Science Writers Association of the Rocky Mountains (SWARM)

Science Writers Association of the Rocky Mountains (SWARM)

  • Service Area: Colorado, Utah, Wyoming, Montana, and any neighbors who are interested!

  • Established: 2003, revived 2020

  • Website: https://www.sciwrirockies.com

  • Twitter: @sciwrirockies

  • Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/groups/249510293038177/

  • Contact Email: sciwrirockies@gmail.com

Group Details

Mission Statement: The Science Writers Association of the Rocky Mountains aims to create a diverse, equitable, and inclusive community among science writers, communicators, educators, students, and others in the Rocky Mountain region who are interested in writing about science for the public. Through networking, development, and other events, we work to help science writers advance their professional skills. We aim to promote accurate, accessible, and ethical science writing as well as foster the understanding of science and technology and their relevance to society.

Operations: Ten board members who are currently drafting up bylaws, governing documents (like the mission statement), and establishing SWARM as a 501(c)3. We hold monthly board meetings to develop the organization and plan our programming.

Funding: Shoestring. Until we move to a membership model, our funds come primarily from board member contributions and income (requested donations) from virtual events.

Membership: We have circa 220 people on our email list. No formal membership structure as of yet (February 2021).

Programming: We've held a mix of career-oriented and social-oriented virtual events since our relaunch in 2020. Some are open to SWARMies only; others we open to science writers from across the country.

Successes and Challenges

Three Successes:

  1. Getting off the ground quickly and with a lot of people interested in the group. We seeded the group with an email list of science writers who had been meeting informally in the Boulder/Denver area of Colorado, then reached out to NASW members and other science writers around the region.

  2. Enthusiasm and leadership from a highly talented group of initial board members. We had a large pool of science writers to draw from, and our board initially set itself up based on whoever volunteered. We will move to formal elections later in 2021 so that we have democracy and everything.

  3. Excellent attendance at many of our initial virtual events. This likely comes from everyone's need to connect during a pandemic, as well as excellent programming by our programming co-chairs who put together interesting and fun slates of speakers.

Three Challenges:

  1. Covering a huge geographic area: at least four large western states.

  2. Establishing a membership structure has taken us longer than expected; just figuring out how to run a site, keep track of members, set up a bank account, etc. have taken many months.

  3. Figuring out how to develop and foster a sense of community in a pandemic year where we cannot meet in person. On the bright side this has allowed us to include science writers from across the region in our initial community-building events (thus working to overcome challenge #1, that we are so spread out).

About the Region

Geographic Setting: The Rockies encompass a diverse set of western states. We have the best mountains.

Media Community: A thriving regional set of publications from local newspapers (well, ok, not so thriving) to public radio and independent digital publications.

Science Community: The Front Range of Colorado, where many SWARM members are based, is home to a large number of universities, institutions, and federal laboratories that are national leaders in science and technology. There are also strong science communities at universities in Salt Lake City, Bozeman, and Laramie, among others.