Kevin Padian

The Wonderfest Advisory Board and Prize Selection Committee is pleased to announce that Kevin Padian has been selected to be the 2003 recipient of the Carl Sagan Prize for Science Popularization.

Kevin Padian taught in public schools in New York State in the 1970s, then earned a Ph.D. from Yale University in 1980. He is a Professor in the Department of Integrative Biology at the University of California at Berkeley and Curator of the UC Berkeley’s Museum of Paleontology. His specialties include the origin of dinosaurs, the origin of major evolutionary adaptations, how pterosaurs moved and lived, and the structure and shape of dinosaur bones.

Kevin Padian is an exemplary scientist. He is well-known in his field as an authority on bird evolution and also the evolution of early amphibians. But it is his work to increase the public understanding of science that earns him this award. He has done this in two ways: through popularizing his professional work, and also through herculean efforts to improve the quality of science education.

Kevin has made substantial contributions to the public understanding of science in his professional field of paleontology. He is the author of several articles in popular publications such as Scientific American, Discover, and National Geographic (he’s in last May’s National Geographic with his Laborador dogs, in fact!), and of course, NCSE Reports. His vita indicates over 130 publications in popular and semi-popular sources on scientific topics in his area of expertise.

As president of NCSE he has worked to improve the public understanding of evolution in many ways: writing articles, answering questions, and appearing in public on our behalf. He also has been an ambassador to fellow members of the scientific community, encouraging them to, like him, invest time in improving science education. The importance of such efforts of a leading scientist should not be underestimated. It is vitally important that the scientific community become involved in the public understanding of science – which I know are goals included among those of Wonderfest.

But it is Kevin’s contributions to science education where I believe his efforts have been especially important. Kevin has invested uncalculable amounts of time working for the improvement of science education nationally and in California specifically. During the early 1990s he served on the committee that developed and wrote the California Science Education Framework, considered at the time to be a model for the rest of the nation. In fact, the scientists and teachers who developed the National Science Education Standards in the mid 1990s worked closely with the California team; there was much cross fertilization of ideas that even today are shaping educational policy across the nation. Kevin was part of the critique and consensus component of the development of the NSES and worked effectively to make the NSES a strong and effective document.Kevin also served on several ad hoc California educational committees, appointed by former Superintendent of Education, Bill Honig, including curriculum development and textbook approval. In all of these efforts, Kevin has stressed the primacy of science content over all other issues, an argument he can make with authority given his stature in the scientific community.

He has also given generously of his time to teachers, having been invited by the National Science Teacher Association, the National Association of Biology Teachers, and the California Science Teacher Association to present lectures and workshops at their annual meetings. Kevin was instrumental in making the National Council on the Teaching of Evolution, held in Berkeley in the fall of 2000, a success. He has also participated in many teacher education sessions at the California Academy of Sciences, the UC Museum of Paleontology, and through science teacher outreach of professional associations such as the Geological Society of America, the Paleontological Society, the Society for the Study of Evolution, and others. He has consulted with the very effective program for elementary school teachers, the California Science Implementation Network, as well as with the Lawrence Hall of Science educational materials developers. I have been honored to share the stage with him on many occasions, and I am continually awed by his ability to connect with teachers and help them understand the big ideas.

— Eugenie C. Scott,Wonderfest Advisory Board Member