The Best of the Northwest Science Writing Awards recognize and celebrate outstanding writing published by our members during the past year. Thank you to all who participated. The judges were impressed by the number and quality of the submissions.
This year’s winners are listed below.
Winner: Jane C. Hu, for her story, “When public health becomes the public enemy,” published in High Country News.
In this deeply researched and intrepidly reported piece, Jane C. Hu carefully connects the dots to show how right-wing militia groups have organized people across the western US to protest COVID policies, pressure and harass public health officials, and in many cases oust those officials from their posts. Her skillful storytelling illuminates the breadth and potential ramifications of these events without ever losing focus on the people and communities at their center.
Jane C. Hu is an independent journalist living in Seattle. She’s a contributing editor at High Country News, and her work has appeared in publications like Undark, Slate, bioGraphic, WIRED, National Geographic, Science, and others. She also teaches science writing at the University of Washington.
Honorable Mention: Wudan Yan, for her story “The pandemic is undoing field researchers’ oldest assumption,” published in The Atlantic.
Wudan Yan takes a unique angle on the pandemic by exploring how researchers who typically conduct fieldwork abroad have been adapting to international travel restrictions. She pivots between multiple perspectives and uses vibrant detail to describe how an orangutan research station in Borneo, headed by an American scientist, has been kept running by a network of local researchers during the pandemic — and raises the intriguing question of whether it can serve as a new model of inclusive research.
Wudan Yan is a writer based in Seattle, WA. Her magazine and enterprise journalism on science and society has appeared in The Atlantic, High Country News, and The New York Times, among others.
Institutional writing award
Diane Mapes’s eloquent and moving writing brings us into the lives of cancer patients whose treatment has been set back by the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. She masterfully weaves together the stories of patients who have missed screenings due to travel restrictions, been cut off from clinical trials, and radically altered their lives to avoid contracting COVID while immunocompromised. With skill and compassion, Mapes reminds us what’s at stake for these patients and their families as the pandemic continues.
A former freelance journalist, Diane Mapes writes about public health, cancer prevention and scientific research for Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle. Diagnosed with breast cancer in 2011, she went from covering lifestyle, health and singles issues to “science whispering” and patient advocacy.
Honorable Mention: Nancy Steinberg and Abby Phillips Metzger, for their story, “Conflagration: The 2020 Oregon wildfires and climate change,” for Oregon State University.
In the first piece either had ever co-written, Abby Phillips Metzger and Nancy Steinberg expertly synthesize the research of Oregon State University researchers to bring us a clearer picture of how climate change contributed to the devastating wildfires that struck the state in 2020. Though the smoke from those fires has cleared, Metzger and Steinberg deftly explain what scientists have come to understand about them and what they bode for the future of Oregon.
Nancy Steinberg is a science writer in the Communications office of Oregon State University’s College of Earth, Ocean, and Atmospheric Sciences. In that role, she is responsible for promoting the college’s research via the CEOAS web site, print publications, social media and other outlets. She also serves as co-editor of the college’s research magazine, Strata.
Abby Phillips Metzger is a science communicator, author, paddler, mother, and dog lover. In addition to her current appointment as a science writer and communicator in the College of Earth, Ocean, and Atmospheric Sciences at OSU, she has worked in journalism, book publishing, and environmental education.