CASW names two distinguished Fellows

Alan Boyle presents CASW Distinguished Fellow Award to Joann Rodgers

The Council for the Advancement of Science Writing (CASW) has honored two pioneering women science writers who have worked tirelessly to improve the communication of science to the public through leadership of CASW and decades-long service on its board. Barbara J. Culliton, of Washington, DC, and Joann E. Rodgers, of Owings Mills, Maryland, were named CASW Fellows on April 20 as the 58-year-old organization gathered for its annual business meeting.

Culliton and Rodgers served as back-to-back presidents of the National Association of Science Writers (NASW) and CASW. Culliton retired from the CASW board in 2014 after 38 years as a member and officer; Rodgers stepped down at the 2018 meeting after 41 years on the board, including multiple officer roles.

Culliton has been a writer, editor and teacher throughout her distinguished career, including serving at Science as correspondent at large, news editor, and news and comment editor. She also worked in international science publishing as the deputy editor of Nature, where she launched the journals Nature Genetics, Nature Structural Biology and Nature Medicine. In 1989, Culliton was elected a member of the National Academy of Medicine. She also directed the graduate writing program at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore from 1990 to 1998. Culliton is currently a scholar-in-residence at Florida State University in the College of Communication and Information. She headed NASW in 1981-82, and in 1985 became CASW’s first woman president, serving in that role for four years.

Rodgers, an award-winning science journalist, author, editor and communications consultant, served as NASW president in 1983-84, succeeding Culliton, and succeeded her also as CASW President, serving from 1989 to 1997. Rodgers directed Johns Hopkins Medicine’s science communications, media relations and public affairs division for 25 years, and later served as a faculty scholar and strategic communications adviser to the Johns Hopkins Berman Institute of Bioethics. Earlier, Rodgers spent nearly two decades as a reporter and columnist for the Hearst newspapers and magazines. She is the author of seven books, including Sex: A Natural History, and has been a contributor to numerous magazines. Rodgers (shown in photo with CASW President Alan Boyle; Culliton was unable to attend the presentation) is also a reviewer for, a peer-review service for health-related stories and releases.

“There can never be praise enough for these two remarkable women and their extraordinary contributions and unrelenting labors on behalf of CASW during their decades-long service as board members,” said CASW Executive Director Emeritus Ben Patrusky. “Under their brilliant leadership and sway, CASW continued to make great strides in its never-ending search for new opportunities to address the changing needs of its core constituency, the growing community of science writers and the public it serves.”

“It was a pleasure to work with both Joann and Barbara from early in my science-writing career, as mentors, colleagues and friends,” said Harvard Kennedy School fellow Cristine Russell, also a former president of NASW and CASW. “They helped clear the way for other women in American science writing, which has been more equal than many other fields of journalism.” She noted that Culliton and Rodgers served NASW at a difficult time, helping to pull the dues-based membership organization back from near-bankruptcy and put it on stronger financial footing. “We sat around Joann’s kitchen table, trying to right the ship after belt-tightening and cutting back on staff,” said Russell.

Another memorable moment was when Culliton, on behalf of NASW, and the San Francisco Chronicle’s David Perlman, then president of CASW, led a delegation of U.S. science writers that visited China in 1979 under the aegis of the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

With the addition of Culliton and Rodgers, CASW’s distinguished Fellows total only four, including Perlman, “the dean of American science journalism,” and the late Earl Ubell, the first president of CASW.