The current focus is to engage “scientifically attentive” people in the area with posts about upcoming events in and around the Research Triangle Park, like the recent ScienceOnline2010 conference.
In June of 2009, the Research Triangle Park joined SIT as an unofficial partner “for the promotion and understanding science and technology in our Research Triangle region,” Perrien said. Much of the current funding for SIT comes from the Research Triangle Park, through direct support for the blog, and from the Web development work that Blue Pane Studio does for the Research Triangle Park. The studio recently launched an iPhone app designed to support SIT and the Research Triangle Park’s community building efforts, for example.
Perrien said the blog has successfully moved out of what he calls the “volunteer fireman stage” and currently supports three part-time freelancers: Sabine Volmer, DeLene Beeland, and Bora Zivkovic, plus one video journalist, Ross Maloney. As of now, there is no formal relationship between SIT and local newspapers like the Observer and the News & Observer. They do share some of their freelancers, however. Both Volmer and Beeland often contribute to the SciTech pages.
In late February, the Knight Science Journalism Tracker’s Charlie Petit picked up an article that Vollmer wrote for SciTech about a Japanese inventor visiting North Carolina. Petit prefaced his post by pointing out that:
The Tracker, before the Raleigh News & Observer got rid of its science staff of one or maybe two (other than health and medical writers), used to see a steady flow of distinctively original reporting in it on high tech and science generally. Thus it is notable to find a piece today, even though from a writer labeled as a correspondent, which usually means freelancer.
Vollmer wrote to Petit the next day explaining that she was, in fact, one of seventy newsroom employees that he News & Observer laid off or bought out.
In that sense, new initiatives like the SciTech section and Science in the Triangle are somewhat bittersweet—replacing only some of what’s been lost. Still, they are very welcome and important steps in the right direction.