National Association of Science Writers announces new Diversity Reporting Grants

Application deadline: August 15, 2020, 11:59 pm Eastern Time

The COVID-19 pandemic has upended our lives and represents hardships for many of us. This can be especially true for freelance writers, who may be finding it particularly difficult to secure work in these challenging economic times. In light of the NASW Diversity Committee’s aim to support the science writing community, we are launching a set of Diversity Reporting Grants. This program will support five reporting grants of $1,000 each.

We are seeking to fund strong, high-impact story proposals, involving one or more freelancers, that will focus on how a science or health-related issue is affecting marginalized communities. Proposed projects can include COVID-19 stories, but the grants won’t be limited to pandemic-related coverage. This opportunity is open to all freelance science writers pitching to publications or radio or broadcast outlets based in the U.S.

Funds can be used to support travel, reporting costs, and/or the recipient’s time. Applicants will need to demonstrate that there is interest from at least one publication, broadly defined, in commissioning their piece. We ask that selected recipients note in the piece if possible, or in their portfolio, that it was supported, in whole or part, by an NASW Diversity Reporting Grant.

The Environmental Appeal of Green Steel, with Chris Bataille

Listen to the episode.

In this episode, host Daniel Raimi talks with Chris Bataille, an associate researcher at the Institute for Sustainable Development and International Relations in Paris and an expert on industrial decarbonization. Exploring how essential steel is to contemporary life, Bataille discusses the steel industry’s colossal carbon footprint and evaluates alternative modes of production. As green steel is often expensive for companies to produce, Bataille considers technologies and policy innovations that could help incentivize environmentally sustainable manufacturing processes.

Surface clean-up technology won’t solve ocean plastic problem

Read the full story from the University of Exeter.

Clean-up devices that collect waste from the ocean surface won’t solve the plastic pollution problem, a new study shows.

Associated journal article: Sönke Hohn, Esteban Acevedo-Trejos, Jesse F. Abrams, Jailson Fulgencio de Moura, Roger Spranz, Agostino Merico (2020). “The long-term legacy of plastic mass production.” Science of The Total Environment 746: 141115 DOI: 10.1016/j.scitotenv.2020.141115

Smartphones prove to be time-saving analytical tools

Read the full story from the American Society of Agronomy.

Seemingly everyone has a smartphone in their pocket, and we find new uses for them every day. They can help us avoid traffic jams or connect us to family from afar. They can even translate languages on the fly.

Now, scientists have figured out a new trick. Using a regular smartphone camera and some 3D-printed tools, they’ve developed an easier way to measure soil density. With the volume and weight of soil samples, scientists can compare the nutrient or carbon stocks in soils so we better manage them. With their new system, they cheaply reproduced expensive, time-consuming methods that require lasers or messy wax.

Associated journal article: hiting, M, Salley, SW, James, DK, Karl, JW, Brungard, CW (2020). “Rapid bulk density measurement using mobile device photogrammetry.” Soil Science Society of America Journal 2020; 84: 811– 817.

FDA takes an important step by phasing out paper greaseproofing agents containing a specific PFAS

Read the full story from EDF.

Last week, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced the phase-out of per- and polyfluorinated alkyl substances (PFAS) used to greaseproof paper and paperboard food packaging made from a specific type of short-chain PFAS known as 6:2 fluorotelomer alcohol (6:2 FTOH).  The action, narrow as it is, is welcome news for efforts to protect public health and the environment from the risks posed by short chain PFAS, known as “forever chemicals” because they do not degrade.

At EPA, coronavirus disrupts research and raises questions over air quality impact

Read the full story at

A research vessel that has collected data on the Great Lakes for 30 years will remain docked this summer. Government scientists studying the emissions of heavy-duty diesel trucks do not have access to their labs. And Andrew Wheeler, administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency, is no longer signing critical regulations by hand.

In Wheeler’s view, no single event during his tenure has forced more change at the EPA than the coronavirus pandemic—and that includes the climate crisis.

Feds confirm they will stop buying used computers

Read the full story at E-Scrap News.

Despite hearing objections from refurbished equipment dealers, the U.S. General Services Administration will finalize its decision to halt government purchases of used and refurbished computers.

A prime acquisition arm for the government, the GSA confirmed it will eliminate the product category – or special item number (SIN) – through which it signs contracts for purchases of used and refurbished computer equipment. The change goes into effect Sept. 30, 2020.

In addition to federal agencies, local and state governments can also purchase used equipment through the GSA supplier contracts.

GSA first publicized its intentions last summer, arguing that purchasing used or refurbished computers presented supply chain risks that could lead the U.S. to purchase counterfeit goods or make it vulnerable to spying.

Packaged in Pollution: Are food chains using PFAS in packaging?

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New testing indicates major fast-food chains are still serving up PFAS (per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances) with some of their most popular takeout foods, despite increasing consumer demand and legislative action to phase out the use of toxic PFAS chemicals.

The testing included a total of 38 food packaging samples from 3 states in 16 locations and 6 fast-food chains. Nine out of the 38 samples were replicates, resulting in a total of 29 unique sample items for comparison. The testing of total fluorine to screen for the presence of PFAS was performed by an independent laboratory in February 2020. The study was conducted by the Mind the Store campaign and Toxic-Free Future.

US EPA changes PFAS rule after signing

Read the full story in Chemical & Engineering News.

The US Environmental Protection Agency is facing backlash over the way it finalized a rule that requires companies to notify the agency 90 days before making or importing products containing certain long-chain per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS). These chemicals, which include perfluorooctanesulfonic acid (PFOS) and perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA), persist in the environment and are linked to cancer, thyroid disease, immune problems, and decreased fertility.

EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler signed the rule June 22, but the EPA published a different version of it in the Federal Register July 27.

The published version omits a requirement that any part of a product coated with certain PFAS is subject to the rule. Instead, the rule says the EPA plans to issue guidance on which coatings are covered by the rule.

register for Circularity20, a free online event

August 25-27, 2020
Register here.

This time of unprecedented challenges requires systemic solutions and radical new ways of doing business. Circularity 20 will empower participants to employ circular economy principles that navigate disruption, increase resilience, respond to shifting consumer demand and unlock new business opportunities. Join industry-leading speakers and more than 10,000 professionals participating from around the world to learn, connect and accelerate the circular economy.

Even if you can’t tune in live, registering will give you full access to the archived event footage and resources, available to you on-demand after the live event.

Program tracks include: