Summer School

Winners announced ABSW Science Writers' Awards for Great Britain and Ireland

The winners of the 2017 Association of British Science Writers’ (ABSW) Awards for Great Britain and Ireland were announced at an Awards Ceremony tonight (Thursday 25 May) in London.  

Two hundred and twenty-eight entries were considered by the independent panel of science journalists and science communicators who judged the entries based on originality, appeal to a broad audience, novelty of subject matter, likely impact, style, content, entertainment, balance and depth of reporting.  

The evening was hosted by Pallab Ghosh, Honorary President of the ABSW, and Science Correspondent at the BBC.   Aoife Pauley, Head of Corporate Media, EMEA, presented the Awards on behalf of Johnson & Johnson Innovation, the Award sponsors.

Chair of the judging panel, ABSW Chair and Environment News Editor of New Scientist, Mico Tatalovic said:

“This has been a great year for quality of entries, and I’ve enjoyed immensely chairing the judging panel and discussing the winners with the other judges. I was especially happy to see strong entries for the investigative category, as investigative science journalism is something we’ve championed and supported over the last few years.   The entries, shortlists and winners demonstrate the strength of science journalism in the UK and Ireland today, which is undoubtedly some of the best in the world.”

The Awards are supported by Johnson & Johnson Innovation with additional category support from The Royal Society, The Dr Katharine Giles Fund, and the NUJ/Stephen White Award.  2017 saw the introduction of a new awards for Student Science Journalist of the Year, and the news category being open to entry from broadcast journalists for the first time. 

NB: Links are provided to articles/programmes/videos where possible

European Science Writer of the Year


Hester van Santen, science journalist NRC media, Dutch Science Writer of the Year nominated by VWN

Special Mention:

Ivan Cadjenovic, Journalist, Independent daily newspapers “Vijesti”, Montenegrin Science Writer of the Year nominated by the Association of Science Journalists of Montenegro

The best feature


Jane Qiu for, Trouble in Tibet, published in Nature

Special Mention:

Alexandra Witze for, On the hunt for a mystery planet, published in Nature

The judges were, “impressed about the standards of all three, the whole shortlist was very strong indeed.” But Jane Qiu’s Tibet was: “Gripping, novel, important and human. The strongest piece of reporting. This quality of writing can only come from being there. Qiu carries us with her on her brave journey across Tibet, where she interviews nomads, government officials and ecological scientists to show us, deftly, how the policies of the Chinese government are destroying the grasslands, despite having the opposite goal.”

The judges wished to give a special mention to Alexandra Witze for her: “Atmospheric depiction of a night with an obsessive astronomer on a mountain top, painstakingly planet-hunting.   There was a huge amount of work involved and it was an excellent depiction of scientists at work.”

The best news item - now open to broadcast journalists


Jo Marchant for, Human skeleton found on famed Antikythera wreck, published in Nature

The judges said: “A beautifully written exclusive account of the discovery of human remains on the Antikythera wreck. Demonstrates the value of building solid contacts with scientists who tipped Jo off and guaranteed the exclusive. This is how science news stories should form - not from press releases or 'hunting with the pack' but by being immersed in the subject. In this case literally!”

The best scripted/edited television programme or online video


Why there could be many identical copies of you broadcast on BBC Earth. Idea originated and scripted by Melissa Hogenboom. Video production, editing and special effects by Pierangelo Pirak.

The judges said: “The winning entry demonstrated an innovative approach to a mind-bending topic. The judges were impressed with the high production values, creative execution of ideas and thoughtful, humorous interviews. It was a powerful combination making it the stand out piece in a competitive shortlist. The original, zany treatment grows on you.  Wonderful to see such creative science video without a Hollywood budget.”

The Royal Society Radio Prize (NB: A prize for the best scripted/edited radio programme or podcast)


The whale menopause, broadcast on BBC Radio 4. Presented by Victoria Gill. Produced by Andrew Luck-Baker.

Special mention:

The science hour: Gravitational wave discovery, broadcast on the BBC World Service. Produced by Adrian Washbourne. Presented by Claudia Hammond. Reporting by Aleem Maqbool.  

Of the winner, the judges said: “Perfect radio.  A good science story with location colour and atmosphere, skilfully recorded, mixed and linked.  It drew me in and held me captive to the end - and all without getting sea-sick!”

The science hour received a special mention for being, “definitive, timely, clever and appealing.”

The best investigative journalism


Maria Cheng and Krista Larson for, Botching yellow fever, published by the Associated Press

The judges were, “very pleased there were three entries of such a strong standard this year”.   Of the winner, the judges said: “An object lesson in investigation. The reporters talked to everyone involved in this scandal and built the story out of what they found: and they told the story convincingly and with great force. Thorough research and refusal to accept the propaganda of the press release has led to a feature that's both important and riveting.”

The NUJ Stephen White Award for best communication and reporting of science in a non science context.  This Award is made in memory of Stephen White, a highly influential science communicator who sadly died in 2010.   The Award is possible due to a donation from Stephen’s widow Elizabeth.


Warren Manger for, Three heroes of ‘66 have dementia, published in the Daily Mirror

The judges said: “’Three Heroes of ’66 Have Dementia’ revealed that three 1966 World Cup winners are battling Alzheimer’s disease. It is a story with high impact, that appeals to a wide audience, from sport enthusiasts to neurologists.”

The Dr Katharine Giles science blog award. This Award is supported by the Dr Katharine Giles Fund


Benjamin Thompson and Anand Jagatia, Microbe Post, published The Microbiology Society

The judges said: “Microbe Post covers a wide area of topics relating to microbiology. The authors are clearly passionate about their area, and skilled at writing for a general audience.”

The best newcomer award


Max Sanderson, Freelance audio producer and writer

The judges said: “In an upbeat, original and balanced production, Max used ‘The Lord of the Flies’ to ask important questions about human violence.” 

The best student science journalist - new award for 2017


Julia Gottwald, PhD Psychiatry, University of Cambridge, for Does your brain have a sex?, published in BlueSci

The judges said: “Julia is a natural story-teller who wrote confidently and with some originality about the complexities of our brains.”

Lifetime achievement in science journalism

Andy Coghlan, Senior reporter, New Scientist

Award winners received a certificate and a cash prize and now enter the ABSW hall of fame that includes previous Award winners Sir David Attenborough, Sir John Maddox (Nature), and Judith Hann (BBC Tomorrow’s World).

For further information contact:

Sallie Robins

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