Award Winners

2018

Online

Gold

“The Complicated Legacy of a Panda Who Was Really Good at Sex” Nov. 28, 2017

FiveThirtyEight

The judges praised Maggie Koerth-Baker for an exhaustively reported, elegantly written story about bringing a species back from extinction. It went well beyond the popular image of pandas as cute, iconic creatures who are photogenic representatives of zoo-based conservation efforts. As Koerth-Baker wrote, “Behind the big eyes and rounded frames that signal vulnerability and cuddliness to the human brain, pandas are real, live 200-pound bears. Bears that can shred your flesh. Bears that roll around in the dirt and turn themselves dingy gray. Bears that grow old and frail.” She told the tale...Read more

Silver

“China is Genetically Engineering Monkeys With Brain Disorders” June 8, 2018

The Atlantic.com

Sarah Zhang visited a facility in the Guangdong province of China where researchers are tinkering with monkey brains to better understand the most severe forms of autism. It is research that is too expensive, too impractical and perhaps too ethically sensitive to be carried out in the United States. The researchers use CRISPR, a powerful new gene-editing technique, that enables scientists to zero in on and disable specific genes. Zhang recounted the research of Guoping Feng, who holds an endowed chair in neuroscience at MIT, but who now travels to China several times a year to pursue...Read more

2017

Online

Gold

“Boomtown, Flood Town”

ProPublica and The Texas Tribune

In a comprehensive, richly interactive story, ProPublica and The Texas Tribune reported that more frequent and fiercer rainstorms are likely in cities like Houston due to climate change, even as unmanaged growth and lack of zoning have made the city more vulnerable to risk of flooding. In a story that presaged the devastating impact of Hurricane Harvey on the Houston area, the reporters took a closer look at two previous storms ─ the Memorial Day Flood of 2015 and the Tax Day Flood of 2016 ─ and described how the loss of undeveloped prairie and wetlands has made areas more prone...Read more

Silver

“The West’s newest bird species has a beak like a crowbar”

High Country News online

In an engaging report from the South Hills of Idaho, Nick Neely wrote about the discovery and probable disappearance of North America’s newest bird species, the Cassia crossbill. The reddish birds have crowbar-like beaks that are capable of prying open the toughest cones from lodgepole pines, the birds’ seed source and co-evolutionary partners on which they entirely depend. University of Wyoming ecologist Craig Benkman and his colleagues discovered the Cassia crossbill in a range of just 27 square miles of lodgepole forest. They eventually convinced the American Ornithologists Union that...Read more

2016

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

2015

Online

Gold

"How a Lone Hacker Shredded the Myth of Crowdsourcing" - 9 Feb. 2015

Backchannel

 

Crowdsourcing, which exploits the collective intelligence of thousands of people to tackle big problems, has become popular in business, political, and academic circles. But Mark Harris described how a hacker and a friend infiltrated a DARPA-sponsored "Shredder Challenge" and created havoc. Participants in the challenge had to piece together 6,000 chads from documents that had been put through high-end shredding machines. Some of the teams used sophisticated computer algorithms to help match images of the chads that had been posted online. But the hackers managed...Read more

Silver

"How Ebola Roared Back" - 29 Dec. 2014

The New York Times

 

A New York Times team described how, for a fleeting moment in the spring of 2014, the Ebola epidemic that subsequently swept through West Africa might have been stopped. The winners included reporters Sheri Fink, Kevin Sack, Adam Nossiter and Pam Belluck; freelance photographer Daniel Berehulak; independent video producer Dan Edge (for Frontline); and the New York Times graphics team. The Times reporters discovered that World Health Organization and Guinean health authorities had documented that a handful of people in Sierra Leone had...Read more

2014

Online

"Trials: A Desperate Fight to Save Kids and Change Science" - 14 Nov. 2013

The Wall Street Journal

 

In "Trials," a sweeping, multimedia project, reporter Amy Dockser Marcus followed a group of families and scientists trying to accelerate the development of a drug to treat Niemann-Pick Type C disease, a rare and fatal disorder of cholesterol metabolism that strikes primarily children. Those with the disease, which gradually steals mobility, speech, and the ability to swallow, seldom live beyond their teen years. The families and scientists, whom Dockser Marcus followed for six years, were part of a fledgling movement to change medical science in the United States and gain a...Read more

2013

Online

"Uprising: Can a self-trained scientist solve one of the biggest problems in energy policy?" - 21 Feb. 2013

Matter

 

Bob Ackley spent his life working the streets for some of America's biggest gas companies. More recently, with the help of Boston University's Nathan Phillips, he has been tracking the gas that leaks from underground pipelines, all with full knowledge of the industry. He has concluded that the amount of natural gas leaking beneath city streets is far greater than previously realized. Some scientists now believe such leaks may be helping to accelerate climate change in a way that few had suspected — even as governments worldwide are backing natural gas as an alternative to...Read more

2012

Online

"Elwha: The Grand Experiment" - 17 Sept. 2011

The Seattle Times

 

On the Olympic Peninsula in the state of Washington, the largest dam-removal project in North America is underway. At a cost of $325 million, two dams that have blocked salmon runs on the Elwha River for more than a century are being removed in a grand experiment in ecological restoration that is posing challenges for engineers and scientists alike. State, federal and tribal scientists are gathering baseline data on what the river basin is like today and what it could become as 800 acres drowned by the dam reservoirs are seeded with hundreds of thousands of native plants....Read more

2011

Online

“The Secret Life of Scientists and Engineers” Series One - 6 Oct. 2010

“The Secret Life of Scientists and Engineers” Series Two - 2 Feb. 2011

The Secret Life of Scientists and Engineers” Series Three - 16 Feb. 2011

PBS NOVA Online

 

PBS NOVA Online’s “Secret Life of Scientists and Engineers” offers a sometimes surprising look at the avocations and enthusiasms of researchers who pursue the mysteries of science. William Saletan, who covers science for Slate, called the winning entry “a delightfully engaging, visually creative series that illuminates the intrigue and texture of science through the personalities of its people.”

The winning online video series introduced scientists and engineers in both their professional and personal lives. The subjects included a neurobiologist who meditates, a...Read more

2010

Online

"The Memory Doctor" - 4 June 2010

Slate

 

 William Saletan of Slate won for a lengthy examination of the work of leading memory researcher Elizabeth Loftus. In his reporting on Loftus, Saletan explored the mutability of memory and the role and power of faked images. His richly textured presentation, with embedded video and relevant footnotes, included an exercise in which Slate, an online magazine, did its own experiment on memory manipulation. By doctoring photo images from recent political history, Saletan showed how even highly informed and educated readers can come to remember bogus political stories as...Read more

2009

Online

Bangladesh: Where the Climate Exodus Begins (series) "Facing the specter of the globe’s biggest and harshest mass journeys" - March 2009

Bangladesh: Where the Climate Exodus Begins (series) "E+E’s Lisa Friedman explores storm-ravaged Bengali village" - March 2009

Bangladesh: Where the Climate Exodus Begins (series) "The road from growing rice to raising shrimp to misery" - March 2009

ClimateWire

 

In a five-part series that ran in March 2009 on ClimateWire, an environmental news service, reporter Lisa Friedman described the potential impact of climate change on Bangladesh, which some scientists see as ground zero for a likely wave of climate-induced mass migrations around the globe.

Friedman “brings climate science down to a human level and highlights how one often-overlooked corner of the world is affected by climate-changing activities elsewhere,” said judge Tina Hesman Saey of Science News. Seth Borenstein of the Associated Press said Friedman’s...Read more

2008

Online

"Megafishes project to size up real ‘Loch Ness Monsters" - 24 July 2007

"World’s largest trout thrives in Mongolia—for now" - 7 Nov. 2007

"Giant river stingrays found near Thai city" - 29 Apr. 2008

National Geographic News

 

Stefan Lovgren traveled around the world to tell the story of monster species of fish and their habitat. “Using all of the tools available, Lovgren paints a compelling portrait of these gargantuan fish that most people would never get to see,” said Seth Borenstein of Associated Press. “The images of the giant ray and the cannibalistic fish hook you, and the narrative reels you in.” Warren Leary, a freelance writer formerly with The New York Times, called Lovgren’s work “a fine entry that introduces the public to an interesting topic in an innovative way. Good...Read more