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Academies announce winners of 2009 Communication Awards

WASHINGTON -- The National Academies today announced the recipients of their 2009 Communication Awards. Part of the National Academies Keck FUTURES INITIATIVE, these prestigious awards recognize excellence in reporting and communicating science, engineering, and medicine to the general public. With support from the W.M. Keck Foundation, the National Academies began awarding these $20,000 prizes in 2003. This year's winners will be honored during a ceremony on Nov. 20 at the Arnold and Mabel Beckman Center in Irvine, Calif.

Selected from more than 200 print, broadcast, and Internet entries, the recipients of the awards for works published or aired in 2008 are:


Neil Shubin for his delightful, intellectually challenging view of evolution from primitive fish to humans by a scientist who finds fossils in the most uncomfortable places and chronicles it all in YOUR INNER FISH: A JOURNEY INTO THE 3.5-BILLION-YEAR HISTORY OF THE HUMAN BODY (Pantheon Books)


Mark Johnson for his clear reporting on the cutting edge of science, engaging key researchers as they try to open new medical horizons by reprogramming human cells, in his series TARGETING THE GOOD CELL (Milwaukee Journal Sentinel)


Larry Adelman (series creator, executive producer), Llewellyn M. Smith (co-executive producer), and Christine Herbes-Sommers (series senior producer) for putting a human face on one of the most complex issues in public health -- the impact of racial and socio-economic inequities in the provision of medical care -- in UNNATURAL CAUSES: IS INEQUALITY MAKING US SICK? (California NewsReel in association with Vital Pictures Inc.)


Vikki Valentine (digital science editor), Alison Richards (deputy science editor), and Anne Gudenkauf (science editor) for National Public Radio's CLIMATE CONNECTIONS, a yearlong multimedia journey to explain the impacts of global climate change with well-reported stories from around the world (NPR News in partnership with NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC)

The following were finalists:


  • Kenneth R. Miller, author of ONLY A THEORY: EVOLUTION AND THE BATTLE FOR AMERICA'S SOUL (Penguin Group USA)

  • Andrew Revkin, environment reporter, author of Dot Earth blog (THE NEW YORK TIMES)

The National Academies Keck FUTURES INITIATIVE was created in 2003 to encourage interdisciplinary research and is funded by a 15-year, $40 million grant from the W.M. Keck Foundation. Communication Award recipients will be honored at this year's FUTURES conference, "Synthetic Biology: Building on Nature's Inspiration," to be held Nov. 19-22 in Irvine, Calif. The conference will bring together selected researchers to explore the engineering, scientific, and social aspects of synthetic biology. Conference participants will have the opportunity to compete for grants to pursue new lines of cross-disciplinary research.

The winners of the 2009 Communication Awards were selected by a committee of 11 judges:

  • Donald Kennedy (committee chair and member, National Academy of Sciences and Institute of Medicine), editor in chief emeritus, SCIENCE; president emeritus and Bing Professor of Environmental Science emeritus, Stanford University

  • Barbara Schaal (committee vice chair and vice president, National Academy of Sciences), Mary-Dell Chilton Distinguished Professor, department of biology, Washington University

  • Gregory Andorfer, Emmy-winning producer, and former executive director, Maryland Science Center

  • Pablo J. Boczkowski, associate professor, program in media, technology, and society, department of communication studies, Northwestern University

  • Deborah Blum, Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and author; professor, School of Journalism and Mass Communication, University of Wisconsin, Madison

  • Robert W. Lucky (member, National Academy of Engineering), retired corporate vice president for research, Telcordia Technologies Inc.

  • Joe Palca, science correspondent, National Public Radio

  • Henry Petroski (member, National Academy of Engineering), Aleksandar S. Vesic Professor of Civil Engineering, and professor of history, Duke University; and engineering columnist, AMERICAN SCIENTIST

  • Gregory A. Petsko (member, National Academy of Sciences and Institute of Medicine), Gyula and Katica Tauber Professor of Biochemistry, Brandeis University

  • Cristine Russell, president, Council for the Advancement of Science Writing; and senior fellow, Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, Harvard Kennedy School

  • Dan Vergano, science and medical reporter, USA TODAY


Contact: Maureen O'Leary
National Academy of Sciences

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