Council for the Advancement of Science Writing

Paying tribute to science journalism, and one of its masters

Between #GivingTuesday on December 1, 2020, and December 30—which would have been Dave Perlman's 102nd birthday—join CASW in envisioning ways to carry on a great legacy.

The Council for the Advancement of Science Writing was founded 60 years ago to improve the quality and quantity of science news reaching the general public. And 60 years just happens to be how long David Perlman, the widely acknowledged dean of American science journalism, covered the science beat for the San Francisco Chronicle.

In June 2020, Dave died of cancer at the age of 101. This year, to honor his work and service to CASW, we’re combining CASW’s winter fundraising drive with an invitation to help us celebrate his legacy. Please check out the Perlman tribute page.

Dave served on the CASW board for more than three decades, including four years as the volunteer council’s president. Meanwhile, he covered the Apollo moon missions, tracked the AIDS crisis from its epicenter in San Francisco, documented key developments in genetics, traveled to Ethiopia to report on the search for fossil traces of humanity’s origins, and led a delegation of science writers on a groundbreaking tour of China in 1979. His unparalleled record of journalistic accomplishment and service to science writing him the American Geophysical Union’s 2019 Presidential Citation for Science and Society.

Dave not only won awards, he inspired awards and honors, including the AGU’s David Perlman Award for Excellence in Science Journalism and the David Perlman Travel Fellowships, which were created in 2017 for the World Conference of Science Journalists in San Francisco and funded by $40,000 in donations from Dave's colleagues and admirers. This year, the National Association of Science Writers (which he also served as president) created the David Perlman Virtual Mentoring Program—a fitting tribute to a man who mentored generations of science writers.

CASW is an educational nonprofit that relies on donations to create educational and training programming, awards and fellowships. As the year comes to a close, we’d like to create a new tribute to Dave, and we’re asking for your help. Along with your financial contribution to CASW, however big or small, we invite your suggestions about the type of program that would best serve as a memorial to Dave. And because Dave served as a mentor to scores of science journalists, we’d also love to share memories from those who treasured his wit and wisdom.

How to participate

Do you have a suggestion for a program that would embody Dave's commitment to the future of science writing? The CASW board and staff are working to develop programs that improve the quality and sustainability of science journalism. Your ideas could inspire new program development.

Your suggestions should be in tune with CASW’s 60-year mission of improving the quality and quantity of science news reaching the general public. You might have an idea for a fellowship program, a seminar, a training opportunity—or the internet-age equivalent of the “traveling guru” program that Dave pioneered, visiting local newsrooms to help them improve their science coverage. Maybe you’ve got a strategy for making the profession of science writing more diverse and inclusive, in keeping with Dave’s commitment to building and broadening the global community. It might well be something totally out of the box, opening up new territory for science writers and our audiences in the 21st century.

More about Dave

His own words: in a 2009 interview with Cris Russell, Dave Perlman offers advice for aspiring science journalists.