NSF PR 02-16 (NSB 02-18) - March 4, 2002
Mentoring Organization, Evolution Activist Singled
Out for NSB Public Service Award
The 2002 National Science Board Public Service Award
for increasing public understanding of science and
engineering will go to Eugenie Scott, an activist
for teaching evolution in public schools; and the
Society for Advancement of Chicanos and Native Americans
in Science (SACNAS), the "premier" organization that
promotes diversity in science careers (especially
for underrepresented Latinos and Native Americans).
The annual award recognizes one individual and one
institution for their outstanding contributions to
communicating, promoting or helping to develop broad
public policy in science and engineering.
Scott, a physical anthropologist, has been the executive
director for the National Center for Science Education,
based at the University of California at Berkeley,
since 1987. She has advocated tirelessly to raise
the level of consciousness about the appropriate way
to teach evolution in U.S. public schools.
SACNAS is singled out for giving information, support,
guidance and mentoring to budding young Latino and
Native American scientists and engineers.
"These awards are not research-based, yet they are
special because they go to the heart of what is really
important for our nation -- informing, educating and
building greater literacy in science and engineering,"
said NSB Chairman Eamon Kelly. "SACNAS and Eugenie
Scott have had a profound impact on influencing and
encouraging a new and more diverse group of next-generation
scientists and engineers. They have built career-developing
and career-enhancing programs, and a body of thought
within our K-12 public school systems promoting progressiveness
"In an appropriate manner, Eugenie Scott struck a chord
for the nation in the teaching of evolution. She
communicated her message in a positive way among other
competing, sometimes opposite, and often emotional
points of view," said Paula Apsell, who chairs the
NSB Public Service Award advisory committee.
Scott currently serves as president of the American
Association of Physical Anthropologists. She says
her background in physical anthropology enables her
to look at the debate over creationism versus evolution
from both scientific and cultural perspectives.
Scott has consulted for a PBS-produced video series
on evolution and for other programs on the creation/evolution
debate, and on pseudoscience. She also has consulted
with the National Academy of Sciences on its books
"Science and Creationism" and "Teaching About Evolution
and the Nature of Science."
"I feel that the contribution I have made over time
is bringing a certain civility into the dialogue about
evolution versus creationism," Scott says. "People
have strong feelings about the issue, and I have tried
to keep communications channels open and positive."
SACNAS, in the last quarter century, has grown from
a handful of people devoted to bringing more Latinos
and Native Americans into scientific and engineering
fields, to an organization of more than 4,100 members
reaching tens of thousands of minority students and
career scientists and engineers.
"In 1972, when the organization first started, it served
just a handful of people," explained Richard Tapia,
NSB member and co-founder of SACNAS. "At our first
meeting we had eight people and essentially met on
an elevator. Now, SACNAS is a huge success story,
meeting a large need at the right time. After 30
years, to see an organization grow to serve so many
people after such humble beginnings makes me proud
to have played a role."
"We are surprised and honored, but we have also worked
very hard to fulfill our mission," SACNAS President
Maria Elena Zavala said. Zavala, a biology professor
at California State University at Northridge, says
that her organization's success is partly due to the
commitment of the membership to developing scientists
and "influencing the pipeline at the earliest point."
SACNAS provides year-round mentoring and role models
through its membership. At its annual conference,
SACNAS mentors undergraduate and graduate students
in the sciences, mathematics and engineering by sponsoring
them to participate in their first professional conference,
and hearing from role models first hand.
More than 200 teachers were among the 1,600 overall
who attended last fall's annual SACNAS workshop, "and
that was after events of Sept. 11," Zavala said.
She believes the workshops, rural outreach and a program
of e-mentoring with teachers will make a significant
difference in years to come as the U.S. builds its
next generation of "home-grown" scientists and engineers.
Another major effort of SACNAS is its biography project,
which provides students who visit the organization
web site an introduction to Latinos and Native Americans
who have had successful scientific or educational
"We have a young Latino and Native American population
that is trickling into professorship positions, so
we are also building our mentoring support to include
young Ph.D.s," Zavala said.
For more information, see: http://www.nsf.gov/nsb
For more information on SACNAS, see: http://www.sacnas.org