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Science-in-Society Journalism Award winners

The winners of the 2007 Science-in-Society Journalism Awards, sponsored by the National Association of Science Writers are: Nicholas Wade for his book Before the Dawn: Recovering the Lost History of Our Ancestors (Penguin), Kenneth Weiss and Usha Lee McFarling for their Los Angeles Times series "Altered Oceans," and David Sington for his documentary Dimming the Sun, which appeared on PBS's NOVA television series.

In addition, the judges awarded honorable mentions to John Moir for his book Return of the Condor: The Race to Save Our Largest Bird from Extinction (Lyons Press) and to Orlando de Guzman for a series of reports entitled "Myanmar's Hidden AIDS Epidemic," which appeared on Public Radio International's The World.

The three winning teams each will receive a cash prize of $2,500 at a reception on October 21, 2007 during NASW's annual Science in Society meeting and workshop, which this year is in Spokane, Washington.

NASW established the Science-in-Society awards to provide recognition — without subsidy from any professional or commercial interest — for investigative or interpretive reporting about the sciences and their impact for good and bad. The awards are intended to encourage critical, probing work that would not receive an award from an interest group. Beginning with the first award in 1972, NASW has highlighted innovative reporting that goes well beyond the research findings and considers the associated ethical problems and social effects. The awards are especially prestigious because they are judged by accomplished peers. NASW currently awards prizes in three categories: books, periodicals (magazines and newspapers), and electronic media (including radio, television, and the Internet).

* In Before the Dawn, Nicholas Wade, a science reporter for the New York Times, describes the remarkable insights that genetic analysis can provide about the evolution of our species. The judges were impressed by the skillful weaving of the wide range of scientific findings about human origins into an engaging narrative. One judge said that this book "provides more of the meat to flesh out the skeletons in our closet."

* Published July 30 to August 3, 2006, the five-part series "Altered Oceans" by LA Times reporters Kenneth Weiss and Usha Lee McFarling describes how human activity is changing the composition of the oceans, and with it the habitats of many ocean creatures. Describing the series as a tour de force, the judges were impressed with how the reporters looked at both the ancient past and the future of our oceans and convincingly predicted trouble for present-day humans. Earlier this year the series won the 2007 Pulitzer Prize in Explanatory Reporting.

* Originally aired on PBS on April 18, 2006, "Dimming the Sun" investigates the growing evidence that air pollution is decreasing the amount of sunlight reaching Earth. David Sington, who wrote and produced the documentary (Duncan Copp directed) masterfully explains the complex interplay between the processes of global dimming and global warming. Describing the show as "unforgettable," one of the judges said, "It was a revelation to me how bad things are."

* The judges also praised Orlando de Guzman's courageous reporting on the AIDS epidemic in Myanmar, one of the world's most closed societies, and they described John Moir's Return of the Condor as a gripping account of the science and politics behind the most dramatic and successful return of a species from the brink of extinction.

The final judging committee included Alan Boyle, science editor at MSNBC.com, Julie Ann Miller, former editor of Science News, and John Wilkes, director emeritus of the Science Communication Program at the University Of California, Santa Cruz. The Science-in-Society awards committee was chaired by Robert Finn, San Francisco Bureau Chief for the International Medical News Group. In addition to the final committee, NASW thanks the volunteers who served on preliminary screening committees: Tom Abate (San Francisco Chronicle), Linda Billings (SETI Institute), Robert Finn, Jon Franklin (University of Maryland), Sara Harris (Society for Neuroscience), Michael Lemonick (freelance), Philip Manning (freelance), Rosie Mestel (LA Times), Curt Suplee (freelance), David Tenenbaum (The Why Files), Mitchell Waldrop (freelance), and Carl Zimmer (freelance).

"We received a total of 162 entries published or broadcast in 2006 for this year's awards," Finn said. "This made quite a job for our volunteer judges, especially since a great many of the entries were outstanding. Nevertheless, we hope even more science journalists will enter their work next year, giving the judges even more of a challenge."

Entries for next year's competition, for material published or broadcast in 2007, are due February 1, 2008. Entry forms will be available at www.nasw.org.

The largest organization devoted to the professional interests of science writers, the National Association of Science Writers fosters the dissemination of accurate information regarding science through all media normally devoted to informing the public. Its 2,819 members include science writers and editors, and science-writing educators and students.