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Journalist in Residence Program

Journalist in Residence Program

It is often said that mathematics is too abstract; too remote from "real life" to be of interest to the general public. It is a commonplace that mathematicians are too far up in the clouds" to be able to explain their science to the layman. Yet, mathematics underlies almost all of real life as we know it today (computers, satellites, finance), and successful attempts to explain mathematics are popular with the general public (i.e., K. C. Cole's The Universe and the Teacup, R. Osserman's The Poetry of the Universe). Mathematics CAN be presented intelligibly to the public and there is genuine interest when that happens.

Supported by grants from the Gabriella and Paul Rosenbaum and William Randolph Hearst Foundations, MSRI has initiated a Journalist-in-Residence Program to help make contacts between mathematical scientists and journalists who can spread more and better information to the public.

MSRI's Journalist in Residence program is supported by a board of distinguished advisors, chaired by William R. Hearst III, and already has a distinguished alumni as well.

K.C. Cole describes her experience as a Journalist in Residence at MSRI in "Six Weeks of Pure 'Misery' Can be Fun" from ScienceWriters.

Journalist in Residence Program Board

  • Chair: William R. Hearst III, Partner, KPCB
  • Michael Singer, Deputy Director, MSRI
  • David Eisenbud, Director, MSRI
  • Timothy Ferris, Professor Emeritus, Department of Journalism, UCB
  • David Hoffman, Head, Scientific Graphics Initiative
  • Robert Osserman, Special Projects Director, MSRI
  • Orville Schell, Dean, Department of Journalism, UCB
  • John Wilkes, Head, Science Communication Program


Spring 1998
K. C. Cole, Science Writer for the L.A. Times

Fall 1998
Allyn Jackson, Senior Writer and Deputy Editor for the Notices of the AMS

Spring 1999
Brian Hayes, Computing Science Writer for American Scientist

Summer 1999
Ivars Peterson, Mathematics/Computer Writer and Online Editor at Science News

Fall 1999
Beverly Wachtel, Producer/Writer for Earth and Sky Radio Series

Spring 2000
Larry Gonick, Cartoonist

Fall 2000
Jim Holt, Author, columnist and frequent contributor to the New York Times Book Review, The Wall Street Journal, Prospect (U.K.), and Slate.

Spring 2001
Sara Robinson, Writer, and a recent contributor to the New York Times.

Spring 2002
Erica Klarreich, Science Writer

Spring 2003
Ed Alcock, Photojournalist and frequent contributor to The New York Times and The Guardian

Spring 2005
Steve Olson, Author of "Countdown: Six Kids Vie for Glory at the World's Toughest Math Competition". While associated with MSRI he worked on "Nurturing Mathematical Talent: Views from Top Finishers in the William Lowell Putnam Mathematical Competition." His work was based on a large number of interviews, which are interesting to read in themselves.
Files are also available in MS-Word file format: Nurturing Mathematical Talent & interviews.

Note: Applications for the JIR position are not being accepted at this time.