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Winners of Science and Religion Award Named

Science for Religion Reporters 2017
Brandon Ambrosino, left, Peggy Fletcher Stack, William Saletan and Yonat Shimron are the winners of 2017 AAAS Science for Religion Reporters Awards. | Third from left, credit Ethics & Public Policy Center, others subject provided

Stories on the value of the philosophical and religious questions that a discovery of extraterrestrial life would raise, the science behind research finding that going to church is good for your health, the text of the Quran and what an examination of it reveals and the impact of the most effective contraceptive devices on political, philosophical and religious perspectives are among the work of journalists named winners of the 2017 AAAS Science for Religion Reporters Awards.

The stories were part of the submitted work by journalists Brandon Ambrosino of Delaware, Peggy Fletcher Stack of Utah, William Saletan of Maryland and Yonat Shimron of North Carolina, each of whom will be honored at the 2018 AAAS Annual Meeting in Austin as this year’s award winners for compelling coverage of religion.

The Science for Religion Reporters Award, now in its third year, is intended to honor journalism focused on religion and its implications for society by offering readers a unique opportunity to discover the latest scientific discoveries through the lens of religion reporters dedicated to exploring the significance of science and sharing their reporting with diverse audiences.

“The award opened up a new world, showing me areas of inquiry I never thought to explore as a religion reporter and helping me to find scientists expert in those areas. Now, as an editor of religion reporters, I know to send them to AAAS for help with whatever science-related religion story they may be working on, from the ethics of stem cell research to the origins of the cosmos,” said Lauren Markoe, managing editor of Religion News Service and a 2016 award winner who served as an independent judge of this year’s competition.

The winners will each receive a $4,000 award at the 2018 AAAS Annual Meeting ceremony on Feb. 18, where they will also be given access to hundreds of scientists and the latest research. Hundreds of science journalists typically attend the Annual Meeting of the world’s largest general scientific organization.

The winners were competitively selected by an external review panel of made up of three journalists with expertise in science or religion reporting. Among the judges were two previous award winners.

“Once again, an outstanding group of journalists will receive the Science for Religion Reporters Award and broaden the reach of science journalism,” said Christine Scheller, senior communications associate for the AAAS Dialogue on Science, Ethics and Religion (DoSER) program, which administers the award as part of its Bringing Science to Religion Reporters project.

In addition to providing winners an opportunity to attend the 2018 AAAS Annual Meeting, the project sponsors scientific sessions that are held during the Annual Meeting of the Religion News Association. At this year’s meeting, for instance, two panel discussions on the societal implications of artificial intelligence were held at the association’s convention on Sept. 7 in Nashville. The program is funded by a grant from the John Templeton Foundation, with support from AAAS.

The award highlights the importance of reaching diverse audiences with science news and fulfills AAAS’ mission to advance science in service to society.

“Because a strong majority of Americans are religiously affiliated, it is advantageous for AAAS to support journalists with expertise in religion in their efforts to report on societal implications of science with these audiences in mind,” said DoSER director Jennifer Wiseman.

More about the winners:

Brandon Ambrosino is a freelance writer whose work focuses on the intersection of religion and technology. His coverage has appeared in The New York Times, The Boston Globe, BBC Future, The Economist, The Washington Post, The Atlantic, Politico, The Wilson Quarterly, Smithsonian magazine, Popular Mechanics, Quartz, Baltimore magazine, The Globe and Mail, Tablet Magazine, Religion News Service and other publications. Ambrosino is a graduate student at Villanova University, where he studies ethics and Catholic theology. He lives in Delaware with his partner, Andy Swiatowicz. He is working on his first book, a young adult science fiction novel.

Peggy Fletcher Stack works as a religion writer for The Salt Lake Tribune, where she has reported for 26 years and launched its award-winning Faith section. Stack served on the executive board of the Religion News Association and was a founding member of the International Association of Religion Journalists. Earlier this year, she became a third-time winner of the prestigious Cornell Award for the best religion reporting at midsized papers. In 2013, Stack collected the American Academy of Religion’s top award for religion writing. Earlier this year, she was a co-author of one of the stories in The Salt Lake Tribune’s Pulitzer Prize-winning investigation into sexual assaults on Utah college campuses. Writing about contemporary faith, rituals, and spirituality, as well as religion’s conflicts and cohesion, continues to be Stack’s passion.

William Saletan is a national correspondent at Slate, where he writes about politics, religion, culture, science, technology and many other subjects. He also is a member of the advisory council of the Faith Angle Forum and author of “Bearing Right: How Conservatives Won the Abortion War."

Yonat Shimron is a national reporter and senior editor at Religion News Service. She was the religion reporter for The News & Observer in Raleigh, N.C. from 1996 to 2011. She is a past president of the Religion News Association. Shimron graduated from the State University of New York at Buffalo and received a master’s degree in journalism from Columbia University. She is a native of Israel and served in the Israel Defense Forces.