The Knight Science Journalism Program at MIT seeks to advance science journalism in the public interest by nurturing and enhancing the ability of journalists to accurately and thoughtfully illuminate science and its intersection with human culture.
Launched in 1983 under the guidance of founding director, Victor McElheny, the program is among the most distinguished journalism fellowships in the world, housed in MIT’s acclaimed Program in Science, Technology, and Society, located in the MIT School of Humanities, Arts and Social Sciences. The KSJ vision was recognized early as an essential one in supporting and developing science journalism by the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation — the program’s primary funder — as well as the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, the Mellon Foundation, and the Kavli Foundation.
Over time, KSJ has evolved to include a variety of initiatives aimed at fostering vigorous, accurate, and independent coverage of the sciences, including its award-winning digital science magazine Undark, numerous outreach and training programs, and an award recognizing outstanding local science journalism.
At a time when thoughtful, innovative, and engaging science journalism has never been more essential, the KSJ Fellowship offers mid-career journalists an unparalleled opportunity to hone their skills, deepen their knowledge, and tap into the rich network of experts at some of the world’s top universities. While in the program, fellows embark on a course of independent study, augmented by twice-weekly seminars taught by some of the world’s leading scientists and storytellers, as well as a variety of rotating, skills-focused master classes and workshops.
Traditionally, each year 10 accomplished science journalists are selected from a competitive pool of applicants to join the program. In recent years, they have come from BBC News, Bloomberg, Xinhua News Agency, Sydney Morning Herald, New Scientist, The Wall Street Journal, The Chronicle of Higher Education, STAT, and The New York Times, among other publications. During the 2020-21 and 2021-22 academic years, the program varied from this routine by offering remote project fellowships, a measure taken in response to the Covid-19 pandemic. Standard operations are expected to resume in the 2022-23 year. (Learn more about the KSJ Fellowship here.)
As part of its mission to promote excellence in science journalism, KSJ publishes an award-winning digital science magazine, Undark which reaches millions of readers annually. The magazine’s work is routinely republished by some of the world’s most respected media outlets, including The Atlantic, Scientific American, Smithsonian, Time, Newsweek, NPR, Quartz, Salon, and Slate. Renowned for its rigorous and comprehensive fact-checking process, Undark has won numerous national awards, including the 2018 George K. Polk Award in Environmental Reporting. (Learn more about Undark here.)
Outreach and Training
KSJ also seeks to advance and improve the practices of science journalism by offering annual workshops open to the larger science journalism community. In the past, these workshops have focused on best practices and issues in science editing, the importance and essentials of rigorous fact-checking, and methods for reporting on new or complex areas of science. (Learn more about KSJ’s workshops and other journalism resources here.)
The Victor K. McElheny Award
Each year, KSJ recognizes an outstanding and impactful work of science journalism at the local or regional level with a single $5,000 prize. While some science journalism contests have “small market” categories, the Victor K. McElheny Award, named in honor of KSJ’s founding director, is the only science journalism award in existence aimed exclusively at local and regional outlets. (Learn more about the McElheny Award here.)