Date: Sept. 30, 2009
Contact: William Skane, Executive Director
Maureen O'Leary, Director of Public Information
Office of News and Public Information
202-334-2138; e-mail <>

For Immediate Release

'Your Inner Fish' Wins Best Book Award From the National Academies;

 'Unnatural Causes,' NPR News, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel Also Take Top Prizes

WASHINGTON — The National Academies today announced the recipients of their 2009 Communication Awards. Part of the National Academies Keck Futures Initiative, these prestigious awards recognize excellence in reporting and communicating science, engineering, and medicine to the general public.  With support from the W.M. Keck Foundation, the National Academies began awarding these $20,000 prizes in 2003.  This year's winners will be honored during a ceremony on Nov. 20 at the Arnold and Mabel Beckman Center in Irvine, Calif.

Selected from more than 200 print, broadcast, and Internet entries, the recipients of the awards for works published or aired in 2008 are:



Neil Shubin

Neil Shubin for his delightful, intellectually challenging view of evolution from primitive fish to humans by a scientist who finds fossils in the most uncomfortable places and chronicles it all in Your Inner Fish: A Journey Into the 3.5-Billion-Year History of the Human Body (Pantheon Books)


Newspaper/MagazineMark Johnson

Mark Johnson for his clear reporting on the cutting edge of science, engaging key researchers as they try to open new medical horizons by reprogramming human cells, in his series Targeting the Good Cell (Milwaukee Journal Sentinel)



Smith and Herbes-Sommers

Larry Adelman (series creator, executive producer), Llewellyn M. Smith (co-executive producer), and Christine Herbes-Sommers (series senior producer) for putting a human face on one of the most complex issues in public health -- the impact of racial and socio-economic inequities on health -- in Unnatural Causes: Is Inequality Making Us Sick? (California Newsreel in association with Vital Pictures Inc.)


Valentine and Richards

Vikki Valentine (digital science editor), Alison Richards (deputy science editor), and Anne Gudenkauf (science editor) for NPR's Climate Connections, a yearlong multimedia journey to explain the impacts of global climate change with well-reported stories from around the world (NPR News in partnership with National Geographic)

The following were finalists:

Thomas Hager, author of The Alchemy of Air: A Jewish Genius, A Doomed Tycoon, and the Discovery That Fed the World but Fueled the Rise of Hitler (Crown/Harmony Books)


Kenneth R. Miller, author of Only a Theory: Evolution and the Battle for America's Soul (Penguin Group USA)


Andrew Revkin, environment reporter, author of Dot Earth blog (The New York Times)


The National Academies Keck Futures Initiative was created in 2003 to encourage interdisciplinary research and is funded by a 15-year, $40 million grant from the W.M. Keck Foundation.  Communication Award recipients will be honored at this year's Futures conference, "Synthetic Biology: Building on Nature's Inspiration," to be held Nov. 19-22 in Irvine, Calif.  The conference will bring together selected researchers to explore the engineering, scientific, and social aspects of synthetic biology.  Conference participants will have the opportunity to compete for grants to pursue new lines of cross-disciplinary research. 

The winners of the 2009 Communications Award were selected by a committee of 11 judges:

Donald Kennedy (committee chair and member, National Academy of Sciences and Institute of Medicine), editor in chief emeritus, Science; president emeritus and Bing Professor of Environmental Science emeritus, Stanford University

Barbara Schaal (committee vice chair and vice president, National Academy of Sciences), Mary-Dell Chilton Distinguished Professor, department of biology, Washington University


Gregory Andorfer, Emmy-winning producer, and former executive director, Maryland Science Center


Pablo J. Boczkowski, associate professor, program in media, technology, and society, department of communication studies, Northwestern University


Deborah Blum, Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and author; professor, School of Journalism and Mass Communication, University of Wisconsin, Madison

Robert W. Lucky (member, National Academy of Engineering), retired corporate vice president for research, Telcordia Technologies Inc.

Joe Palca, science correspondent, NPR News


Henry Petroski (member, National Academy of Engineering), Aleksandar S. Vesic Professor of Civil Engineering, and professor of history, Duke University; and engineering columnist, American Scientist

Gregory A. Petsko (member, National Academy of Sciences and Institute of Medicine), Gyula and Katica Tauber Professor of Biochemistry, Brandeis University

Cristine Russell, president, Council for the Advancement of Science Writing; and senior fellow, Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, Harvard Kennedy School

Dan Vergano, science and medical reporter, USA Today

Nominations for the 2010 Communication Awards will be accepted beginning Feb. 1, 2010, for work published or broadcast in 2009.  For more information on the National Academies Keck Futures Initiative and the Communication Awards, please visit