Congratulations to Carmen Drahl and Ellen Kuwana, winners of the 2022 NASW Diane McGurgan Service Award

This year, the National Association of Science Writers awarded its annual Diane McGurgan Service Award to two volunteers for their sustained contributions to the NASW membership community, especially their efforts to keep members connected virtually: Carmen Drahl and Ellen Kuwana. NASW president Cassandra Willyard announced the awards at the annual membership meeting, held online on November 9

In 2020, Carmen Drahl, a member of NASW Freelance committee, volunteered to run a recurring virtual #SciWriCoffee chats for parents and caregivers. She was inspired by a session she’d attended earlier that year and wanted to offer the same lifeline of support to other NASW members.

These monthly meet-ups ran from February 2021 until June of this year — 17 months of support. Throughout their tenure, Carmen organized each session, collected participant feedback on everything from topics to logistics, and responded to changing needs, bringing in outside topic speakers as the nature of online community changed with the subsequent phases of the pandemic. Prior to 2020, Carmen acted as NASW’s representative on a committee with other authors’ organizations to investigate group health insurance options. Armed with survey information from NASW and its sister societies, the multi-association committee entered into discussions with consultants and insurance brokers to determine whether group coverage would be feasible. By volunteering to take the lead on this effort, Carmen represented the interests of many freelance members. Carmen has been a member of NASW since 2007 and is also actively involved with DCSWA, where she is currently Secretary. 

In 2020, another member also spontaneously reached out with an offer to bring together members virtually. It was the enthusiastic “P.S.” at the end of an email from Ellen Kuwana that started the twice-monthly #SciWriCoffee chats for freelancers that ran from December 2020 until summer 2022.

In response to participant feedback, Ellen is currently working with Freelance Committee member Jennifer Huber to bring members together with a series of curated sessions throughout the year that focus on specific topics of interest to freelancers. She has also been active in efforts to support NASW members’ mental health, co-hosting a ScienceWriters2021 session “Pandemic Solidarity for Science Writers.” The session was initially slated to be in-person, but the entire meeting was turned into a virtual conference as COVID re-surged. Ellen thoughtfully and diligently re-crafted plans that had been created for an in-person experience to ensure that online attendees could support each other. In addition, she secured an Idea Grant with last year’s McGurgan Award recipient Andrew Meissen to provide a workshop on creativity, resilience, and mental health. Ellen is also the current president of the Northwest Science Writers Association and a recent volunteer leader of the SciWriCongress.

Thank you, Ellen and Carmen, for all you do!

Carmen Drahl (left) and Ellen Kuwana are the recipients of the 2022 NASW McGurgan Volunteer Service Awards. (Courtesy of awardees)

The NASW Diane McGurgan Volunteer Service Award was established in 2001. NASW member Louis Lerner, who passed away in 2006, wished to show appreciation for then-Executive Director Diane McGurgan and other members whose efforts on behalf of NASW go beyond the call of duty. With more than 200 active volunteers annually, NASW relies on the energy and enthusiasm of members to help shape programming, lead or contribute to projects and programs, or run for the board. Learn more and get involved.

Founded in 1934 with a mission to fight for the free flow of science news, NASW is an organization of ~ 2,700 professional journalists, authors, editors, producers, public information officers, students and people who write and produce material intended to inform the public about science, health, engineering, and technology. To learn more, visit