Joel Werner

Science Journalist

About

Joel

Radio producer.
Science journalist.

I make radio about science.
Talk to me.

Résumé

Tl;dr
I am a science journalist/radio producer from Sydney, Australia.

Résumé
I started playing guitar when I was 15. A classmate scribbled down some chords his uncle had taught him the night before – chords to The Troggs’ “Wild Thing”. I learned to play it the only way a teenage boy with nothing else to do can: often and repeatedly. And I kept playing it until my parents, seemingly on the verge of insanity, offered to buy me some new sheet music if only I promised to stop playing it. I did and they did.

My undergraduate degree was a B. Psychology (Honors) from the University of Sydney. After graduating I worked as a research gun-for-hire across a variety of projects over a number of years; from sleep disorders, to pharmacy patient behavior, to modeling the future prevalence of dementia in Australia. I enjoyed research, but kept not finishing PhDs until one day I had to ask myself if I really enjoyed research. I did but had to concede that perhaps I could enjoy something else more.

When I stopped playing “Wild Thing”, I started playing “Smells Like Teen Spirit”. It wasn’t long before I was playing in (terribly named) bands and recording the (oftentimes terrible) music of those bands. My first experience of multi-track recording was as a frustrated only child who’d just mastered his generation’s aforementioned anthem’s guitar solo – I was desperate to hear my chops played along to a rhythm guitar track. So, armed with a dictaphone and my parent’s hi-fi system, I recorded the rhythm part, pressed play on that tape in the stereo, pressed record on the dictaphone, and heard my wish granted. Something clicked for me that day.

My second degree was a M. Arts (Journalism) from the University of Technology, Sydney. By the time I wanted to become a science journalist, science radio was an obvious choice. I spent a few months working at community radio station 2SER before scoring a job as a reporter in the Science Unit at the Australian Broadcasting Corporation’s flagship radio station, Radio National.

During my first year as the unit’s science/health reporter I thought it strange that the station didn’t have a program dedicated to environmental issues, so I pitched one. The pitch was commissioned, and Off Track was born. I set one rule for Off Track – that a show about the environment should be, as often as possible, recorded in the environment. A rule set on a whim that proved to be the defining characteristic of the show’s production style; dense, rich ambience given room to breathe.

Off Track is podcasting upright and outdoors. Its voices speak largely in the unbuffeted outside. Some background noise is artfully retained. Feet are heard stepping along streets, bodies push against the brush. Descriptions of each locale are offered in a deliberately casual manner, as if to an acquaintance uncertain of the way. Off Track isn’t just podcasting under an open sky; it’s a sharply produced and often beautiful piece of crafted audio.
– Taken from here.

I produced/presented two seasons of Off Track. 

During the last quarter of 2013 I produced/presented a four-part documentary for BBC World Service, Saving The Ocean. The series was broadcast around the globe on World Service, and around Australia on Radio National, in February 2014.

I spent 2014/15 living and working in New York City. During that time I was lucky enough to work on a number of my favorite radio shows, including Radiolab, On The MediaFreakonomicsWhat’s The Point from Nate Silver’s FiveThirtyEight, Inside Science on BBC Radio 4, and 99% Invisible, with whom I won the Best Documentary: Bronze Award at the Third Coast International Audio Festival 2015. I also do sound design for the wonderfully quirky PBS Digital show, Brain Craft.

On July 4th 2014, I launched my own occasional non-narrated mixtape, Your Own Voice. You can listen to episodes, or read an interview in which I talk about the idea with Rolling Stone Australia. Why not both? ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

I once lived as close as you can to Prospect Park without being a duck, and tried to spend as much time there as possible – at best (as always) when accompanied by wife and/or hound.

Joel B. Werner
B. Psychology (Honors)
M. Arts (Journalism)

Listen

A selection of radio I produced.

An unusual pattern
A tale of true crime, in a healthcare setting – where statistics might offer a crucial lead.. Was Ben Geen an angel of death, preying on patients at their most vulnerable? Or was he just the unluckiest guy in England? A feature I produced for the ABC RN Health Report, that was rebroadcast on FiveThirtyEight’s What’s The Point podcast.

 

Structural Integrity
The first story I pitched when I moved to NYC was to one of my favorite shows, 99% Invisible. Roman, Sam, and I tell the story of a brand new skyscraper that almost toppled into Midtown Manhattan in the late 1970s.
UPDATE! This story won Best Documentary: Bronze Award at the Third Coast International Audio Festival 2015! Exclamation!

 

Blood
Stories from the blood bank..
An intrepid reporter bleeds for the show.. A long time donor discovers she has a never-before-identified blood type – and gets it named after her.. The Australian Defence Force asks the Red Cross to freeze blood for our troops.. And, a unique friendship is forged over a lifetime of blood transfusions. A feature I produced for the ABC RN Health Report.

 

Real fake illness
Munchausen by internet is a syndrome where people go online and pretend to be sick to get the sympathy and attention of others. And we have no idea just how prevalent it is. A feature I produced for the ABC RN Health Report.

 

Witness the fitness
I’m sure we all know someone who swears by the capacity of these devices to improve health and fitness. But how does anecdote square up against science in the fitness tracker revolution? A feature I produced for the ABC RN Health Report.

 

What’s The Worst Pain You’ve Ever Experienced?
My entry for Third Coast Festival’s 2015 ShortDocs Challenge. Competition rules stated that entires had to be 2-3 mins in length, include a “shout of silence”, and have a title starting with one of the five Ws. I was lucky enough to have good friend, The Seaport & The Airport remix “Theme From Jaws” for the project.

 

The Amplituhedron
A feature story produced for ABC Radio National’s Science Show. A version of this story also appeared on BBC Radio 4’s Inside Science program.

 

Everyone Is Watching
In the past, people suffering from delusional beliefs might have thought that they were Napoleon or that the KGB was tapping their phone. These days, many believe that they’re the star of a movie or a reality television show, even when they’re not. I produced this story about The Truman Show Delusion for All In The Mind (ABC RN).

 

A Coordinated Orchestra
Henry Markram is building a human brain out of computers, where each brain cell is represented by one laptop. That’s a lot of laptops. I figured he’s the kind of guy who’s probably spent some time pondering the nature of human consciousness. So I asked him what he thinks makes us, “us”. This was my entry for A Gold Tape Competition from TAPE FESTIVAL x RANDOM TAPE.

 

 

 

 

YOUR OWN VOICE

YOUR OWN VOICE is an occasional non-narrated storytelling mixtape.

Each episode will present a new story told by a musician/artist – in their own voice.

The series is an experiment in sound design; audio stretched apart, and glued back together again.

Part mix tape.
Part noise art.
Part sound experiment.

All non-narrated audio storytelling.

YOUR STORIES, TOLD IN YOUR OWN VOICE

YOV-Logo-Banner

SUBSCRIBE

Read what ROLLING STONE AUSTRALIA had to say about the podcast.


EPISODE 04: Two Trains: The Data Driven DJTwo-Trains image

Brian Foo is the Data-Driven DJ.

A career programmer, Brian spends his days working as a developer at the New York Public Library. But by night, he takes datasets, and transforms them into music.

The song Two Trains tells the story of income inequality along New York City’s 2 Train.

This episode features the song “New York Counterpoint” by composer Steve Reich.

Tile art for this episode is a crop of SuperWarmRed’s beautiful reimagining of Massimo Vignelli’s subway map. BUY!

Check out more of Brian’s music at Data Driven DJ.


EPISODE 03: Hearing ColorsNH-iTunes

Neil Harbisson was born with Achromatopsia (ACHM) – he sees the world in grayscale.

Yet he perceives more colors than normal sighted humans – and not just the colors that you and I perceive, but infrareds and ultra violets.

Neil is the world’s first cyborg to interpret color as sound.

The experimental music sequence features samples from PLEASE DON’T MESS WITH MY FRANKENSTEIN by Jared C. Balogh.

Also featured is a sample of the track ItrTtistc (Impossible To Reverse/Time That Is Still To Come), a composition out of the Infrasound Laboratory at the University of Hawaii.

For more information, please visit the Cyborg Foundation.

This episode featured on Radiotonica part of ABC Radio National’s Creative Audio Unit.


EPISODE 02: Tape Recorder And Synthesizer Ensemble (T.R.A.S.E)

In 1982, a teenage Andy Pop recorded an album in his bedroom.TRASE-art

Andy played a homemade synthesizer, and recorded using gear that he’d assembled from magazine kit modules. A handful of people heard the recordings before the tape was packed away, and forgotten about for thirty years.

In 2012, that tape got Andy a record deal.

This is the story of Tape Recorder And Synthesizer Ensemble (T.R.A.S.E).

Thanks to..
The Seaport & The Airport for throwing around the crossfade on Andy’s Influence mix.
Eleanor Kagan and Brad Mielke for responding to my plea for tape SFX.

BUY T.R.A.S.E music:


EPISODE 01: Wowee Zowee! The World’s Most Prolific Artist.

Steve Keene is, perhaps, the world’s most prolific artist. Over the past twenty years he’s created in excess of 250 000 paintings.

Keene obsesses over quantity. He works on 60-80 artworks at a time, surrounding himself with plywood canvas duplicates that he paints simultaneously – oftentimes across multiple works with the same dipped brush. Keene’s work is as much performance art as highbrow craft.

A College DJ in the 1990s, Steve’s art draws heavy influence from music. A part of the indie scene in Charlottesville, Virginia, Steve is perhaps best known for his album cover artworks – including fan favorite Pavement album, “Wowee Zowee”. That music scene guided Steve’s approach to the creation and distribution of his work.

I spent a morning with Steve at his Greenpoint, Brooklyn studio to gain an insight into his creative process.

 

BUY Steve Keene art
BUY Pavement records

Read

A selection of articles I wrote.

The Design Flaw That Almost Wiped Out an NYC Skyscraper
A version of the 99% Invisible story, Structural Integrity, published at the Slate.com blog.
READ

What’s ailing our science?*
None of the senior scientists at one of Australia’s leading medical research institutes hold a secure position.
A feature article written for News Limited’s national broadsheet, The Australian.
READ

Oh, there’s a platypus!
Twenty hours, through a cold, dark night, trapping platypus for science.
A feature article written for ABC Radio National online.
READ

Is screening mammography harming the healthy?
Early detection of abnormalities can over-diagnose breast cancer.
A feature article written for ABC Radio National online.
READ

Doctors say Angelina Jolie’s decision isn’t right for everyone
Genetic screening is an intensely personal decision.
A feature article written for ABC Radio National online.
READ

Will US decision to ban DNA patents have power to change Australia’s laws?
Who owns your genes? Not as easy a question to answer as you might think.
A feature article written for ABC Radio National online.
READ

* – This article was awarded the Australian Council of Deans of Education (ACDE) Student Journalism Award 2012.

Reviewed

A selection of peer reviewed papers I co-authored.

Williams KA, Emmerton LM, Taylor R, Werner JB, Benrimoj SI. Non-prescription medicines and Australian community pharmacy interventions: rates and clinical significance. Int J Pharm Pract. 2011 Jun;19(3):156-65. [PubMed]

Vickland V, Werner JB, Morris T, McDonnell G, Draper B, Low LF, Brodaty H. Who pays and who benefits? How different models of shared responsibilities between formal and informal carers influence projections of costs of dementia management. BMC Public Health 2011, 11:793 [PubMed; Full Text]

Vickland V, McDonnell G, Werner JB, Draper B, Low LF, Brodaty H. In silico modeling systems: Learning about the prevalence and dynamics of dementia through virtual experimentation. Alzheimer’s & Dementia 7 (2011) e77–e83. [PubMed]

Vickland V, McDonnell G, Werner JB, Draper B, Low LF, Brodaty H. A computer model of dementia prevalence in Australia: Foreseeing outcomes of delaying dementia onset, slowing disease progression, and eradicating dementia types. Dem Geriat Cog Dis. 2010; 29 (2): 123-130. [PubMed]

Werner JB, Benrimoj SI. Audio taping simulated patients in community pharmacy enhances reliability. Amer J Pharm Educ. 2009; 72 (6) Article 136. [PubMed; Full Text]

Benrimoj SI, Werner JB, Raffaele C, Roberts AS. A system for monitoring quality standards in the provision of non-prescription medicines from Australian community pharmacies. Pharm World Sci. April 2008 2008;30(2):7. [PubMed]

Benrimoj SI, Werner JB, Raffaele C, Roberts AS, Costa FA. Monitoring quality standards in the provision of non-prescription medicines from Australian Community Pharmacies: results of a national programme. Quality & Safety in Health Care. Oct 2007;16(5):354-8. [PubMed]

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