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The objective of publicizing ASA meetings and disseminating exciting results is a traditional one. The process by which ASA, like other scientific societies, interfaced with the media to ac- complish this objective changed little throughout the latter half of the 20th century. For example, a consistent feature of ASA meetings was the press room, where journalists covering the meeting could congregate, interview ASA members, and work on stories. Until 2004, journalists were also invited to a press luncheon, where synopses of three or four highlighted papers from the meeting were presented. With the advent of the internet and the decline of local or regional newspapers with dedicated science writers, however, press room atten- dance dwindled. A web-based “worldwide press room” was created to host lay-language papers and other information useful to journalists ( in 1995. The last ASA meeting to feature an actual room for the press to gather in was in Portland in 2009. Beginning with the 2011 meeting in San Diego, ASA meetings have featured a webcast press conference, where brief presentations of select- ed talks are live streamed to journalists around the world, ef- fectively replacing the press luncheon. The webcasts typically feature between 3 and 6 presenters, with 15 to 40 journalists registered online.
Science Communication Award
The ASA has offered an award to recognize “excellence in the presentation of acoustics for a popular audience” since 1995. Separate awards are given to professional writers and to professional acousticians. The latter category is intended to encourage Society members to engage in communicat- ing their work to the public. Entries are judged according to their general accessibility, relevance to acoustics, accuracy, and quality of presentation. The awards were given annually until 2008, when, in response to declining numbers of nomi- nations, the PRC decided to double the award amount and to offer the award every two years. A list of award winners is posted at
Acceptable formats for nominations originally included printed media, such as newspapers, magazines, and books, as well as radio and television broadcasts. In response to the shifting media landscape, the PRC expanded the types of publication formats that are eligible for the award to include blogs, videos, and other content posted on the internet. This past year, in recognition that print or even text is no longer the dominant format for journalism or, more broadly, for communicating to the general public, the award name was changed from “Science Writing Award” to “Science Com- munication Award.”
At first glance, it might seem that the variety of formats would pose a challenge to the judging panel. Can a magazine be meaningfully compared with a YouTube video or a multi- media story accessible on the internet? Fortunately, the judg- ing criteria described above make this possible. More chal- lenging, however, is judging the respective merits of a long work, such as a book or full-length documentary, against a two- or three-page magazine article or a five-minute video.
To address this challenge, a new category of long-format en- tries was created in 2015; no distinction is made between professional journalists or professional acousticians for this category.
The 2015-2016 awards were presented at the New Orleans meeting. The winning entry for media professionals was a video titled Singing Ice: A Star Wars Story, produced by Ryan Kellman and narrated by Adam Cole for National Public Ra- dio ( In the acoustics profes- sionals category, the award was shared by Tyler Adams for his book Sound Materials: A Compendium of Sound Absorb- ing Materials for Architects and David Bradley, Erica Ryherd, and Lauren Ronsse for their book Worship Space Acoustics: 3 Decades of Design.
Helping Acoustical Society of America Members Communicate Their Work to the Public
Although conferences and journal publications are effective platforms for communicating research results to peers, ASA members have some level of responsibility to communicate their work to the public and to policy makers as well (Lesh- ner, 2012). However, it seems that relatively few scientists (and ASA members are no exception) are both comfort- able with and skilled at engaging with the media or with the public directly. This is not surprising given that the skills needed to communicate science to peers, honed over years of rigorous training, are quite ineffective when the audience is the public and the message is mediated by a journalist. Anecdotes abound of scientific results that were garbled or even misrepresented by the media. Such stories are often ac- companied by a vow to never again discuss research with journalists.
In 2009, the PRC began discussing ways to provide ASA members with guidance and assistance in effectively com- municating their work to the public. Organizing a Media Training Workshop taught by media professionals was one early idea, but it was tabled due to the prohibitive cost and tepid member interest in such a workshop (assessed by in-
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