Michelson grant increases CASW’S Cohn Prize to $5,000

Michelson Philanthropies has awarded the Council for the Advancement of Science Writing a grant to underwrite the Victor Cohn Prize for Excellence in Medical Science Reporting. The three-year commitment will enable CASW to increase the prestigious career award from $3,000 to $5,000.

The enhanced award will be available immediately. CASW is extending this year’s nomination deadline to July 16.

Established in 2000 as CASW’s first award, the Victor Cohn Prize has grown in importance and prestige and today stands as the ultimate career prize for journalists reporting on medicine, health, and the science that drives medical progress. Named for the distinguished 20th-century journalist and editor who was a founder of CASW, the prize recognizes sustained journalistic excellence and leadership.

“The Victor Cohn Prize is one of very few career awards given in the field of medical science reporting,” said Christie Aschwanden, CASW vice president and chair of the judging for the prize. “It’s one of the most highly competitive awards in the field. We’re pleased that the Michelson grant will allow CASW to increase the prize, reflecting our deep pride in the winners.”

“We depend on outstanding journalism to keep policymakers and the public informed about advances in biomedical research and breakthrough treatments that save lives,” said Geoffrey Baum, executive director of Michelson Philanthropies. “We are grateful that the Council for the Advancement of Science Writing continues to advocate for and elevate exceptional reporting that sets the standard across an individual’s entire career.”

To maintain the independence and value of the prize, CASW has declined support from corporate sponsors and others with vested industries whose products are covered by medical journalists, funding the award with personal donations from board members and other donors to CASW’s general fund. The Michelson Philanthropies grant will cover the cash award and additional expenses of the annual competition, including awardees’ expenses to accept the prize at the annual ScienceWriters conference.

Michelson Philanthropies is a Los Angeles-based philanthropic organization devoted to supporting medical research, equity in education, and improving animal welfare.

More about Michelson Philanthropies

Michelson Philanthropies is a  network of private operating foundations that includes the Michelson Medical Research Foundation (MMRF), which accelerates solutions to global health challenges by fostering high-risk, high-potential approaches to make innovative ideas a reality. Reflecting the passions of Dr. Gary K. Michelson and Alya Michelson to support vulnerable or underserved communities, Michelson Philanthropies prioritizes catalytic grantmaking, carries out impactful programs, makes strategic impact investments, and conducts energetic advocacy in its areas of focus, including medical research, animal welfare, education, and intellectual property. 

MMRF gives vital boosts to early career investigators through its research prize programs, including Michelson Prizes: Next Generation Grants awarded annually to early career researchers who are applying disruptive concepts and inventive processes to advance human immunology, vaccine discovery, and immunotherapy research. In partnership with Science/AAAS, the Michelson Philanthropies & Science Prize for Immunology awards a grand prize and finalist prizes to early career researchers. In addition, their final papers are published by Science.

Information about Cohn Prize nominations and a link to the online submission portal may be found on the CASW website. Candidates may nominate themselves or be nominated by editors, colleagues, scientists, and others familiar with their work. Submissions may include up to five recent examples of published reporting, enabling award judges to review a five-year body of work. Nomination packages typically include at least one letter of support from a knowledgeable colleague.

More about the Victor Cohn Prize

The Cohn Prize honors the late Washington Post medical writer and health columnist Victor Cohn, known as the dean of medical science reporting. He distinguished himself by the clarity and effectiveness of his reporting during a 50-year career that began with outstanding coverage of early “wonder” drugs and the polio vaccine, as well as the dawn of the modern space age. Late in his career, Cohn started a Post column called “The Patient’s Advocate” and authored News & Numbers: A Guide to Reporting Statistical Claims and Controversies in Health and Other Fields. Cohn, who died of cancer in 2000, was a co-founder in 1959 of CASW.

Recipients of the prize include include Laurie Garrett of Newsday; Jon Palfreman, a public television documentarian; Daniel Q. Haney and Marilynn Marchione of The Associated Press; Shannon Brownlee, a noted magazine writer and book author; Michelle Trudeau of National Public Radio; Rick Weiss of the Washington Post; Jerome Groopman of The New Yorker; Geeta Anand and Ron Winslow of The Wall Street Journal; Jon Cohen of Science; freelance health reporter and former NPR correspondent Joanne Silberner; Lawrence K. Altman, Denise Grady, Elisabeth Rosenthal, and Pam Belluck of The New York Times; John Fauber and Mark Johnson of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel; Liz Szabo, health writer for USA Today and senior correspondent for Kaiser Health News; the late Sharon Begley, senior science writer at STAT; freelance medical writer Laura Beil; Apoorva Mandavilli, founder of Spectrum and now a New York Times science writer; Ed Yong, staff writer for The Atlantic; Helen Branswell of STAT; Nature senior reporter Amy Maxmen; and investigative reporter Stephanie M. Lee, formerly of BuzzFeed News and currently reporting for The Chronicle of Higher Education.

CASW is a not-for-profit organization committed to improving the quality and quantity of science news reaching the public. To learn more about CASW (Twitter: @sciencewriting), the Cohn Prize, and past recipients, visit the CASW website.