2004 Science in Society Awards

Presented February 16, 2005, at the NASW reception in Washington

Book

Stephen S. Hall

Merchants of Immortality: Chasing the Dream of Human Life Extension

Houghton Mifflin

This book by Stephen S. Hall delves into what is perhaps the single most contentious area of biomedical research today: manipulating human cells to give them capabilities they did not have before. But the judges also commended Hall for telling a good story with “compelling portraits of the ambitious, smart, and sometimes flawed people” involved. Merchants of Immortality is “the kind of book that creates an enduring interest in readers while also giving them the background to pursue the subject on their own,” according to the judges.

Stephen S. Hall, the author of Merchants of Immortality: Chasing the Dream of Human Life Extension (Houghton Mifflin, 2003), has written about science and medicine for more than 20 years, specializing in stories about the impact of science on the culture at large. Hall has been an editor and a contributing writer for The New York Times Magazine; recent cover stories have included pieces on the biology of fear, the biology of memory, adolescent male body image, MRI experiments on his own brain and the science of embryonic stem cells. His work has appeared in many other magazines, including the Atlantic Monthly, Smithsonian, Forbes FYI, Science, Health, Hippocrates, Science 86 and numerous travel magazines (he has also written extensively about the food and culture of Italy). He also wrote a column called “Biology, Inc.,” about the biotechnology industry, for Technology Review.

Hall is the author of three other critically acclaimed non-fiction book accounts of contemporary science. Invisible Frontiers (1987) is a description of the race to clone the first human gene and the birth of the biotech industry. Mapping the Next Millennium (1992) surveyed recent scientific work in the fields of geophysics, biology, mathematics and astronomy within the historical context of map-making. A Commotion in the Blood (1997), an account of the use of the immune system to battle cancer and other diseases, received the Coley Award from the Cancer Research Institute.

Born in Cleveland, Ohio, in 1951, Hall began his career in journalism at age 16 at the Chicago Tribune. He has worked as a sportswriter at Washington Post, a general assignment reporter at the San Francisco Chronicle, and a general editor at the Rome Daily American. Between 1996 and 1999, in addition to writing for The New York Times Magazine, he served as the magazine’s science editor and worked on the small editorial team that conceived and executed the magazine’s six special Millennium issues, which appeared in 1999. He lives with his wife and two children in Brooklyn.

Magazine

Robin Marantz Henig

“The Quest to Forget”

The New York Times Magazine

“The Quest to Forget,” which appeared in The New York Times Magazine, explores the ethics and practicalities of administering drugs to prevent painful memories from forming in people who have experienced a trauma. The judges praised writer Robin Marantz Henig for tackling such a “unique, fascinating subject.” In interviews with experts and survivors of an attack or other trauma, Henig examines whether drugs that block memories of a traumatic event can help people heal, or whether “editing out” horrible remembrances means losing the very experiences that make someone who they are.

Robin Marantz Henig has written eight books, most recently Pandora’s Baby: How the First Test Tube Babies Sparked the Reproductive Revolution, about the early days of in vitro fertilization research. Robin began freelancing when her older daughter was born, specializing in writing books and articles about medicine and science. Her articles have appeared in The New York Times Magazine, Civilization, Discover, Scientific American and just about every woman’s magazine in the grocery store. She also writes book reviews and opinion pieces for New York Times and Washington Post, and has been a member of the board of contributors of USA Today. Since 1998 she has been a member of the board of directors of the National Association of Science Writers.

Robin’s honors include an Alicia Patterson Foundation fellowship, a Sloan Foundation grant, and a science writing fellowship from the Marine Biological Laboratory. She was a finalist for a National Book Critics Circle Award for her previous book, The Monk in the Garden: The Lost and Found Genius of Gregor Mendel. With her husband, Jeff, a professor at Teachers College and Columbia University, Robin moved to New York recently after spending 25 years in Washington, where Jeff taught political science at George Washington University. They have two daughters — Jessica, a doctoral student in English literature at the University of Maryland, and Samantha, a sociology major at Cornell.

Newspaper Alexandra Witze and Tom Siegfried

"Science’s Big Unknown" series

“Science’s Big Unknown,” a three-part series on nanotechnology, explored its health and environmental effects. Alexandra Witze and Tom Siegfried raised questions about the safety of nanotech months before any other major media outlet, the judges noted. Yet they offered a balanced examination of the early studies indicating the possible dangers of nanometer-sized particles that can penetrate living cells easily. The series also included an intriguing essay by Siegfried putting the suspected risks of nanotechnology in perspective against the scary "gray goo" scenarios painted in fictional accounts such as Michael Crichton’s thriller, Prey.

Alexandra Witze is now the only fulltime science writer at The Dallas Morning News. Since 1996 she has written stories encompassing astronomy, geology, paleontology, chemistry, physics, archaeology, planetary science and more. Her coverage has taken her to the North Pole to report on climate-change research; to an ocean-drilling ship exploring gas hydrates off the coast of Oregon; to the Jet Propulsion Laboratory for the landings of multiple Mars missions; and among decaying corpses at the University of Tennessee’s legendary “Body Farm.” She has received writing awards from the American Geophysical Union and the Society for American Archaeology, among others.

Witze received a B.S. in earth, atmospheric and planetary sciences from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and later served as associate editor for Earth magazine. She lives in Dallas with her husband, astronomy writer Jeff Kanipe, and their two cats and dog.

Tom Siegfried was born in Lakewood, Ohio, and grew up in nearby Avon. He received his bachelor of arts degree (with majors in journalism, chemistry and history) from Texas Christian University in 1974. He completed his master of arts degree from the University of Texas at Austin (with a journalism major and physics minor) in 1981.

He worked as a business and science writer at the Fort Worth Press and a journalism faculty member at Texas Christian University before joining The Dallas Morning News in 1983. From 1985 to 2004 he was the science editor at The Dallas Morning News.

His first book, The Bit and the Pendulum — a survey of the new physics of information — was published in 2000. His second book, Strange Matters — about phenomena yet to be discovered — was published in 2002. He is a contributor to NASW’s Field Guide for Science Writers. He has been a member of the board of the Council for the Advancement of Science Writing since 2000.

Tom’s work has earned various awards, including the American Association for the Advancement of Science Westinghouse Award for large daily newspapers and the American Chemical Society’s James T. Grady-James H. Stack Award for Interpreting Chemistry for the Public. He has also received awards from the Associated Press Managing Editors Association, the American Psychiatric Association, and the Texas Headliners club. He is among the writers whose work was included in The Best American Science Writing 2004.

Television

“Bloodlines: Technology Hits Home”

Backbone Media

A baby with five “parents” and none of them recognized by law. A patent application for a creature that would be genetically part human and part chimpanzee. A corporation secretly doing genetic tests on its workers. These scenarios are not only real, they are challenging our most fundamental beliefs and establishing legal precedents that govern our future. “Bloodlines: Technology Hits Home”, reveals how new life technologies are raising ethical, legal and social dilemmas as cutting edge science intersects with the law. What does it mean to be a parent? What does it mean to be a human being? What does it mean to have a right to medical privacy? Fueled by the human desire to do everything medically possible, given momentum by multi-billion-dollar investment in scientific research, and encouraged by a lack of regulation, these technologies are forcing us to ask: are we creating a world that we won’t want to inhabit?

Noel Schwerin of Backbone Media has been making documentaries for over twenty years. In addition to writing, producing and directing “Bloodlines: Technology Hits Home”, Schwerin also wrote and produced its award-winning web site and award-winning discussion guide.

“Bloodlines” has won many awards, including two first-prize Clarion Awards from the Association of Women in Communications, first- and second-prize “Freddies” at the International Health and Medical Awards, and the best-of-print Ben Franklin Award and several Chris Awards at the Columbus International Film & Video Festival. The Democratic Policy Committee offered to deliver “Bloodlines” to the entire U.S. Senate, and the Senate Republican Conference uses “Bloodlines” in senior staff discussion groups.

Schwerin has spoken about her work at many special symposia and screenings, including those hosted by the Democratic Policy Committee, the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the National Association of Women Judges, Harvard Medical School, UC Berkeley and < a href="http://www.stanford.edu" target="_new" class="reglink">Stanford University. Her previous PBS special, “A Question of Genes,” also won numerous awards as well as a special citation in the Corporation for Public Broadcasting’s “Public Broadcasting’s Services to Minorities and Other Groups.” Schwerin’s other titles include the PBS documentary, “Just Passing Through,” and, at NOVA where she worked for six years, producing credits on “Yellowstone’s Burning Question,” “So You Want to Be a Doctor?,” “The Big Spill” and “Freud Under Analysis.”

A graduate of Yale University, Schwerin has worked for the Carnegie Corporation, ABC and CBS News, and a number of independent production companies. Schwerin’s work has received glowing reviews in, among others, USA Today, the Los Angeles Times, TV Guide and New York magazine. Schwerin had a half page Q&A in the New York Times, and has been featured in reports by O Magazine, NPR’s “All Things Considered,” CBS News Radio and many other broadcast media.

Schwerin’s work has been excerpted for museum exhibits, including major shows and permanent exhibits at the American Museum of Natural History in New York and the San Jose Tech Museum in California.

Web and Radio

No award is being offered this year in the radio and web categories because the judges felt that none of the entries sufficiently fulfilled the core requirement of the Science in Society award, which is to explore the societal impact of science.

2004 Science in Society Journalism Awards committee

AWARD CHAIRS

  • Carol Ezzell Webb, freelance and contributing editor, Scientific American
  • Richard L. Hill, The Oregonian

BOOK COMMITTEE

  • Steve Olson (chair), author
  • Mitch Waldrop, author
  • Jennifer Couzin, Science

BROADCAST COMMITTEE

  • Joe Palca (chair), National Public Radio
  • Don Torrance, Syracuse University
  • Karen Carter Mallet, Fox Chase Cancer Center
  • Rob Stein, The Washington Post

NEWSPAPER COMMITTEE

  • Phil Hilts (chair), former New York Times reporter and author
  • Dan Fagin, Newsday
  • Boyce Rensberger, Knight Science Journalism Fellowships

MAGAZINE COMMITTEE

  • Adam Rogers (chair), Wired magazine
  • Kyla Dunn, NOVA
  • Keith Haglund, Science News

WEB COMMITTEE

  • Margaret Woodbury (chair), Health magazine
  • Steve Tally, Purdue University
  • Debra Sherman, Reuters

FINAL JUDGING COMMITTEE

  • Carol Ezzell Webb (chair), freelance
  • Ellen Ruppel Shell, Boston University and The Atlantic Monthly
  • Richard Hill, The Oregonian
  • Carl Zimmer, freelance
  • Gareth Cook, Boston Globe