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AAAS Newcomb Cleveland Prize

Supported by The Fodor Family Trust


The Prize

The Association’s oldest award, the AAAS Newcomb Cleveland Prize, supported by The Fodor Family Trust, was established in 1923 with funds donated by Newcomb Cleveland of New York City and was originally called the AAAS Thousand Dollar Prize. It is now known as the AAAS Newcomb Cleveland Prize, and its value is $25,000. In addition to the prize funds, the winner receives complimentary registration and reimbursement for reasonable travel and hotel expenses to attend the AAAS Annual Meeting in order to accept the prize.



The prize is awarded to the author or authors of an outstanding paper published in the Research Articles or Reports sections of Science. Each annual contest starts with the first issue of June and ends with the last issue of the following May.

An eligible paper is one that includes original research data, theory, or synthesis; is a fundamental contribution to basic knowledge or is a technical achievement of far-reaching consequence; and is a first-time publication of the author’s own work. Reference to pertinent earlier work by the author may be included to give perspective.


Nomination Procedures

Throughout the year, readers of Science are invited to nominate papers appearing in the Research Articles or Reports sections. Nominations must be submitted in our online form by June 30.

Please note: self-nominations will not be accepted for the AAAS Newcomb Cleveland Prize. Final selection is determined by a panel of distinguished scientists appointed by the editor-in-chief of Science.

The American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) is committed to equal opportunity for all persons, without regard to race, color, religion, sexual orientation, gender, gender identity, national origin, age, disability, veteran status, or other protected categories. AAAS seeks as diverse a pool of award nominations as possible, including as well a wide range of disciplines, institutional types, and geographical locations.


2022 Recipients

Neil Orman AAAS

"Hunting the eagle killer: A cyanobacterial neurotoxin causes vacuolar myelinopathy"

by Steffen Breinlinger*, Tabitha J. Phillips*, Brigette N. Haram, Jan Mareš, José A. Martínez Yerena, Pavel Hrouzek, Roman Sobotka, W. Matthew Henderson, Peter Schmieder, Susan M. Williams, James D. Lauderdale, H. Dayton Wilde, Wesley Gerrin, Andreja Kust, John W. Washington, Christoph Wagner, Benedikt Geier, Manuel Liebeke, Heike Enke, Timo H. J. Niedermeyer, Susan B. Wilde was awarded the 2022 AAAS Newcomb Cleveland Prize.   
*Co-First Authors Corresponding Authors

Vacuolar myelinopathy (VM) is a neurological disease characterized by widespread vacuolization in the white matter of the brain. First diagnosed in 1994 in bald eagles, it has since spread throughout the southeastern United States. In addition to avian species such as waterfowl and birds of prey, VM has also been found to affect amphibians, reptiles, and fish. Despite intense research efforts, the cause of this mysterious disease has been elusive. Neither contagious agents nor xenobiotics have been detected in deceased animals, but field and laboratory studies demonstrate that VM can be transferred through the food chain from herbivorous fish and wildlife to birds of prey.

Although many human activities have clear negative effects on the natural world, there are also many unforeseen consequences. Bald eagle mass death events from VM in the southeastern United States may be one such downstream effect of human activity. Breinlinger & Phillips et al. identified the cause of these events as an insidious combination of factors. Colonization of waterways by an invasive, introduced plant provided a substrate for the growth of a previously unidentified cyanobacterium. Exposure of this cyanobacterium to bromide, typically anthropogenic in origin, resulted in the production of a neurotoxin that both causes neuropathy in animals that prey on the plants and also bioaccumulates to kill predators such as bald eagles.

The findings of Breinlinger & Phillips et al. which implicate toxicity arising from human activities, including reservoir construction, invasive aquatic plants, and human use and distribution of bromine-containing chemicals in the environment, make this report of great importance to society in understanding the broader impact of our interactions with nature. In the end, reminding us of the incredible complexity of natural systems and how humans continue to act upon those systems with little or no regard for future consequences.

Read a list of past recipients.



Jessica L. Slater, PhD
Newcomb Cleveland Prize Coordinator
Science Editorial Office
1200 New York Avenue NW, Room 1044
Washington, DC 20005

Phone 202-326-6675