PLOS Blogger Seth Mnookin’s ‘The Panic Virus’ Receives 2012 Science in Society Book Award

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PLOS is pleased to announce that Seth Mnookin, a PLOS network blogger, science journalist and Lecturer at MIT’s Graduate Program in Science Writing today received the National Association of Science Writers top book prize, its 2012 Science in Society Journalism Award. In naming Mnookin’s book, NASW said:

In Panic Virus (Simon & Schuster, 2012), 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. The story is beautifully told, the people in it are compellingly rendered, and the missteps on all sides of the vaccine question told in clear detail. In the end, the book offers both a telling look at how human beings can complicate even the most straight-forward attempts to protect public health and a warning of the risks to all of us when we choose fear-mongering over good science.”

A founding member of the two year-old PLOS Blog Network, Seth Mnookin has used his Panic Virus Blog to cover continuing controversies surrounding autism causes and treatments, focusing his recent attention on the proponents and health dangers of vaccine skepticism. Mnookin also consistently adds his critical voice to issues of journalistic ethics in science reporting, most recently with his incisive coverage of  Jonah Lehrer’s authorial transgressions.

After its initial publication in 2011, The Panic Virus received international praise: The New York Times said it was a “tour-de-force” and 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.”

Seth Mnookin graduated from Harvard College in 1994 with a degree in History and Science, and was a 2004 Joan Shorenstein Fellow at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government. In addition to The Panic Virus, he is 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. A native of Newton, Massachusetts, Mnookin and his wife currently live in Cambridge with their seven-year-old dog and their two-year-old son.

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 ScienceWriters2012 meeting taking place this year in Raleigh, North Carolina.

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