News Release

Academies announce winners of 2017 Communication Awards

'Hidden Figures' wins Best Book Award from academies; PBS NewsHour, Chicago Tribune, FiveThirtyEight also take top prizes

Grant and Award Announcement

National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine

WASHINGTON -- The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine announced today the recipients of the 2017 Communication Awards. Supported by the W.M. Keck Foundation since 2003 as part of the Keck Futures Initiative, these prestigious awards -- each of which includes a $20,000 prize -- recognize excellence in reporting and communicating science, engineering, and medicine to the general public. The winners will be honored during a ceremony on Sept. 13 in Washington, D.C.

"This year's winners represent a magnificent array of enlightening and engrossing science stories compellingly told in a diversity of formats in a variety of voices," said May Berenbaum, NAS member and chair of the awards selection committee, and professor and head of entomology at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. "We are delighted to recognize the 2017 winning science communicators, and with such stellar entries overall, I can't help but feel that all of us, both in scientific community and the general public, are winners."

Selected from 290 entries for works published or aired in 2016, the recipients of this year's awards, along with each category's finalists, are:


Margot Lee Shetterly for "Hidden Figures: The American Dream and the Untold Story of the Black Women Mathematicians Who Helped Win the Space Race" (William Morrow/HarperCollins Publishers)

"A hitherto little-known episode in the history of pioneering aerospace engineering and computing brought to light so engagingly that, along with the blockbuster movie it inspired, has had an unprecedented impact on the American public."


  • Jennifer Ackerman for "The Genius of Birds" (Penguin Press)
  • Siddhartha Mukherjee for "The Gene: An Intimate History" (Scribner)
  • d Yong for "I Contain Multitudes: The Microbes Within Us and a Grander View of Life" (Ecco/HarperCollins Publishers)


William Brangham, Jason Kane, and the team of "PBS NewsHour" with Jon Cohen at Science magazine for "The End of AIDS?" (produced in collaboration with the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting)

"A compelling series that challenges long-held assumptions about the status of AIDS, with eye-opening reporting from six very different communities around the world."


  • David Elisco, James Barrat, Dennis Liu, and Sean B. Carroll of HHMI's Tangled Bank Studio for "Spillover--Zika, Ebola & Beyond"
  • Kurt Andersen, Jenny Lawton, Andrew Adam Newman, and Louis Mitchell of PRI-WNYC's "Studio 360 With Kurt Andersen" for "Way to Go, Einstein"
  • Chris Schmidt, Larry Klein, Niobe Thompson, and Sam Green of NOVA for "Great Human Odyssey"
  • Margot Lee Shetterly and Theodore Melfi and Allison Schroeder of 20th Century Fox for "Hidden Figures"


Chicago Tribune's Sam Roe, Karisa King, and Ray Long for the three-part series "Dangerous Doses"

"A masterful melding of data-mining, scientific exposition, and investigative journalism to expose a critical public health issue."


  • Stephen Hall and Dina Fine Maron of Scientific American for articles on CRISPR-Cas9
  • Alison Hawkes of Bay Nature magazine for "Re-coding for Conservation"
  • ara Reardon, David Cyranoski, Heidi Ledford, and Erika Hayden of Nature for articles on CRISPR-Cas9
  • Craig Welch, Laura Parker, and Michelle Nijhuis of National Geographic for articles on the impacts of climate change in the U.S.


FiveThirtyEight's Maggie Koerth-Baker, Ben Casselman, Anna Maria Barry-Jester, and Carl Bialik for "Gun Deaths in America"

"A balanced and fact-filled examination of an unfolding crisis, with compelling interactives that are meticulously attentive to data quality and statistics."


  • Adam Cole, Ryan Kellman, and Alison Richards of NPR for "Skunk Bear"
  • Ryan McNeill, Deborah Nelson, and Yasmeen Abutaleb of Reuters for "The Uncounted" *
  • Neena Satija, Kiah Collier, Al Shaw, and Jeff Larson of ProPublica and the Texas Tribune for "Hell and High Water"


The National Academies Keck Futures Initiative was created in 2003 to encourage interdisciplinary research and is funded by a 15-year, $40 million grant from the W.M. Keck Foundation. Nominations for next year's Communication Awards will be accepted in early 2018 for work published or broadcast in 2017. For more information on the Futures Initiative and the Communication Awards, please visit For more information about the W.M. Keck Foundation, please visit

The awards ceremony, which is free and open to the public, will take place on Sept. 13 at the National Academy of Sciences building in Washington, D.C. To register to attend, e-mail by Sept. 8.

Follow the conversation on Twitter using #NASEMCommAward.

The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine are private, nonprofit institutions that provide independent, objective analysis and advice to the nation to solve complex problems and inform public policy decisions related to science, technology, and medicine. The Academies operate under an 1863 congressional charter to the National Academy of Sciences, signed by President Lincoln.

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