Actor Harrison Ford, and two-time Pulitzer Prize winner (and Science 2.0 favorite) Dr. Edward O. Wilson are holding a press conference today at 3:30 in Palo Alto, California, to announce the newly created PEN/E.O. Wilson Literary Science Writing Award.    I won't be there because the award has nothing at all to do with actual science outreach but I am mentioning it just the same.

PEN American Center (PEN is poets, playwrights, essayists, editors and novelists) is the U.S. branch of the world’s oldest international literary and human rights(?) organization.   International PEN was founded in to protest the conditions that led to World War I while PEN American Center was founded in 1922 and is the largest of the 144 PEN centers in 101 countries.

The new award is "designed to acknowledge new and compelling non-academic writing that contributes to the public’s understanding of science and changes how science is approached".

Not sure what that means but presumably journalism and journal articles are excluded and books are their focus, given both the PEN organization and their examples - they list Rachel Carson's "Silent Spring" and Dr. James Watson’s "The Double Helix" as outreach 'which contribute 'to the public’s understanding of scientific principles at work in the world today. '    Watson's book was obviously science but Carson's was instead an advocacy book that used pseudo-science so the grouping is confusing.

And columnists who do this stuff every day ... errr, sorry, you don't count, though there are other awards - yesterday we mentioned blogger Ed Yong at Discover got an award from the National Academies for his daily contributions to science.

Winners will be chosen by PEN American Center beginning in 2011 with a prize of $10,000.  Ford and Prof. Wilson have provided initial funding for the award, though why a multi-millionaire and a lowly-paid scientist are splitting the bill is as unclear as what 'writing' means to PEN. 

Edward O. Wilson
Edward O. Wilson on his 80th birthday with Bloggy, our mascot.  Really, the only thing cooler than myrmecology is Bloggy.