Science writing competition 2016

A science writing competition in partnership with BBC Focus and the Royal Institution.

The Science Communication Unit (SCU) at UWE Bristol, BBC Focus magazine and the Royal Institution recently ran a science writing competition aimed at non-professional science writers. Entrants were invited to write a 700-word article about “The Next Big Thing in Science.”

17 and under age category


Leonie Robinson (aged 15): The Cells That Make Us Human?

A look at the discovery of spindle cells within the brains of whales and dolphins and the impact that this could have on human health research, particularly into conditions such as autism and Alzheimer’s disease.

The judges said: “Leonie’s story draws readers in from the outset. She explains the science with real clarity as well as making a clear case for how significant this discovery might be.”

Read Leonie’s winning entry: The Cells That Make Us Human? (PDF)


Stanley Lowres (aged 16): People Power

How wearable technology, such as smart watches, may generate power from our bodies in the future – making use of the likes of the swing of our legs as we walk, the impact of our feet on the ground and our body heat.

The judges said: “Stanley has a lovely, conversational writing style and makes good use of humour too. His story treads a fine line, singing the praises of new technology while also being realistic about its current limitations too.”

Read Stanley's entry: People Power (PDF)

18 and over age category


Kate McIntosh (aged 20): Could micro-organisms manage your mood?

We've all heard of probiotics - the microorganisms that are said to improve our health. But Kate's story looks at a new slant on this idea - how micro-organisms may be able to alter our mood for the better; a field known as 'psychobiotics'.

The judges said: “Kate has spotted a good story and told it well - two things that sound simple, but really aren't. She cleverly engages the reader while at the same time being realistic about our current knowledge of the science behind this idea.”

Read Kate's winning entry: Could micro-organisms manage your mood? (PDF)


Anna Groves (aged 27): Ecology at a Crossroads

Anna's story is an insight into how big data is now at the forefront of our understanding of the natural world. At the same time, this is a rallying cry for ecologists, calling on them not to lose sight of more traditional research methods and venture off the beaten track with notebook in hand.

The judges said: “Anna's writing has a natural rhythm, which makes it a pleasure to read. She also provides the reader with a window into the true nature of the scientific process today while at the same time ensuring that we don't see it through rose-tinted glass.”

Read Anna's entry: Ecology at a Crossroads (PDF)

About the competition

The competition was organised by the University of the West of England's Science Communication Unit, which provides courses in science writing and all other forms of science communication in conjunction with BBC Focus magazine and the Royal Institution.

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