in private emails. I guess once more can’t hurt.) What could we do with it? Well, we couldn’t save the Hopkins program. But we could save the blog. So a few of us, mostly relatively recent graduates of the program, have stepped in to do just that.

Really, the blog is only changing in one way. It remains what it was before in that it’s a place to tell stories about science. All that’s changed is that This Is Not A Drill. We’re science writers with a bit of experience under our belts, with jobs or freelance careers or both.

As we start off on the new phase, we’ll be making at least one new post every week. We’ll probably make some other changes along the way, perhaps a visual redesign (I’m an ex-newspaper guy and I think the current design reflects those slightly aged sensibilities. It’s probably due for something more fresh). Anything is possible. In the meantime, just as before, we have stories we want to tell, and here is where you can find them. In the coming weeks, you can look forward to posts from Gabriel Popkin, Alex Kasprak, Emily Mosher, me, Jay Thompson, Helen Thompson, Kelsey Calhoun and Rachel E. Gross.

(Image: Rama/Wikimedia Commons)


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