Sokol received the award and its $1,000 prize for four stories:
- Why self-taught artificial intelligence has trouble with the real world, Quanta
- Something in the water: life after mercury poisoning, Mosaic
- What do we lose if we lose wild axolotls? Nova Next
- Visiting the mysterious fairy circles of the Namib Desert, The Atlantic
The panel of judges cited Sokol for his compelling storytelling; his deep reporting from such far-flung locations as Japan, Mexico, and Namibia; his impressive diversity of topics; and his ability to clearly convey how science is done.
Sokol was selected as the winner from a record-high number of submissions—56 in total.
Growing up in Raleigh, NC, Joshua had an early exposure to science. “My mom always took me fossil hunting and out to see meteor showers,” he recalls. “By the time I was in school, I was already sold on doing something in science—it just took me a while to figure out what that might be.” He earned a bachelor’s degree in astronomy and in English literature from Swarthmore College, then worked as a data analyst for the Hubble Space Telescope’s Advanced Camera for Surveys, before moving on to get a master’s degree in science writing at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where he was a CASW Taylor/Blakeslee Fellow.
The award was presented by the Evert Clark Fund and the Council for the Advancement of Science Writing (CASW) as part of ScienceWriters2018 Awards Night on Saturday, October 13 at the Washington Marriott Georgetown during ScienceWriters2018, held October 12-16 in Washington, DC. (At left, Sokol poses after the presentation with CASW President Alan Boyle.)
Judges for the 2018 award were:
- Warren Leary, retired science correspondent for the New York Times, former science writer for the Associated Press, and CASW board member emeritus.
- Laura Helmuth, health, science, and environment editor at the Washington Post
- Liz Marshall, Editorial & Project Manager at the Society for Public Health Education, and a former editor at The Scientist
- Richard Harris, science correspondent at National Public Radio, CASW board member, and author of Rigor Mortis: How Sloppy Science Creates Worthless Cures, Crushes Hope, and Wastes Billions
- Gene Russo, Editor of the Front Matter section of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS)
The Clark/Payne Award was created to encourage young science writers by recognizing outstanding reporting in all fields of science. It is given each year in honor of journalist Ev Clark, who offered friendship and advice to a generation of young reporters. The annual judging is organized by John Carey, former long-time senior correspondent for Business Week and colleague of Seth Payne, who raised money for the award in memory of Ev Clark. CASW now administers the fund and manages the submission process and presentation of the award. This was the 30th year of the award.
Entrants must be age 30 or younger. The deadline for submissions is the end of June each year. For more information, please see the Evert Clark page at casw.org.