Public Release: 

Leslie Roberts, Science Deputy News Editor, wins prize for 'first-rate' polio story

American Association for the Advancement of Science

WASHINGTON, D.C.--Leslie Roberts, deputy news editor of the journal Science, has won the 2005 Public Communications Award from the American Society for Microbiology for a story that explored the science, policy and human drama of efforts to eradicate polio.

In announcing the award for "Polio: The Final Assault," [http://www.sciencemag.org/cgi/content/summary/303/5666/1960], the judges cited Roberts' "first-rate reporting" and described the story as "important...meticulously researched and beautifully told," and "a compelling read without loss of technical accuracy." The American Society for Microbiology said the story offered a powerful account "of how microbiology, public health and society interact."

"We are delighted and honored by this award," said Colin Norman, Science's news editor. "Leslie's reporting, especially her first-hand account of the polio campaign in India, vividly brought out the science and the drama behind a critical public health issue. It's a superb piece of reporting and writing."

Science, published by the American Association for the Advancement of Science, has the largest paid circulation of any peer-reviewed general science journal in the world, with an estimated total readership of one million.

Roberts' story, appearing in the 26 March 2004 issue of Science, was reported from Washington D.C., Atlanta and India. It offered a comprehensive global account of a 16-year, multi-billion dollar program of research, tracking and immunization aimed at eradicating the disease. In part because of social and political obstacles, the goal is remarkably difficult to achieve, but Roberts describes why the polio eradication team considers the current campaign their "last, best chance" to succeed.

Since 2000, Roberts has been deputy news editor at Science, working with a team of reporters covering infectious diseases. She also coordinates the journal's coverage of biomedicine and environment/ecology. In a previous stint at Science in the 1980s and 1990s, Roberts was a senior writer specializing in genetics and the environment. Roberts also has served as editor-in-chief at the World Resources Institute, a Washington, D.C.-based think tank, where she worked on issues of environment, development, and human health, and as senior editor and then editor-in-chief of Issues in Science and Technology, the policy journal of the National Academy of Sciences.

The ASM Public Communications Award was established in 1996 to recognize achievement in promoting public understanding of microbiology. A plaque and a $2,500 cash prize will be presented to Roberts in Atlanta on 6 June during the ASM's General Meeting.

Judges for this year's Award were Rick Weiss of the Washington Post; Marilyn Marchione, a medical writer for the Associated Press; and Janet Ginsburg, a freelance writer and past winner of the ASM Communications Award.

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The American Society for Microbiology (www.asm.org), headquartered in Washington, D.C., is the largest single life science association, with 42,000 members worldwide. Its members work in educational, research, industrial and government settings on issues such as the environment, the prevention and treatment of infectious diseases, laboratory and diagnostic medicine, and food and water safety. The ASM's mission is to gain a better understanding of basic life processes and to promote the application of this knowledge for improved health and economic and environmental well-being.

The American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) is the world's largest general scientific society. AAAS was founded in 1848, and serves some 10 million individuals through 262 affiliated societies and academies of science. The non-profit AAAS (www.aaas.org) is open to all and fulfills its mission to "advance science and serve society" through initiatives in science policy; international programs; science education; and more. For the latest research news, log onto EurekAlert!, (www.eurekalert.org), the premier science-news Web site, a service of AAAS.

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