Excuse The Hoot!

The American Association for the Advancement of Science has just announced this year’s Kavli Awards for Science Journalism. I’m pleased to report that I won in the category of newspapers with a circulation of 100,000 or more.

The award was for three stories I wrote for The New York Times. They didn’t have much in common, which is how I like it:

A Sharp Rise in Retractions Prompts Calls for Reform (April 17)–The scientific enterprise is getting dysfunctional. The fact that this article received 341 comments suggests to me that it hit a nerve.

Studies of Microbiome Yield New Insights (June 19)–I explore the emerging concept of medical ecology, in which we look at our bodies as wildlife parks to be managed, rather than battlegrounds to be carpet-bombed.

Evolution Right Under Our Noses (July 26)–My editor at the time, James Gorman, came across a cool paper on the rapid evolution of fish in the Hudson River. I said, “It’s nice, but it’s not unique by any means. I mean, evolution’s going on all over New York.” Gorman, with that sharp editorial nose of his, said, “Really? Then write about that.” So off I went to the wilderness of Manhattan parks and median strips.

I am now officially barred from winning this award again, having won it in 2004 for my writing here at The Loom and in 2009 for another batch of stories for the Times. I happily hang up my cleats and thank AAAS for all three honors.

Of course, you can’t win a prize for newspaper writing without a newspaper to write for, so I have to give heaps of thanks to the Times, to which I’ve been contributing stories for the past eight years. Along with Jim Gorman, I’ve worked with many other fine folks at the Science Times (including David Corcoran, Michael Mason, Jill Taylor, Jennifer Kingson, and Barbara Strauch), as well as Jamie Ryerson at the Sunday Review. They are compatriots in curiosity. Over the past eight years we have looked anxiously at the woes faced by our dear Gray Lady, as the entire world of journalism has shuddered with changes. Things are not all lollipops and rainbows in 2012, but there are many reasons for optimism–not least of which, I think, is the mere existence of the Science Times, still dedicating every Tuesday to the world beyond elections and quarterly employment reports after more than 30 years.

I’ll be heading up to Boston in February to pick up the prize at AAAS’s annual meeting. My wife Grace will be accompanying me, which only makes sense, since she makes it possible for me to scurry off after new species of ants living on Broadway without the rest of our life collapsing in on itself. Ultimately, all thanks must go to her–including thanks for going to Boston in February.

[Image: Portrait of Brother David With A Mandolin, Marc Chagall, via Wiki Paintings]