Mission & History | Society for Science & the Public
Atmosphere measurements from NASA's MAVEN probe of Mars
NASA Scientific Visualization Studio

Mission & History

Society for Science & the Public (Society) is a champion for science, dedicated to expanding scientific literacy, effective STEM education and scientific research. We are a nonprofit 501(c)(3) membership organization focused on promoting the understanding and appreciation of science and the vital role it plays in human advancement: to inform, educate, and inspire.
Since 1921, the Society (formerly known as Science Service) has conveyed the excitement of science and research directly to the public through our award-winning publications and world-class science education competitions.
Today, the Society is dedicated to providing concise, accurate, and inspirational science news and opportunities to our nearly 100,000 subscribing members, the 50,000 alumni of our competitions worldwide, and millions of unique online visitors and social media followers.

Our History

Edward W. Scripps, a renowned journalist, and William Emerson Ritter, a California zoologist, founded Science Service in 1921 with the goal of keeping the public informed of scientific achievements.

Scripps and Ritter accomplished their goal by distributing the latest science research to the public through a news service for reporters. In 1922, due to interest from non-journalists, Science Service started distributing Science News-Letter, which became a magazine in 1926. It quickly grew into a prime source of science news for libraries, schools, and individuals. In 1942, Science Service launched the first of its prestigious education competitions, the Science Talent Search.

In 2008, Science Service became Society for Science & the Public in order to better reflect the mission of the organization to advocate for science in the public interest.

In 2013, the Society began offering an all-in-one membership and subscription offer that allows subscribers to access Science News in their preferred format and launched a new website that unifies our award-winning publications with our science education and competition programs.

Our Publications

  • Science News-Letter was renamed Science News in 1966 and its online component was launched in 1996. Now updated continually online, Science News attracts over 12 million unique online viewers annually.
  • In 2003, Science Service launched Science News for Kids. This freely accessible online publication provides interactive interfaces and science news to students, parents, and educators, and is designed to appeal to ages 9 through 14.
  • In 2013, Science News for Kids was renamed Science News for Students and additional educational content was added to the site to better reflect our increasing focus on providing resources aimed at classroom curricula.

Our Educational Competitions

  • In 1942, Science Service launched the Science Talent Search (STS), the nation's oldest and most highly regarded science contest for high school seniors, first in partnership with Westinghouse, then with Intel 1998-2016, and now sponsored by Regeneron.
  • In 1950, Science Service created the National Science Fair for high school winners of local and regional science fairs, first held in Philadelphia. In 1958, the fair became international for the first time when Japan, Canada, and Germany joined the competition. This annual fair has since grown into the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair (Intel ISEF) with affiliated fairs in more than 75 countries, regions, and territories.
  • From 1999-2007, Science Service partnered with Discovery Communications, Inc. on the Discovery Channel Young Scientist Challenge. The Society continued the program in 2008 as the Society Middle School Program.
  • In 2010, with the generous support of Broadcom Foundation, the Society launched the Broadcom MASTERS (Math, Applied Science, Technology and Engineering for Rising Stars) competition for U.S. 6th-8th grade students. In 2011, the Society launched Broadcom MASTERS International, which reaches middle school students across the world.
  • In 2009, with the generous support of Intel, the Society launched its Fellowship Program providing funds and training to selected U.S. science and math teachers who serve under-resourced students, to enable interested and motivated students to perform high-quality independent scientific research.
  • In 2013, in collaboration with the Tomorrow Project, Arizona State University’s Center for Science and the Imagination, and the Intel Foundation, the Society hosted The Future: Powered by Fiction, a science fiction competition for ages 13-25.
  • Also in 2013, the Society partnered with the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation on the Science Play and Research Kit (SPARK): Reimagining the 21st Century Chemistry Set competition. This competition was seeking ideas that engage and inspire both children and adults to become more involved in hands-on science.