The Bok Awards, named in honor of astronomers Bart and Priscilla Bok, recognize excellent research conducted by high school students. Since 1992, the Astronomical Society of the Pacific (ASP) and the American Astronomical Society (AAS) have shared the responsibility for sending judges to the annual Intel International Science and Engineering Fair (ISEF) to select Bok awardees. This sharing arrangement usefully pools judges' expertise, shares the work of administering the award programs, and forms a valuable working relationship between organizations that serve different components of the astronomical community. The Bok program addresses concerns about decreasing enrollment of undergraduate physics and astronomy majors by targeting excellence in high school science research for recognition and encouragement each year.
This award supports the judges' attendance at ISEF, some expenses related to the prizes, and attendance of the winners at the winter meeting of the AAS, where they are encouraged to present their winning research. It is augmented by contributions from the AAS, including waiving registration fees for the winners, and from the ASP, who will provide the award prizes and some additional support.
The merit of the prizes is undeniable, fostering excellence in research by peer-reviewing and rewarding student research in a public forum. By example, the Bok program encourages other science-oriented students to consider astronomical research as an exciting future career, and thus seeks to mitigate, in a modest but targeted way, lagging interest in the physical sciences.