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02/11/2009 - The Kavli Foundation Endows the AAAS Science Journalism Awards

(Originally published by the American Association for the Advancement of Science)

February 11, 2009

The Kavli Foundation has provided a $2 million endowment that will ensure the future of the prestigious Science Journalism Awards program of the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

Since their inception in 1945, the independently juried awards have honored distinguished reporting on science by professional journalists. The awards are an internationally recognized measure of excellence in science journalism for a general audience.

The Kavli Foundation, based in Oxnard, California, is dedicated to the goals of advancing science for the benefit of humanity and promoting increased public understanding and support for scientists and their work. In recognition of the new endowment, the awards will be called the AAAS Kavli Science Journalism Awards.

“We thank the Foundation and its founder, Fred Kavli, for this generous support of a program that has fostered strong, probing science writing for more than half a century,” said Alan I. Leshner, the chief executive officer of AAAS and executive publisher of the journal Science. “The association with the distinguished Kavli Foundation will add to the stature of the awards and put the program on a self-sustaining basis at a time when there is more need than ever for journalism that explains and illuminates the role of science in our changing global society.” 

The endowment also will allow two awards in the television category for the first time, one for spot news/ feature reporting and one for in-depth reporting.

“Through their insight and craftsmanship, science journalists convey how science is integral to our lives, and in so doing deepen our understanding of the universe and ourselves,” said Fred Kavli, founder and chairman of The Kavli Foundation. “We are delighted to support a program honoring this work, particularly in an age that promises so many new and exciting scientific discoveries.”

The awards were established in 1945 by the Westinghouse Educational Foundation through the initiative of Robert D. Potter, the president of the National Association of Science Writers. AAAS was asked to administer the awards program, which was meant to encourage good science journalism at a time when very few news outlets had full-time science writers. Westinghouse continued its support of the program until 1993. The Whitaker Foundation funded the awards from 1994 to 2003. From 2004 to 2008, Johnson & Johnson Pharmaceutical Research and Development, L.L.C. sponsored the awards, including establishment in 2005 of the first category open to journalists from around the world: reporting on science news for children.

Throughout, the original intent has been maintained: the awards are administered by AAAS staff but the selection of winners is by panels of journalists who judge the work of their peers. Over the years, the awards have gone to some of the nation’s most distinguished writers and broadcasters, including Natalie Angier, Paula Apsell, Jeremy Bernstein, Jerry Bishop, Deborah Blum, Henry S.F. Cooper, Timothy Ferris, Atul Gawande, Elizabeth Kolbert, Walter Sullivan, Earl Ubell and John Noble Wilford.

The 2009 awards -- the first under Kavli sponsorship -- will be presented at the AAAS annual meeting in San Diego in February 2010. Each category winner will receive $3,000. AAAS will reimburse winners for reasonable travel and hotel expenses. In cases of multiple authors or producers, only one person’s travel expenses will be covered.

The winners of the 2008 awards were announced on 12 November 2008. The winners include an ambitious series on memory and the brain, a look at whether research supports widespread use of anti-cholesterol medications, and a broadcast account of the contentious battle over intelligent design in Dover, Pennsylvania. The children’s award goes to Yoon Shin-Young of South Korea, the first international winner since the children’s award was introduced.

The Awards Managing Committee also approved a special Certificate of Recognition for career excellence in science reporting for David Perlman, long-time science editor of the San Francisco Chronicle.

For a list of 2009 winners and original press release, click here.

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