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Tireless Science Communication Pays Off for Science@NASA

Last night, the Science@NASA family of web sites received the 2000 Pirelli INTERNETional, a prestigious international award for science communications.

NASA
Marshall Space Flight Center

April 04, 2001 -- Last night the Science@NASA family of Internet web sites received a prestigious international honor, the 2000 Pirelli INTERNETional Award, which recognizes excellence in science communications and "the spread of science culture" using the Internet.

a picture of the Science@NASA front pageRon Koczor, the NASA manager responsible for the sites, said it was wonderful to receive the award.

"It's heartening to know our science news is reaching not only people throughout the United States, but throughout the world as well."

Pirelli, an Italian multinational manufacturer of tires and telecommunications systems, flew Koczor to Rome, Italy, to accept the award on behalf of the Science@NASA team. He was joined at the ceremony by approximately 200 people including the Italian Prime Minister Ciuliano Amato and Marco Trenchetti, chairman and chief executive officer of Pirelli.

The Science@NASA family of six websites, operated by NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center (MSFC) in Huntsville, Alabama, received more than 330 million "hits" from Internet users in 2000. The cutting-edge style of science communication at MSFC is reflected in the content on the award-winning sites, which feature a broad range of science and space news.

Koczor says it is the comprehensive nature of the MSFC science communication process that enables the team to avoid the restrictions of a narrowly-focused organizational hierarchy.

"We created a broad-scope roundtable process that ties together scientists, the website production people, the writers and the NASA managers," he said.

Dr. Deborah Treise, a communications professor at the University of Florida, has worked with the communications team at MSFC for more than five years and marvels at their progress.

"They've got a completely new and revolutionary mindset about their responsibility to educate and raise the level of scientific literacy and awareness [among their diverse audiences]," Treise says.

Why is NASA interested in Science Communication?

A primary mission of the Agency, stated in the NASA strategic plan is 

"...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, the Agency is chartered to 

"provide for the widest practicable and appropriate dissemination of information concerning its activities and the results thereof."

Koczor attributes the Pirelli INTERNETional Award recognition to the eclectic nature of information available on the six websites, including presentation of earth and space science, lessons on environment and technology, and educational resources for all ages.

"The outreach is aimed at a diverse audience," says Koczor, "including elementary and high school students, their parents, space science hobbyists and science teachers. NASA plays a key role in stimulating the average person and showing that space research has a direct bearing on his or her day-to-day life."

Science@NASA -- one of NASA's top outreach websites -- also received the Webby Award in 1999 for the "Best Science Site on the Internet" from the International Academy of Digital Arts and Sciences. It is the only U.S. government website to win both these awards.

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"I think the reason why the Science@NASA websites are winning these awards is the level at which they are written," Treise says. "It's not your traditional, dry, information-only approach to website content and design."

This pioneering approach was started, according to Treise, when a "renegade group of scientists" identified the "coolness" factor of their NASA space science research and set out to create a communication process that would let them share their exciting research with others.

It is appropriate, say Treise and Koczor, that NASA is being acknowledged for innovative communications on the Internet, because they believe the web is a happy medium for scientists and journalists. For scientists, it is a forum to present ideas without their messages falling victim to inaccurate outside editing. For journalists, the NASA web sites are a virtual treasure trove of story ideas.

Pirelli launched its INTERNETional Award program in 1996 to identify and promote excellence in multimedia works on the Internet that improve knowledge and intelligent control of science and technology. The company, which grants six separate awards, evaluated more than 700 sites for this year's competition. The Science@NASA family of websites won First Prize for Scientific Information, which honors the best multimedia product of scientific publishing.

Web Links

The Pirelli Awards -- more information

Science@NASA Wins at 1999 Webby Awards -- Readers vote Science@NASA "Best Science Site on the Internet"

The Science@NASA Web family:

Science@NASA -- Our flagship site.

NASAKids -- offers stories written for middle schoolers and younger, with activities to help energize the natural curiosity of our children.

Ciencia@NASA -- Spanish-language science news stories

NASA Liftoff -- satellite tracking and stories aimed at high-schoolers.

SpaceWeather.com -- learn about geomagnetic storms, meteor showers, and more...

Thursday's Classroom -- lesson plans about recent NASA science news.


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Moresays 'NASA NEWS'Headlines

The Science and Technology Directorate at NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center sponsors the Science@NASA web sites. The mission of Science@NASA is to help the public understand how exciting NASA research is and to help NASA scientists fulfill their outreach responsibilities.
For lesson plans and educational activities related to breaking science news, please visit Thursday's Classroom Author: Annie Strickler (University of Florida)
Production Editor: Dr. Tony Phillips
Curator: Bryan Walls
Media Relations: Steve Roy
Responsible NASA official: John M. Horack
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