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The AAAS Ralph W.F. Hardy Mass Media Fellowship

The AAAS Ralph W.F. Hardy Mass Media Science & Engineering Fellowship

For students and postdocs with interests in science communication
and studying agricultural biotechnology or related fields

To honor and memorialize Dr. Hardy’s extraordinary contributions to biotechnology, the North American Agricultural Biotechnology Council (NABC) is joining with the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) to create a lasting legacy. The Ralph W. F. Hardy Mass Media Fellowship will provide a young scientist in agricultural biotechnology or related fields the opportunity to learn the art of science reporting so vital to public understanding of science.  

Where would the agricultural biotechnology sector be today without the dedicated scholarship and advocacy of Ralph W.F. Hardy? Throughout his distinguished career, Hardy had the dynamic foresight to ensure that the scientific underpinnings of this emerging field, as well as the safety and value of the science behind new discoveries, were clearly conveyed to critical audiences to help build the foundation this industry stands upon today.

During a career that spanned over 40 years, Hardy served as research biochemist for DuPont and director of Life Sciences and president of Biotechnica International, president and CEO of the Boyce Thompson Institute, a founder of the North American Agricultural Biotechnology Council (NABC). His pioneering research on biological nitrogen fixation revolutionized the possibilities of increasing yields from crop plants without nitrogen fertilizer additions. In all instances, Hardy brought his forward-thinking adoption of molecular biology and biotechnology everywhere he went.

Hardy “was dynamic and visionary, realizing the impact that plant molecular biology would have on agriculture and human health in the coming decades,” says David Stern, President and CEO of the Boyce Thompson Institute. “He also fostered a vigorous dialogue around agricultural biotechnology, grounded in the firm belief that the best public policy is created from diverse, science-based perspectives.”

Hardy served the university-based biotechnology community on many fronts including regularly testifying before Senate and House committees. He was not only forward thinking in his research but also in his commitment to increasing the public understanding of agricultural biotechnology using the media, and encouraging other scientists to hone their communications skills and share their work with the public. 

With Hardy’s passing in 2016, the NABC by unanimous board approval is honoring his legacy with a 12-year endowed Mass Media Fellowship in his name. The funds donated consisted of the NABC’s remaining funds so prudently managed by Hardy when he served as its founding director.

It is clear today that Hardy’s insight into the need for solid scientific communication in the media is only increasing. Current events suggest that reverence for scientific evidence is on the decline, while ideology, whims and hunches have become guiding factors in critical decision making. Moreover, dangerous trends such as ‘fake news’ continue to gain popularity, making it increasingly difficult to ensure that decisions are being made with the most accurate, fact-based information. And one topic for which public discourse and understanding has the potential to produce the most good or wreak the most damage is biotechnology itself.

With the guidance of AAAS’ world-renowned scientific reporters, Mass Media Fellows are placed at major media outlets such as the Washington Post, Los Angeles Times and National Public Radio where they work as reporters and science writers. The Mass Media Fellows use their academic training in the sciences as they research, write and report today's headlines, sharpening their abilities to communicate complex scientific issues to non-specialists. Participants come in knowing the importance of translating their work for the public, but they leave with the tools and the know-how to engage general audiences in scientific news vital to contemporary science and society.

Students and postdocs (in agricultural biotechnology and related fields) interested in science communication can apply before January 1 each year