Public Release: 

Science reporters win ASM Public Communications Award

American Society for Microbiology

Washington, DC - May 14, 2012 - The 2012 winners of the ASM Public Communications Award are Jon Cohen and Martin Enserink from Science. "False Positive" was published in Science on September 23, 2011. The article digs deep into the controversy surrounding the publication of a study that linked a mouse retrovirus, XMRV, to chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS).

Cohen and Enserink spoke with scientists and CFS patients around the world for four months, attended meetings in the US and Europe to report on all sides of the controversy. Their work resulted in an 8-page story in which Cohen and Enserink carefully chronicled how the XMRV hypothesis arose, how it was embraced by patients and media, and eventually disproved by research.

The Award recognizes outstanding journalistic achievement in increasing public awareness, knowledge, and understanding of microbiology. The Public Communications Award, which includes a $2500 honorarium, will be presented during a ceremony at the ASM General Meeting, June 16-19 in San Francisco, CA.

'False Positive' contributed to the public understanding of microbiology by documenting, in meticulous detail, just how the field operates when confronted with a result that doesn't hold up.

Judges for the award were Debora MacKenzie of New Scientist; Maryn McKenna of Wired; and Terry Murray of The Medical Post. Judges described 'False Positive' as "extremely thorough and thoughtful" and a "thorough review of the XMRV/CFS hypothesis and attendant controversy".

Martin Enserink has been a reporter and editor for Science magazine since 1999, first at the magazine's Washington D.C. headquarters and later in Paris. He now is a contributing news editor based in Amsterdam, the Netherlands. He specializes in infectious diseases and global health.

A correspondent with Science since 1990, Cohen also has written for the New Yorker, Atlantic Monthly, the New York Times Magazine, Smithsonian, Outside, Slate, Technology Review, and many other publications. His books include Shots in the Dark, Coming to Term and Almost Chimpanzee.

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The American Society for Microbiology is the largest single life science society, composed of over 39,000 scientists and health professionals. ASM's mission is to advance the microbiological sciences as a vehicle for understanding life processes and to apply and communicate this knowledge for the improvement of health and environmental and economic well-being worldwide.

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