Best Shortform Science Writing October-December 2016

Best Shortform Science Writing October-December 2016

(A Highly Subjective Round-up of Standout Science News)

[Above: A fish-eyed view of a newsstand in Paris. Photo by Mark Mitchell via Flickr & Creative Commons 2.0 License] 

Science writing at its best doesn’t just impart facts; it has the potential to change the way we think about issues and phenomena. And yet, the vast majority of pieces on science writing–especially the short news stories designed to be consumed on a daily basis–simply focus on telling stories to people who are already interested in science.

The shortforms–the daily news briefs, front-of-book blurbs, and succinct blog posts– are the training grounds for emerging science writing writers, but they’re also underused as a place for experimenting with new ways to convey science, environment, and health stories to the public.

So my writing New Year’s Resolution is to experiment more, both in my blogging and in the sorts of stories I nominate for the 2017 @SciShortform round-ups. I hope you’ll join me by carrying out some experiments of your own and sharing them with the shortform editors.

You can nominate stories via this Google form or simply by tagging us at @SciShortform on Twitter. (Be sure to include a link to the piece you’re nominating in your tweet!)

Our editors in this round of Best Shortform Science Writing include new recruit Ellen Airhart, who is currently a student at NYU’s Science, Health, and Environmental Reporting Program, as well as returning editors Sarah Lewin of;  Amanda Alvarez of the RIKEN Brain Science Institute in Tokyo; Hobart, Australia-based freelancer Dyani Lewis; Atlanta-based freelancer Nola Taylor Redd; and me (Diana Crow), the newly installed intern at Cell Press’s media relations office.

In this cycle, we finally cracked 200 candidate articles for the round-up and anticipate at least that many nominated stories for January-March 2017. If you’re interested in joining our editorial team, please email me at

Here are some of the shortform science writing highlights from October through December. The pieces are not ranked, aside from the “Top Pick” and “Honorable Mention” groupings; instead, the pieces are listed by author’s last name alphabetically:


Short Shorts (under 600 words)

[succinct, focused, clear, cool]

Top Picks:
Honorable Mentions:


News-length (601-1000 words)

[topical, informative, newspaper-style]

Top Picks:
Honorable Mentions:


Single-Study Deep Dives & Profiles (700-1200 words)

[Insightful, humanizing, focuses on 1 study or 1 scientist]

Top Picks:
Honorable Mentions:


Data & Investigative Quick-Hits (under 1400 words)

[probing, original, rigorous, bonus points for visuals]

Top Picks:
Honorable Mentions:


Columns, Op-Eds, & Blog posts (under 1200 words)

[strong opinion angle, informed, possibly critical, possibly 1st person]

Top Picks:
Honorable Mentions:
Honorable Misfits

[Suggestions sent to us that were too long, too old, and/or in a different language but hard to leave out, anyway.]


If you’ve got suggestions on how the BSSW roundups can be improved, leave a comment. (Or email me at or tag us on Twitter @SciShortform)

Help Find the Next Batch of Best Shortform Science Writing!

If you liked this list (or if you think that we snubbed a deserving outlet or writer), please send suggestions for the next quarterly “Best” Shortform Science Writing. That post will cover January-March 2017 and will debut in mid-April 2017.
And if you know of any October through December stories we’ve missed, post ‘em in the comments below!

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