Thanks to a generous grant from Alexandra Jane (Janie) Noble, long-time editor of the Christian Science Monitor, Novim is currently creating the Alexandra Jane Noble Awards program. The goal of this program is to honor efforts that communicate complex science topics in innovative, engaging ways to stimulate higher awareness of scientific issues in the general populace, and particularly in children and young adults.
The awards have three specific goals:
- Celebrate successful ‘epiphany’ science and its creators
- Stimulate would-be scientists, especially girls, to enter scientific careers
- Stimulate better expository writing and documentaries about ‘great science’
Epiphany is a fictional character that Janie envisioned as cartoon girl whose travels would take her into all sorts of complex scientific arenas, from which she would be able to extract stimulating, compelling, clear stories that would excite children to want to pursue a scientific career. Like ‘The Magic School Bus’ or ‘Dora the Explorer’, this spunky young girl would have adventures in “Science Space” (think of Mathland as Seymour Papert explained it in Mindstorms), discovering and then interpreting her discoveries for her friends. From Janie’s ideas, we are dedicated to finding inspirational real world groups and individuals who are similarly inspiring young scientists with new discoveries.
No one would argue that technology is changing our lives and redefining the landscape of our economy. Thus, science teaching and writing is a critical element of our national education. Additionally, increasing the attraction of a scientific career for youngsters is critical to our long term national interests. An increasing share of jobs will require a science, technology, engineering or math (STEM) background, and those with strong STEM experience will find themselves at the center of our new economy. Whether measured by earning power, or growth in total jobs, prospects for STEM-related fields are among the most promising areas for concentration.
From a 21st century national competitiveness standpoint, the task is not just attractive, but urgent. America is losing out by comparison with other countries. “For the past six years, the majority of patents issued by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office have been awarded to international owners, and fewer American students are pursuing advanced science degrees. The World Economic Forum ranks the United States 52nd in quality of math and science education. We can and must do better.” The recent PISA mathematics scores show American vs. international students down to 31st of 35 OEPD nations.
Noble envisioned a new type of awards that embraced her vision with two fundamental emphases:
- It should be a “FUN set of Awards”, that should become ‘sustaining,’ building recognition over
time, for the awards themselves and the organization
- It should be about conveying the excitement and thrill of science to lay audiences, especially
youngsters, and particularly young girls.
Novim is in the process of creating a number of awards based on these criteria. We are currently in development of 4 award types:
- a Grand Prize (the Alexandra Jane Noble Prize)
- Inspiration Awards
- Impact Awards
- Sponsored Awards
The Alexandra Jane Noble Prize recognizes one individual, team, or organization that best is able to communicate complex science topics in innovative, engaging ways to
stimulate higher awareness and participation by a wide populace, especially youth.
The Novim Epiphany Inspiration Awards are for ‘unsung heroes’—teachers in the classroom, coaches and mentors in clubs, and volunteers in related science education centers. The work of these heroes will be judged for its impact on stimulating potential leaders and wide audience understanding of science and technology for critical, often provocative, social issues.
The Impact and Sponsored Awards will be individual awards recognizing people who are making impacts in different areas, including social media, film, books, etc. and for academic researchers, including specifically faculty, graduate students, etc.