1st EMBO Award for Communication in the Life Sciences goes to Dutch worm scientist

Ronald Plasterk (45), from the Netherlands Institute for Developmental Biology in Utrecht, is the winner of the first EMBO (European Molecular Biology Organization) Award for Communication in the Life Sciences. The prize, consisting of Euro 5.000 and a handcrafted silver and gold medal, will be awarded on November 9th 2002.

This will take place during the EMBL/EMBO joint conference on Science and Society, „Infectious diseases; challenges, threats and responsibilities“ in Heidelberg, Germany. Nicole Stroh, from the German Cancer Research Institute in Heidelberg, was recognised for the best single initiative, her information website for cancer patients and their relatives, „www.krebs-kompass.de“.

The international jury – which comprises the EMBO Science and Society Committee – applauded Dr Plasterk for his extensive engagement in communicating science to a broad public. In his weekly column on Science & Society in the Dutch national newspaper „De Volkskrant“, and as presenter of a biweekly column on Dutch television in the prominent news programme „Buitenhof“, Plasterk dissects societal and scientific arguments spanning extremely diverse subject areas. He is also a regular commentator in other national news programmes and documentaries. In his recent book, „Life from the lab“ (in Dutch „Leven uit het Lab“), Plasterk addresses issues at the interface of science and society, in particular the concerns about the manipulation of life by DNA researchers, weeding out misunderstandings and irrationalities.

Dr Plasterk’s extensive activity in science communication runs parallel to his scientifically outstanding full-time research. His laboratory at the Netherlands Institute for Developmental Biology in Utrecht is scientifically internationally renowned. The research conducted in his group includes investigating the biological basis of taste, germline gene expression, and the development of new tools for genetic and genomic analysis using the tiny nematode worm Caenorhabditis elegans..

„Plasterk is the perfect antidote to the popular belief that scientists only do science“ commented Andrew Moore, Science & Society Programme Manager at EMBO. „He and many of the other candidates in this competition are admirable examples of scientists who believe that communication is an important activity“.

The European Molecular Biology Organization, based in Heidelberg, Germany, has launched this award in order to give recognition to the huge efforts that some scientists make in order to communicate their science to the public while remaining fully active in research. Candidates are practicing life scientists working in Europe, who have made an outstanding contribution to the public communication of science via any medium and activity.

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