Stories about in vitro fertilization, biodiversity, the effects of global warming in the Arctic and in Colorado, and the worldwide effects of a flu pandemic are the subjects of this year's winners of the Science-in-Society award, which is conferred by the National Association of Science Writers (NASW).
NASW holds the independent competition annually to honor outstanding investigative and interpretive reporting about the sciences and their impact on society for good or ill. The 72-year-old organization of science writers recognizes and encourages critical, probing works in five categories: newspaper, magazine, broadcast, Web and book. The award is considered the highest honor in science journalism because winners are chosen by panels of their accomplished peers and lauded for work that would not receive an award from an interest group. The awards are not subsidized by any commercial interest. Expenses and prize money for the award come from the dues of NASW's roughly 2,300 members. Winners receive $1,000 and a certificate, which will be awarded October 29, 2006 at NASW's annual Science-in-Society meeting in Baltimore, Maryland.
This year's winners: Broadcast--Craig Duff with Andrew C. Revkin for Arctic Rush, a collaboration of The New York Times, the Discovery Times Channel and the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. The documentary examines how the melting of the Arctic is affecting travel, business opportunities, and international diplomacy. The judges commended the peace's solid on-site reporting, and its very thorough analysis of multiple sources of information. The judges also awarded an honorable mention to Daniel Grossman for "Preserving the Magic of Madagascar," Living on Earth and Radio Netherlands.
Web--Daniel Grossman, correspondent, Ken George, project manager, and Gavin MacCarthy, Web designer and multimedia editor for Fantastic Forests: The Balance Between Nature and People of Madagascar, www.wbur.org. The island of Madagascar has been isolated for 90 million years, and 80% to 90% of its species are found nowhere else. Within the next several years, Madagascar may be the place where a struggle to preserve the Earth's diversity of life will be won or lost. The judges described Fantastic Forests as "enchanting and original," and "a remarkable example of how effectively the Web can and should be used in conveying information and interpretation."
Book--Robin Marantz Henig for Pandora's Baby: How the First Test-Tube Babies Sparked the Reproductive Revolution (Houghton Mifflin). This history of in vitro fertilization (IVF) draws parallels between the controversy over IVF in the 1970s and the current controversies over human cloning and stem-cell research. The judges cited Henig's, "Very absorbing and well-written account of progress in a scientific field that has direct impacts on human life."
Newspaper--Jim Erickson of the Rocky Mountain News for "A Change in the Air," published December 13, 2005, a vivid account of the affect of climate change on the Colorado Rockies. The judges praised Erickson's nuanced approach to scientific uncertainty, and how global environmental change is likely to have impact on everything from the ski industry to the ecosystem of the Rocky Mountains. The judges awarded an honorable mention to Anthony R. Wood Jr. of the Philadelphia Inquirer for "A Mighty Stream," an account of how the Gulf Stream is being remade.
Magazine--Laurie Garrett for "The Next Pandemic?" published in Foreign Affairs, July/August 2005, an analysis of the danger of an avian influenza pandemic, drawing on the lessons of the devastating 1918 flu epidemic and many other sources. The judges described the article as "An excellent primer for an influential audience."
The Science-in-Society awards are administered by Diane McGurgan, executive director of NASW. The deadline for submitting entries for the 2007 awards is February 1, 2007, for work published or broadcast in North America between January 1, 2006 and December 31, 2006. Entry forms can be found at www.nasw.org.
The members of the final judging committee were: KC Cole, University of Southern California; David Perlman, San Francisco Chronicle; and Edward O. Wilson, Harvard University.
The final committee chose the other winners from among finalists screened by committees representing the five categories. The members of the initial screening committee were Robert Finn, of the International Medical News Group; Jon Franklin, of the University of Maryland, College Park; Mary K. Miller, of the Exploratorium; and Carol Ezzell Webb, freelance. The members of the newspaper screening committee were Lew Cope, formerly of the Minneapolis Star Tribune; Jon Franklin, of the University of Maryland, College Park; and Charles Petit, freelance. The members of the magazine screening committee were Toni Feder of Physics Today; Sally Maran of Smithsonian Magazine; and Ben Patrusky, of the Council for the Advancement of Science Writing. The members of the book screening committee were Deborah Blum, of the University of Wisconsin, Madison; Victor K. McElheny, freelance; and Joel Shurkin, freelance. The members of the broadcast screening committee were Blaine Baggett , of the Jet Propulsion Laboratory; Ira Flatow, of Science Friday; and Ray Villard, of the Space Telescope Science Institute. The members of the Web screening committee were David Ansley, of the British Medical Journal; Dennis Meredith, freelance; and Mary K. Miller of the Exploratorium.