The PEN/E. O. Wilson Literary Science Writing Award celebrates writing that exemplifies literary excellence on the subject of physical and biological sciences. The winner receives a cash award of $10,000 and will be honored at the PEN Literary Awards Ceremony.

The PEN/E. O. Wilson Literary Science Writing Award was founded by scientist and author Dr. Edward O. Wilson, activist and actor Harrison Ford, and the E. O. Wilson Biodiversity Foundation. The award is also supoprted by James and Cathy Stone. The inaugural award was conferred in 2011. 

Examples of published works that exemplify the quality of writing the award is designed to acknowledge include Rachel Carlson’s Silent Spring (1962), Dr. James Watson’s The Double Helix (1969), Lewis Thomas’s The Lives of a Cell (1978), and Douglas Hofstadter’s Godel, Escher, Bach: An Eternal Golden Braid (1979).

All winners and finalists for this award are eligible to receive PEN America’s official winner or finalist seal. If you are a publisher of a shortlisted or winning book for this award and are interested in obtaining PEN’s award seal, please write to

Click to view past winners of the PEN/E.O. Wilson Literary Science Writing Award »

Eligibility and Submissions for the 2017 Awards

Submissions for the 2017 awards closed on August 15, 2016. This award will be offered again during the 2018 awards cycle for which submissions will open in mid-2017. 

Who Is Eligible

  • PEN will only accept submissions from publishers, editors or literary agents. Authors may not submit their own book for this award. 
  • Eligible titles must have been published between January 1, 2016 and December 31, 2016.
  • Authors of the work must be permanent U.S. residents or American citizens.
  • Anthologies are not accepted.
  • Self-published books are not eligible. 
  • If you submit a book for this award, you may not submit it for any additional PEN American Center awards. Please note that the PEN/Faulkner and PEN/Hemingway Awards are not considered PEN American Center awards.

How to apply

1. Please download the award’s Declaration of Eligibility. Complete all fields and have a company executive sign in order to confirm the book’s eligibility. If eligible, please mail this form along with one copy of the book to PEN’s office (see step 3). If the book does not meet all of the listed eligibilty requirements, the book will not be considered for this award.

2. When submissions open for this award, a link to its online submission form will appear here.Each submission is $75*. If you would like to pay by check, please enter CHECK in the coupon code field at checkout. Checks should be made out to PEN American Center. Please also submit a verified email address on the submission form; your order cannot be processed without an email address, as this info will be used to later contact you regarding the shipments of your submission. Please note that submission fees are not refundable.

3. Mail one copy of the candidate’s book along with the book’s Declaration of Eligibilty (see step 1) to the address below. Please note that we also accept galleys and bound manuscripts.

PEN/E. O. Wilson Literary Science Writing Award
PEN American Center
588 Broadway, Suite 303
New York, NY 10012

4. Once the submitted book is received and reviewed for eligibility by PEN, you will be contacted by by the end of the year and asked to ship one copy of the book to each of our three awards judges. Please add to your safe sender list.

*Submission fees may be waived for publishers whose annual net sales are less than $4 million. In order to have your dues waived, please have a company official write a letter on company letterhead stating that your press’ annual net sales are less than $4 million. Please send this letter as an attachment (.doc or .pdf) to Once received, you will be provided with a coupon code to use at check-out in order to have your submission fees waived. One fee waiver may be used for all 2017 PEN Awards; you do not need to submit a separate fee waiver for each award.