Award Winners

2016

Large Newspaper

Gold

"Het is een prachtig kind. Waarom is hij overleden?" (It is a beautiful child. Why did he die?") - 23 Apr. 2016

NRC Handelsblad

 

In a heartbreaking story about the stillbirth of their son, Mikki, journalists Jop de Vrieze and Zvezdana Vukojevic searched for answers within the Dutch system of prenatal care that might have helped prevent their son’s death. They delved into scientific articles, medical guidelines, policy documents, parliamentary papers and internal documents, and spoke to more than 30 sources. Infant mortality has been a topic of considerable discussion in The Netherlands since a 2003 study found the nation’s infant mortality rate was among the highest in the European Union. Midwives...Read more

Silver

“Narben am Grund - Scars in the Ground” - 23 Mar. 2016

Süddeutsche Zeitung (Munich)

 

In 1989, German scientists plowed a patch of sea floor off Ecuador to study the possible effects of deep sea mining. They monitored the ten-square-kilometer plot for a few years and then moved on. In the summer of 2015, a new German research vessel returned to the site to explore what had happened in the 26 years since the first excavations in the fragile ecosystem. They found life on the sea floor had scarcely recovered. Not even bacteria have managed to fully recolonize the scars in the ocean floor, researchers found. Other species have never returned. Some...Read more

Small Newspaper

Gold

“Busted! Breast Cancer, Money and the Media” (11-part series) – 5 Nov. 2015 - 21 Jan. 2016

Point Reyes Light (California)

 

In his series for the Point Reyes Light, Peter Byrne took a close look at claims of a breast cancer epidemic among white women in upscale Marin County and found that widespread cancer screening, producing many false positives, is the likely cause of a feared “cancer cluster” in the county. He reported that many non-cancerous findings are erroneously entered in the state’s cancer registry as cancerous. “There is not more breast cancer in Marin than elsewhere, experts say; rather, it is detected more frequently—and often erroneously,” Byrne wrote. “Over the...Read more

Silver

“Graying of HIV: After 35 years of the AIDS virus, a generation makes new medical history” - 5 June 2016

Sarasota Herald-Tribune

 

More than half of the 1.25 million Americans infected by the human immune deficiency virus (HIV) are age 50 or older, Barbara Peters Smith reported in her award-winning piece. In just four years, that share should reach 70 percent. “As the longevity boom collides with a resurgence of HIV diagnoses nationwide, scientists are just now learning how this persistent, incurable virus ─ along with the powerful drugs that keep it at bay ─ takes a toll on the body that makes natural aging look like a gift,” she wrote. People with HIV experience age-related changes in their DNA more...Read more

Magazine

Gold

“Editing the Mushroom” - March 2016

Scientific American

The gene editing technique called CRISPR is much in the news, but the judges praised Hall’s piece for not only explaining the powerful new technique but also using a very specific example– preventing the decay of store-bought mushrooms – to show how the new science may be having its most profound and least publicized effect in agriculture. “By the fall of 2015, about 50 scientific papers had been published reporting uses of CRISPR in gene-edited plants, and there are preliminary signs that the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), one of the agencies that assess genetically modified...Read more

Silver

“The Forgotten Continent” - 14 July 2016

“Listening for Landslides” - 28 Apr. 2016

“Trouble in Tibet” - 14 Jan. 2016

Nature

 

In a trio of stories from China, Nepal and Tibet, Beijing-based freelancer Jane Qiu described how fossil finds in China are challenging ideas about the evolution of modern humans and our closest relatives; how rapid changes in Tibetan grasslands are threatening Asia’s main water supply and the livelihood of nomads; and how scientists are wiring up mountainsides in Nepal to monitor and forecast heightened landslide hazards in the wake of the devastating Nepalese earthquake in 2015. The judges praised Qiu’s initiative and in-the-field reporting skills. Her piece on...Read more

Television: Spot News/Feature Reporting

Gold

“A primer on the Paris climate conference” - 23 Nov. 2015

BBC Newsnight, BBC World

 

Setting the stage for what proved to be a landmark conference on climate change in Paris, Rebecca Morelle and Stuart Denman traveled to a high-altitude research laboratory in the Swiss Alps to talk with scientists who have been keeping an eye on rising levels of heat-trapping carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. In the broadcast, Morelle reviewed the history of global negotiations to control human-generated atmospheric emissions, including the successful effort to reduce substances that damage Earth’s protective ozone layer. In interviews with the UN official in charge of...Read more

Silver

What a smell looks like” - 21 June 2016

PBS NewsHour

 

Nsikan Akpan told viewers how odors swirl through the air like turbulent dyes flowing through water. The physics of movement in each medium is similar, scientists say, and understanding how odors propagate through the environment could be an important step in developing better artificial “noses” to detect hidden explosives or chemical weapons or other contraband of interest. Such studies also are laying the groundwork for a nationwide study on how humans and animals use smells to map their surroundings. “The NewsHour takes a cue from YouTube with this innovative snapshot of...Read more

Television: In-Depth/Feature Reporting

Gold

“The Experiments: The Star Surgeon”

Swedish Public Television (SVT)

 

Surgeon Paolo Macchiarini gained international attention in 2011 when he announced he had performed the world’s first synthetic organ transplant by replacing a patient’s trachea, or windpipe, with a plastic tube. When doubts arose about the success of subsequent operations, Karolinska officials disregarded the results of an investigation by an outside expert and reaffirmed their faith in Macchiarini. In a gripping three-part documentary, reporter Bosse Lindquist explained how the surgeon did not fully inform his patients about the risks of the trachea implants and had...Read more

Silver

“Making North America” Origins

“Making North America” Life

“Making North America” Human

Windfall Films (London) for NOVA/WGBH

 

The three-part NOVA series on “Making North America” describes how powerful geological forces formed a continent, how life evolved on that continent, how humans first set foot on North America, and what surprises the continent’s changing landscape may have in store for us. The lushly photographed series, with stunning computer graphics that recreate a world of tectonic upheaval, provides a look deep into our planet’s history. Paleontologist Kirk Johnson, an enthusiastic and fearless guide, takes viewers on an extended field trip to some of the most stunning locales on the...Read more

Audio

Gold

“In Greenland, a climate change mystery with clues written in water and stone” - 18 Jan. 2016

“Looking small for big answers in Greenland” - 19 Jan. 2016

“Turning ice into fire: How climate change could mean more volcanic eruptions in Iceland” - 27 Nov. 2015

Public Radio International’s “The World”

 

From a desolate volcanic landscape in the highlands of Iceland to the edge of the world’s second largest ice sheet in Greenland, reporter Ari Daniel and environment editor Peter Thomson of PRI’s “The World” took listeners to the frontiers of field research on current and potential effects of climate change. “Ari Daniel brought listeners along on an exciting and fascinating ride to explore melting glaciers in Greenland and Iceland,” said Rich Monastersky, features editor in the Washington office of the journal Nature. “The vivid pieces put us right there with...Read more

Silver

“Hidden Brain” podcast ─ “When Great Minds Think Unlike: Inside Science’s ‘Replication Crisis’ ” - 24 May 2016

NPR

 

NPR’s Shankar Vedantam and his producers explored why findings in scientific studies may fail to hold up when other researchers try to reproduce them. The issue was spotlighted in 2015 when University of Virginia psychologist Brian Nosek and a consortium of colleagues reported they had been able to reproduce the original results in fewer than half of 100 published psychology studies. Vedantam looked more closely at efforts to replicate one study on the effects of gender and ethnic stereotyping on performance by Asian women in math tests. In the study, volunteers who were...Read more

Online

Gold

“Law Ignored, Patients at Risk: Failure to Report - A STAT Investigation” - 13 Dec. 2015

“Failure to report: About the investigation” - 13 Dec. 2015

“STAT investigation sparked improved reporting of study results, NIH says” - 16 Feb. 2016

STAT

 

Charles Piller reported that researchers at leading medical institutions had routinely disregarded a law requiring public reporting of study results to the federal government’s ClinicalTrials.gov database, thereby depriving patients and doctors of information that would help them better compare the effectiveness and side effects of treatments for diseases such as advanced breast cancer. Piller found that four of the top 10 recipients of federal medical research funding from the National Institutes of Health were the worst offenders: Stanford University, the University of...Read more

Silver

“Science Isn’t Broken. It’s just a hell of a lot harder than we give it credit for.” - 19 Aug. 2015

“You Can’t Trust What You Read About Nutrition. We found a link between cabbage and innie bellybuttons, but that doesn’t mean it’s real.” - 6 Jan. 2016

“Failure Is Moving Science Forward. The replication crisis is a sign that science is working." - 24 Mar. 2016

FiveThirtyEight

 

For the first piece of her award-winning entry, Christie Aschwanden, a reporter for FiveThirtyEight, spent months exploring the seeming rash of reported incidents of misconduct and fraud in scientific research and concluded that the headline-grabbing cases are “mere distractions.” She added: “If we’re going to rely on science as a means for reaching the truth ─ and it’s still the best tool we have ─it’s important that we understand and respect just how difficult it is to get a rigorous result.” She proceeded to highlight that difficulty with a revealing dive into the world...Read more

Children's Science News

Gold

“What Really Causes Cavities?” - 25 Jan. 2016

“See Microbes with this DIY Microscope” - 4 Jan. 2016

Three Surprising Questions About Periods” - 10 Feb. 2016

Gross Science from NOVA

 

Anna Rothschild engaged her early adolescent viewers with a series of brightly written pieces about the microbial culprits behind cavities, a clever homemade microscope that can be used to view the denizens of pond scum, and a frank and informative discussion of menstrual periods. “Funny, compelling, intriguingly gross and hugely informative—the videos written, edited, animated and narrated by the multi-talented Anna Rothschild do a marvelous job of conveying science in a form that is kid-friendly and likely to stick in young brains,” said Claudia Wallis, managing editor of...Read more

Silver

“The shocking electric eel!” - 2 June 2016

Science News for Students

 

From its opening paragraphs about a zoologist’s unwise affection for a pet eel named “Sparky,” to its description of an eel’s use of electrical pulses to trick its prey into revealing their location, Roberta Kwok’s story on electric eels offered a fascinating glimpse into the behavior of these underwater predators capable of demolishing an entire school of fish. Philip Stoddard, the Florida International University zoologist who attempted to pet Sparky, was immediately zapped with about 500 volts of electricity, roughly four times the jolt he would have received from a...Read more