Award Winners

2021

Science Reporting – Large Outlet

Gold

A room, a bar and a classroom: how the coronavirus is spread through the air

El País (Spain) Oct. 29, 2020

The judges praised the El País entry for examining the risks of the SARS-CoV-2 virus that causes COVID-19 at a time when understanding of the aerosol spread of the disease was still developing. The virus is most contagious in poorly ventilated indoor spaces, the story said, and the danger can be reduced by applying all available measures to inhibit infection via aerosols. The story provided a detailed overview of the likelihood of infection in three everyday scenarios―aerosol spread at a social gathering in a living room; in a bar with reduced capacity; and in a school classroom...Read more

Silver

The Mystery of Why Some People Keep Testing Positive for Covid-19

Elemental (from Medium) July 28, 2020

Opening with the story of a young woman who tested positive multiple times for the coronavirus even after her symptoms of COVID-19 disease had resolved, Roxanne Khamsi described efforts by scientists to determine whether the virus can hang around in the body for much longer than initially believed and, if so, whether it can remain infectious. Her piece offered a nuanced look at confusing and incomplete data as scientists struggled to better understand the activity of the virus and the limitations of existing tests for detecting its presence in the body. Over time, does the standard PCR...Read more

Science Reporting – Small Outlet

Gold

Succession

FiftyTwo (India) Jan. 29, 2021

India is considered “megadiverse,” with one of the largest number of species found nowhere else in the world. And as Aathira Perinchery described in her award-winning story, discovering new species is now a common occurrence in India. “It excites people in evolutionary biology and conservation communities,” she wrote, “but remains otherwise undissected in the popular imagination.” New scientific methods and more explorations have led to more frequent reports of new species and to a better understanding of what they mean, Perinchery says. “Some are clues to the past: what was the earth like...Read more

Silver

Ghost Bird

The Post and Courier (Charleston, S.C.) Sept. 30, 2020

Tony Bartelme’s story on the eastern black rail, dubbed the “ghost bird” for its elusiveness, went beyond the plight of an endangered species to discuss the impacts of climate change, the obsession of a South Carolina scientist who has been studying the black rail, and the fraught ways in which federal agencies and political institutions sometimes cope with species that capture the public’s imagination. In 2010, environmental groups asked the federal government to protect black rails under the Endangered Species Act. Two months after Bartelme’s story appeared, the U.S. Department of...Read more

Science Reporting – In-Depth

Gold

What's Going on Inside the Fearsome Thunderstorms of Córdoba Province?

New York Times Magazine July 22, 2020

Noah Gallagher Shannon created a storm chaser story for a new and undetermined meteorological landscape. As climate change increases both the size and intensity of storms worldwide, atmospheric scientists are struggling to predict stronger and increasingly erratic weather patterns. For some scientists, “the chaos wrought by climate change requires radically rethinking some of meteorology’s core concepts,” writes Shannon. One group of scientists, led by University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign professor Steve Nesbitt, is studying the monster storms in northern Argentina to produce a...Read more

Silver

Hoe Chips en Dip stierven voor een vaccin (How Chips and Dip died for a vaccine)

De Volkskrant (The Netherlands) July 10, 2021

Maartje Bakker of De Volkskrant gained permission from the Biomedical Primate Research Center (BPRC) in Rijswijk, The Netherlands, to follow a study of an experimental COVID-19 vaccine as it was tested in monkeys. “Never before have outsiders seen at such close quarters how such an experiment is conducted” at the BPRC, Bakker wrote. “It is something that makes the researchers at the BPRC nervous. They know that they receive a lot of criticism from society.” But she added, “They also feel that the time when monkey research is surrounded by secrecy should be over.” Bakker recounted...Read more

Magazine

Gold

Fatal Flaw (print title)

Wired July/August 2021

During the early months of the COVID-19 pandemic, Virginia Tech aerosol scientist Linsey Marr and her colleagues met with the World Health Organization to warn them about airborne virus spread. At the time, the organization ignored their warning, insisting that the coronavirus disperses primarily through droplets that did not hang in the air and fell quickly to the ground. Their droplet argument led to guidelines centered around hand washing and social distancing rather than mask use. The WHO’s initial guidance was based on a misinformed definition of aerosols which specified that all...Read more

Silver

The ethical questions that haunt facial-recognition research

Nature Nov. 18, 2020

In September 2019, four researchers asked publisher Wiley to immediately retract a study that had trained algorithms to distinguish faces of Uyghur people, a predominantly Muslim minority ethnic group in China. As Richard Van Noorden writes, the study published by Wiley was not alone. Journals from publishers including Springer Nature, Elsevier and the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) had also published peer-reviewed papers that describe using facial recognition to identify Uyghurs and members of other Chinese minority groups. “For facial-recognition algorithms to...Read more

Video: Spot News/Feature Reporting

Gold

How Bison Are Saving America's Lost Prairie

PBS Jan. 14, 2021

Inside the Fight to Save an Ancient Forest (and the Secrets It Holds)

PBS July 1, 2021

In their PBS Terra videos, Michael Werner, Joe Hanson, Rachel Raney and Brandon Arolfo explore the ongoing attempts to save two threatened ecosystems―the American prairie and the ancient forests of the Pacific Northwest. “How Bison Are Saving America’s Lost Prairie” focuses on the Joseph H. Williams Tallgrass Prairie Preserve in northeastern Oklahoma, a 40,000-acre expanse where scientists from The Nature Conservancy are using bison to restore the area’s ecosystem after years of destructive overgrazing by cattle. The herd of more than 2,000 bison now helps foster the ecosystem’s rich...Read more

Silver

Mexico's COVID Cases and Deaths are Underreported—Why?

NOVA/GBH for PBS April 2, 2021

During the height of the global COVID-19 pandemic, NOVA producer Arlo Pérez Esquivel left his home in Boston and traveled to stay with family in his hometown of Uruapan, Mexico. At the time, Boston and its surrounding county were reporting tens of thousands of COVID-19 cases among its population of 800,000 people. Meanwhile Uruapan and the surrounding region, collectively home to about 700,000 people, reported only a fraction of that number. When he arrived in Uruapan, Pérez noticed that reported cases weren’t accurately representing the number of sick and dying people around him. In a...Read more

Video: In-Depth Reporting

Gold

Picture a Scientist

A NOVA Production by Uprising LLC for GBH Boston April 14, 2021

“Picture a Scientist” invites viewers to imagine science as a more diverse, equitable and welcoming enterprise than historically has been the norm. It describes the experiences of three women—biologist Nancy Hopkins, chemist Raychelle Burks and geologist Jane Willenbring—who were subject to subtle slights and, in some cases, brutal harassment as they sought to build careers in science. Women still make up less than a quarter of STEM professionals in the United States, with the numbers even lower for women of color such as Burks. The film combines powerful personal stories with compelling...Read more

Silver

Gene editing with a remarkable new technology called CRISPR may be opening a new chapter on what it means to be human, the award-winning filmmakers report. For sickle cell disease, replacing just a single misplaced base molecule in the cell’s DNA can produce a cure. But how far should we go? Would it be wrong to engineer soldiers to feel no pain or allow parents to choose their child’s features, like eye color or height? The scientists who pioneered human genome studies and the developers of CRISPR technology are grappling with such questions, as are bioethicists who worry decisions may be...Read more

Audio

Gold

Quirks & Quarks: Black in science special

CBC/Radio-Canada Feb. 27, 2021

Amanada Buckiewicz and Nicole Mortillaro, producers for a special edition of the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation’s long-running “Quirks & Quarks” program, looked at the past and future of Black people in science. The episode examined the history of biased and false "race science" that led to misunderstanding and mistreatment of Black people by the scientific and medical community, creating obstacles for them to participate in the scientific process. Buckiewicz and Mortillaro spoke to Black researchers about their work and how they are trying to increase recognition for the...Read more

Silver

Rising COVID cases and vaccine doubt

SciDev.Net Feb. 3, 2021

Debunking COVID-19 myths and remedies

SciDev.Net Feb. 10, 2021

Science and you: Africa's COVID-19 vaccines

SciDev.Net Feb. 17, 2020

In a three-part series for the Africa Science Focus podcast of SciDev.Net―an online news site that covers science for the developing world―a team of editors and Africa-based reporters described how coronavirus cases and deaths had increased across Sub-Saharan Africa, how misinformation was spreading and affecting vaccine confidence, and how health specialists in Africa were mounting vaccination programs while also trying to calm patient fears. The judges praised the series as a great example of journalism in service to the community. “This engaging set of stories answered listeners...Read more

Children's Science News

Gold

The secret history of dirt

Vox Sept. 3, 2020

In the first of three award-winning segments, the Vox team uses the discovery of a bird’s nest on a porch swing as an opportunity to view hatchling robins closely and answer some important questions about bird life, including why the crowded nest is not eventually covered in bird poop. It turns out the newborns present their poop to their parents in convenient fecal sacs, which the adults gladly remove from the nest. The other segments on the secret history of dirt and the identification of clouds are equally captivating, the judges found. “These are engaging videos for adults as well as...Read more

Silver

Whales get a second like as deep-sea buffets

Science News for Students

When whales die and sink to the ocean’s bottom, their bodies can provide a feast to smaller organisms, including living things found nowhere else on Earth. “Think of it as a watery free-for-all,” Stephen Ornes tells his readers. “Hagfish, octopods, squid, sharks, crabs and worms all gather and devour. It’s a rich ecosystem all of its own. In deep water, where relatively few animals live, the feast may last for years.” For marine biologists, Ornes, says, “the body of a dead whale provides an opportunity to study life in one of the least explored places on Earth: the bottom of the ocean...Read more