• Seth Mnookin, co-director, MIT SHASS Graduate Program in Science Writing.

    Seth Mnookin, co-director, MIT SHASS Graduate Program in Science Writing.

    Photo: Sara James

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  • Cover, The Panic Virus: The True Story Behind the Vaccine-Autism Controversy (Simon & Schuster, 2011)

    Cover, The Panic Virus: The True Story Behind the Vaccine-Autism Controversy (Simon & Schuster, 2011)

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Seth Mnookin wins 2012 Science in Society Award

Seth Mnookin, co-director, MIT SHASS Graduate Program in Science Writing.

National Association of Science Writers honors his book The Panic Virus.


Seth Mnookin, MIT assistant professor of science writing, and recently appointed co-director of the Graduate Program in Science Writing (GPSW), has been awarded the 2012 Science in Society Journalism Award for his most recent book, The Panic Virus.

"This is an incredible and very humbling award to receive," Mnookin says. "I've looked up to members of the National Association of Science Writers [NASW] for years; to be recognized by the organization is an enormous honor. In an era in which news organizations around the world are cutting back on their science coverage, it's heartening to know there's a group out there that values the importance of translating complicated research for public consumption."

Of the award, given annually by the NASW, Tom Levenson, a professor of science writing, adds, "This is one of the very top awards in our field. It reflects the judgment of the leading science writing association in the world and it is an honor that only comes to superlative work."

Illuminating the intersection of science, politics and public health

An excerpt from the award citation reads: "In The Panic Virus (Simon & Schuster, 2011), Mnookin tells the story of the dire consequences of the 1998 publication of a subsequently discredited paper alleging that the measles-mumps-rubella vaccine might cause autism. One judge commented that Mnookin 'neatly dissects the issues behind the anti-vaccine movement, illuminating this intersection of science, politics and public health.'... In the end, the book offers both a telling look at how human beings can complicate even the most straightforward attempts to protect public health and a warning of the risks to all of us when we choose fear-mongering over good science.'"

An especially prestigious award

As the head of the Public Library of Science Blogs Network (PLOS BLOGS) wrote, "The National Association of Science Writers established the Science in Society Journalism Awards to provide recognition without subsidy from any professional or commercial interest for investigative or interpretive reporting about the sciences and their impact on society. The awards are intended to encourage critical, probing work that would not receive an award from an interest group. Beginning with the first award in 1972, NASW has highlighted innovative reporting that goes well beyond the research findings and considers the associated ethical problems and social effects.

"The awards are especially prestigious because they are judged by accomplished peers. Winners in each category share a cash prize of $2,500, to be awarded at a reception on October 27, 2012, during the Science Writers 2012 meeting taking place this year in Raleigh, North Carolina."

About Seth Mnookin

Mnookin is a writer and journalist, the GPSW co-director, and a contributing editor at Vanity Fair. His blog on science, medicine and media is published on PLOS BLOGS. The Panic Virus: The True Story Behind the Vaccine-Autism Controversy, was labelled a "tour de force" by The New York Times, while The Wall Street Journal called it "a brilliant piece of reportage and science writing" that "should be required reading at every medical school in the world." In addition to the NASW award, Panic Virus won the Will Solimene Award for Excellence from the New England chapter of the American Medical Writers Association and was a finalist for the Los Angeles Times Book Prize.

Mnookin is also the author of the 2006 New York Times bestseller Feeding the Monster: How Money, Smarts, and Nerve Took a Team to the Top, which chronicles the challenges and triumphs of the John Henry-Tom Werner ownership group of the Boston Red Sox. His first book, 2004′s Hard News: The Scandals at The New York Times and Their Meaning for American Media, was a Washington Post Best Book of the Year.


Topics: Autism, Awards, honors and fellowships, Biology, Books and authors, Faculty, Health, Humanities, Journalism, Science writing

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