March 19, 1999:
In an awards ceremony
late last night in San Francisco, Calif., the International
Academy of the Digital Arts and Sciences announced that
web readers had awarded the 1999 Webby Awards People's
Voice Award for "Best Science Site" to Science@NASA.
"This is really an exceptional honor for all of
us here at the Space Sciences Laboratory, at the Marshall
Space Flight Center, and at NASA," commented Dr.
John Horack, who directs NASA/Marshall's science communications
process in Huntsville, Ala. "We're both grateful
for the external validation of the quality of our work,
especially from our customers, and gratified that others
share our view of how important it is for scientists to
take the initiative in communicating their work to those
who pay for it.
The award-winning internet site is one part
of a comprehensive science
communications process that has been developed by scientists
at NASA/Marshall and has been operating for nearly 2-1/2
"We recognized awhile ago that the culture of science
needed changing, and that the scientists were the ones
who were going to have to step up to the new requirements
of their job in the post-Cold War era" commented
Dr. Greg Wilson, director of the Space Sciences Laboratory
at NASA/Marshall. "Our science communications process
helps us do as good a job in communicating new knowledge
as we have done in advancing the state of knowledge through
The NASA/Marshall science communications team was represented
at the awards ceremony by Dr. Tony Phillips and Linda Porter
of NASA/Marshall. Considered The Oscars for the Web,
two awards are given in each category: a Webby, decided
by a panel of judges, and a People's Choice Award, determined
by popular vote from the same pool of nominees. Judges
for the 1999 Webby's included musician David Bowie, actress
Gillian Anderson of the X-Files television show,
and Scott Adams, creator of Dilbert, among
others. But it was you, the people, voting at the Webby
Awards' home site, who awarded Science@NASA
with the People's Choice Award for Science.
"We kind of treat the Web as our "indicator
species" of the science communications ecosystem,"
remarked Horack. "If the Web is doing well, we're
probably doing a good job overall in sharing our research
with those who can use it to make positive social, economic,
educational, and quality-of-life outcomes in society.
And these outcomes are really why we do science research
in the first place."
Why is NASA interested in Science Communication?
A primary mission of the Agency, stated in the NASA strategic
"...to advance and communicate scientific
knowledge and understanding of the Earth, the solar system,
and the Universe, and to use the environment of space
for research." (emphasis added)
This involves all of NASA's scientific research, and
places the communication of newly acquired knowledge and
understanding on an equal footing with the generation
of that knowledge and understanding.
Without communicating these advances, this part of NASA's
mission remains incomplete. Therefore, in order to do
their job, scientists need to better understand how to
communicate the contents and importance of their research
to the National Interest.
The concept of science communications is not new within
NASA. In fact, in the Aeronautics and Space Act of
1958, which created NASA, NASA is chartered to
"provide for the widest practicable and appropriate
dissemination of information concerning its activities
and the results thereof."