In an effort to reward quality science writing, actor Harrison Ford joined science writer Rebecca D. Costa and E.O. Wilson, Pulitzer Prize-winning author and Harvard biology professor, to announce the creation of a $10,000 writing award.

The PEN/Wilson Award will go to the author who best increases the public’s understanding of science and how it is approached.

The announcement was made Friday at Palo Alto’s Garden Court Hotel.

A lead actor in Hollywood blockbuster films, Ford is also a conservation activist who serves on the advisory board of the E.O.Wilson Biodiversity Foundation and is vice-chairman of the board of directors for Conservation International, where he met Wilson. It is their generous contribution that made this award possible.

The PEN American Center is the U.S. branch of International PEN, a literary and human rights organization that opposes censorship and supports writers.

Ford complimented Wilson on his rare combination of skills and gifts, saying, “He has the capacity of a poet in expression and the clarity of a scientist in facts and reasoning.”

Ford’s first contact with Wilson’s literary work was, The Creation: An Appeal to Save Life on Earth.

“People want a story,” Wilson said. “They respect science, but they read novels. There are not very many scientists that can write a good novel. Hopefully there will be a class of novelists that use science in their work.”

Noting Ford’s name recognition and popularity, Costa, who wrote the Watchman’s Rattle, said she was pleased that Ford was helping to increase the visibility of science writing at such an important time.

She bemoaned the lack of interest by publishing companies in nonacademic science books. “We need more books that bridge the gap between what is known by scientists and people’s everyday struggles with their own life.”

Wilson is working on an online science textbook for students that will use state-of-the-art animation and the voices of scientists who made the discoveries.

“It will make the 8-pound, back-breaking, $150 biology textbook obsolete,” he said.