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News from the National Academy of Sciences

Date: Dec. 11, 2002
Contact: Christian Dobbins, Media Relations Assistant
Office of News and Public Information
(202) 334-2138; e-mail <news@nas.edu>

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Shirley M. Malcom to Receive Public Welfare Medal,
Academy's Highest Honor

WASHINGTON -- The National Academy of Sciences has selected Shirley M. Malcom to receive the academy's most prestigious award, the Public Welfare Medal. Established in 1914, the medal is presented annually to honor extraordinary use of science for the public good. Malcom has spent nearly 30 years working both at the grass-roots level and internationally to improve science and technology education and participation by students of diverse backgrounds.

"Dr. Malcom has served science with extraordinary scope, originality, and achievement," said R. Stephen Berry, home secretary of the National Academy of Sciences and chair of the selection committee. "With each young mind that experiences the value of science through science education, there is a new chance that the world will see the next Pasteur, Salk, or Einstein. Dr. Malcom has helped bring science to millions of students who otherwise might not have had the opportunity."

As head of the Directorate for Education and Human Resources of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), Malcom has had a unique impact on advancing public understanding of science and technology, and increasing the participation of women, minorities, and people with disabilities in these areas.

"Dr. Malcom has been a tireless advocate for the empowerment of the general public through science and technology, viewing such an education as a necessary ingredient for social progress," said National Academy of Sciences President Bruce Alberts. "She has also been at the forefront in making science available to those normally underrepresented in science careers, dedicating her life to making sure that everyone has a chance to succeed."

Growing up in the South during the 1950s and 1960s and attending a segregated, all-black high school, Malcom witnessed firsthand the lack of opportunities for minorities to achieve in science. She graduated from the University of Washington, Seattle, where she was usually the only African-American woman in her science classes. Malcom went on to be a high school teacher and then a college professor, finally moving to Washington, D.C., to work as a research assistant at AAAS. There she was charged with taking an inventory of the nation's education programs in science for minority students, a task that brought home the magnitude of the problem faced by racial and ethnic minorities. Science education programs often excluded minorities, she found, and those that were set up to serve minorities favored men.

These findings resulted in the 1976 landmark report The Double Bind: The Price of Being a Minority Woman in Science, which Malcom co-authored. She helped document how minority women were the victims of both racism and sexism. That report helped bring to light a problem that until then had not been a prominent part of the national consciousness.

In 1979 Malcom became head of the AAAS Office of Opportunities in Science and in 1989 became director of the Directorate for Education and Human Resources. Realizing that traditional education was not reaching everyone, Malcom found ways to bring science to minorities in their own communities.

She led the creation and development of a host of innovative efforts such as the Black Churches Project, a network of churches that worked to bring science, environment, and health education to the African-American community, and Proyecto Futuro, a program designed to connect science with the Latino community and culture. Other activities included the development of high-quality, age-appropriate preschool science courses; Kinetic City Mission to Vearth, an online science adventure series for after-school programs; D.C. Acts, a science, mathematics, and technology education reform partnership of AAAS, the Carnegie Institution of Washington, and District of Columbia Public Schools; and Bioscience Education Network, a digital library for undergraduate biology education.

Malcom's activities have not been limited to grass-roots efforts. She has filled several U.S. presidential appointments, serving on the National Science Board from 1994 to 1998 as well as on the President's Committee of Advisers on Science and Technology from 1994 to 2001. Internationally, she was a U.S. delegate to the 1999 UNESCO World Conference on Science. She also helped form the Once and Future Action Network, a coalition of nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) and donor groups that worked to ensure a science and technology component in the NGO Forum held parallel to the U.N. Fourth World Conference on Women in Beijing. In 1983 she was an organizer for the meeting of the Panel of Experts on Science, Technology, and Women to prepare for the U.N. Conference on Women held in Nairobi, Kenya. She was one of eight women advisers representing different regions of the world on the Gender Working Group of the U.N. Commission on Science and Technology for Development. Malcom chairs the Committee on Capacity Building in Science of the International Council for Science.

Born on Sept. 6, 1946, in Birmingham, Ala., Malcom received her bachelor's degree with distinction in zoology from the University of Washington in 1967, and her master's degree in zoology and animal behavior from the University of California, Los Angeles, in 1968. She received her Ph.D. in ecology from Pennsylvania State University in 1974. Malcom holds 12 honorary degrees, sits on seven active boards, including the board of trustees for California Institute of Technology and Morgan State University, and has contributed to more than a dozen books and other publications.

The Public Welfare Medal, consisting of a medal and an illuminated scroll, will be presented to Malcom during the NAS annual meeting in April. The National Academy of Sciences is a private, nonprofit institution that provides science advice under a congressional charter.

[ This news release is available at http://national-academies.org ]