USA Today reporter to give free talk on 'Science News in the Digital Age'

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa -- Giant squids, arsenic-loving microbes, and politicians badgering scientists over climate studies will be featured in a free public lecture by Dan Vergano, an award-winning science reporter and columnist for USA Today. The talk, titled "Science News in the Digital Age: A Brave New World," will take place at 11 a.m. April 6, in 100 Thomas Building. The event is the 2013 A. Dixon and Betty F. Johnson Lecture in Scientific Communication.

Vergano, a Penn State alumnus who earned a degree in aerospace engineering in 1990, will discuss how science and society are intersecting more intensely than ever at the same time when traditional news reporting is collapsing and digital media are emerging. A writer with a foot in both camps, he will discuss the challenges facing science communication in today's new media environment -- both for news writers and for newsmakers in scholarly fields.

As part of the talk, Vergano will discuss the history of science reporting in light of the digital era, which offers opportunities never seen before to bring science news to the public, as well as some old pitfalls in new guises. He will detail some of the chief lessons learned about how the emerging "science" of science communication could better deliver science news. And he will discuss how some of the debates about news and human cognition are playing into coverage decisions at major news organizations, including USA Today.

After graduating from Penn State, Vergano went on to earn a master's degree in science, technology and public policy from George Washington University in 1993. He was awarded a fellowship to the Science, Health and Environmental Reporting Program at New York University, graduating in 1996. Vergano worked as a staff reporter at "CBS Evening News," PBS's "HealthWeek" and Science News prior to joining the USA Today staff in 1999.

Vergano is known for his focus on research advances and breaking stories in the scientific world, with an emphasis on approaching his stories in unique, interesting ways for readers. His science writing has been lauded by scientists and fellow journalists alike. In 2011, the Society for American Archaeology awarded Vergano the Gene S. Stuart Award for his story and video series on Maya archaeology, "So long, said the Maya." In 2006, he received the David Perlman Award for Excellence in Science Journalism from the American Geophysical Union for his story on climate change, "The debate's over: Globe is warming." In 2007, he was awarded a Nieman Fellowship to study the intersection of science and politics at Harvard University.

The A. Dixon and Betty F. Johnson Memorial Lectures in Scientific Communication are organized by the Eberly College of Science and are supported by donations to the college's Science Fund and by the A. Dixon and Betty F. Johnson Foundation. The lectures are named in honor of the late A. Dixon Johnson, a science writer and the director of the Penn State Office of Public Information from 1962 to 1974, and his wife, Betty F. Johnson, who established the lecture series in the Eberly College of Science. 

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Last Updated April 05, 2013