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Winners Named for the 2016 AAAS Kavli Science Journalism Awards

2016 Kavli Awards


Sixteen awards will be presented to journalists at AAAS’ Annual Meeting in Boston at a ceremony for the winners of the 2016 AAAS Kavli Science Journalism Awards. | AAAS

Consequential stories on important issues in medical research are among the winners of the 2016 AAAS Kavli Science Journalism Awards, including a Swedish documentary that raised disturbing questions about the research conduct of a surgeon at the famed Karolinska Institute, a series in a small weekly newspaper that challenged claims of a local breast cancer epidemic, and a report that researchers at leading U.S. medical institutions routinely disregarded a law on reporting of study results.

The awards program went global last year, thanks to a doubling of the endowment by The Kavli Foundation, and two awards were established in each of eight categories: a Gold Award ($5,000) and Silver Award ($3,500). There were entries this year from 54 countries – up from 44 last year – and the 2016 winners include journalists from China, Germany, Sweden, The Netherlands and the United Kingdom.

The science journalism awards have been administered by the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) since their inception in 1945. Independent panels of science journalists select the winners.

Bosse Lindquist and his colleagues at the Swedish public broadcaster, SVT, won the Gold Award for in-depth television reporting for a three-part documentary on Paolo Macchiarini, an Italian surgeon on the staff of the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm. He had gained worldwide attention for his work on synthetic tracheas, or windpipes, for human transplantation. But the documentary showed how patients suffered and died in connection with failed operations, and it raised numerous issues concerning care and research ethics.

Lindquist found that Macchiarini failed to adequately inform his patients of the risks of the trachea procedure and had not done testing on animals before doing the procedure on humans. The SVT documentary, appearing after a Karolinska inquiry already had cleared Macchiarini of charges he misrepresented the success of his trachea implants, caused a sensation in Sweden. Macchiarini eventually was fired, the vice chancellor of the Institute stepped down, and new inquiries were launched.

Peter Byrne, a freelance investigative reporter, received the Gold Award in the small newspaper category for an 11-part series in the Point Reyes Light of Marin County, Calif., that cast doubt on claims of a breast cancer epidemic in the affluent county. He found that women in mostly white suburbs get more screening mammograms than women in lower-income communities. The increased screening also returns higher rates of false positives. Byrne said his reporting on data quality problems afflicting the federal and state cancer registries “needs to be taken seriously by the highest levels of state and national government and by the medical profession at large.”

Charles Piller and Natalia Bronshtein won the Gold Award in the online category for an investigation by Boston-based STAT that found researchers at leading universities and medical institutions had routinely failed to report their study results to the federal government’s database, thereby depriving patients and doctors of readily available information that would help them better compare the effectiveness and side effects of treatments. The story helped spur the National Institutes of Health to step up its efforts to improve reporting of results to the database as required by law.

The Silver Award in the online category went to Christie Aschwanden of FiveThirtyEight for three pieces on the process of scientific research and the so-called “replication crisis.” Shankar Vedantam, a Silver Award winner in the audio category, also tackled the issue of reproducibility in scientific research in one of his “Hidden Brain” podcasts for NPR.

Among the winners were journalists who contributed to Nature, NRC Handelsbladin Amsterdam, Süddeutsche Zeitung in Munich and the BBC in London.

“Enterprising reporting on the substance and process of research is at the heart of good science journalism,” said Rush Holt, chief executive officer of AAAS and executive publisher of the Science family of journals. “Many of the award winners this year have shown that solid reporting on science can both improve understanding and also trigger change.”

What had been the radio category was changed to audio this year after podcast entries were moved from the online category. The winners will receive their awards at a Feb. 17 ceremony held in conjunction with the 2017 AAAS Annual Meeting in Boston.

For details on the winners and links to their award-winning work, go to:

The full list of winners of the 2016 AAAS Kavli Science Journalism Awards:


Large Newspaper—Circulation of 150,000 or more

Gold Award:
Jop de Vrieze and Zvezdana Vukojevic
Freelancers, NRC Handelsblad (Amsterdam)
"Het is een prachtig kind. Waarom is hij overleden?" (It is a beautiful child. Why did he die?)
April 23, 2016

Silver Award:
Christopher Schrader
Freelancer, Süddeutsche Zeitung (Munich)
“Narben am Grund - Scars in the Ground”
March 23, 2016

Small Newspaper—Circulation less than 150,000

Gold Award:
Peter Byrne
Freelancer, Point Reyes Light (California)
“Busted! Breast Cancer, Money and the Media” (11-part series)
Nov. 5, 2015 – Jan. 21, 2016

Silver Award:
Barbara Peters Smith
Sarasota Herald-Tribune
“Graying of HIV: After 35 years of the AIDS virus, a generation makes new medical history”
June 5, 2016


Gold Award:
Stephen S. Hall
Freelancer, Scientific American
“Editing the Mushroom”
March 2016

Silver Award:
Jane Qiu
Freelancer, Nature
“The Forgotten Continent”
July 14, 2016
“Listening for Landslides”
April 28, 2016
“Trouble in Tibet”
Jan. 14, 2016


Spot News/Feature Reporting (20 minutes or less)

Gold Award:
Rebecca Morelle and Stuart Denman
BBC Newsnight, BBC World
“A primer on the Paris climate conference”
Nov. 23, 2015

Silver Award:
Nsikan Akpan and Matthew Ehrichs
PBS NewsHour
“What a smell looks like”
June 21, 2016

In-Depth Reporting (more than 20 minutes)

Gold Award:
Bosse Lindquist, Johannes Hallbom, Anna Nordbeck, Jakob Larsson, Johannes Wahlström, Johan Brånstad and Emil Engerdahl
Swedish Public Television (SVT)
“The Experiments: The Star Surgeon”
Jan. 13, 2016
“The Experiments: Every surgeon has his own graveyard”
Jan. 20, 2016
“The Experiments: The Labyrinth of Truth”
Jan. 27, 2016

Silver Award:
Peter Oxley, Gwyn Williams, Rob Hartel and Kirk Johnson
Windfall Films (London) for NOVA/WGBH
“Making North America” series
Nov. 4, Nov. 11, Nov. 18, 2015


Gold Award:
Ari Daniel and Peter Thomson
Public Radio International’s “The World”
“In Greenland, a climate change mystery with clues written in water and stone”  
Jan. 18, 2016
“Looking small for big answers in Greenland”
Jan. 19, 2016
“Turning ice in fire: How climate change could mean more volcanic eruptions in Iceland”
Nov. 27, 2015

Silver Award:
Shankar Vedantam, Kara McGuirk-Allison, Maggie Penman and Max Nesterak
“Hidden Brain” podcast ─ “When Great Minds Think Unlike: Inside Science's 'Replication Crisis' "
May 24, 2016


Gold Award:
Charles Piller and Natalia Bronshtein
“Law Ignored, Patients at Risk: Failure to Report - A STAT Investigation”
Dec. 13, 2015
“Failure to report: About the investigation”
Dec. 13, 2015
“STAT investigation sparked improved reporting of study results, NIH says”
Feb. 16, 2016

Silver Award:
Christie Aschwanden
“Science Isn’t Broken. It’s just a hell of a lot harder than we give it credit for.”
Aug. 19, 2015
“You Can’t Trust What You Read About Nutrition. We found a link between cabbage and innie bellybuttons, but that doesn’t mean it’s real.”
Jan. 6, 2016
“Failure Is Moving Science Forward. The replication crisis is a sign that science is working.
March 24, 2016


Gold Award
Anna Rothschild
Gross Science from NOVA (videos)
“What Really Causes Cavities?”
Jan. 25, 2016
“See Microbes with this DIY Microscope”
Jan. 4, 2016
“Three Surprising Questions About Periods”
Feb. 10, 2016

Silver Award
Roberta Kwok
Science News for Students (online site)
“The shocking electric eel!”
June 2, 2016



Earl Lane

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