Tuesday, 26 November 2013

Access to Understanding: The Real Prize

by Emma Pewsey
Winner, Access to Understanding 2013

This post is particularly aimed at those of you who are thinking about entering the Access to Understanding competition who have never entered a science writing competition before.

Access to Understanding is the perfect first-time competition to enter. Unlike most other science-writing competitions, you don’t need to struggle for inspiration for an interesting subject to write about – 10 fascinating papers are provided for you to interpret, so you can concentrate on the nitty-gritty of making their story sparkle.

(There’s plenty of advice online about how to get that summary sparkling. My advice? Don’t get too hung up on following it. Be original!)

Source: Shutterstock Copyright: GrandeDuc
But why should you enter? What’s in it for you?

The obvious answer is an iPad and the ability to go around for a year introducing yourself as officially the best plain English summary writer in the world. However, that’s only the start of the prizes.

For me, the greatest prize was the confidence to keep on writing. Before last year, I’d never written a plain English summary before, let alone entered any writing competitions. When I won, suddenly my vague career plan of ‘something where I get to tell people about science’ became a serious possibility. If you’re not planning on leaving research, it’s pretty satisfying to know your next funding application is going to include a knock-out plain English summary.


Source: Shutterstock Copyright: Genialbaron
So where did that confidence lead me? Well, I entered two more science writing competitions. In one of them, my entry sunk without trace, but I was shortlisted for the Wellcome Trust Science Writing Prize (where I ran into a couple of familiar faces from Access to Understanding at the awards ceremony). Now, I’m finishing up my PhD so I can start my new job as an Assistant Features Editor in a couple of months.

So even if you’ve never written anything like this before, give it a go – those prizes are well worth winning. Have fun writing and good luck!

This post is by Emma Pewsey, winner of Access to Understanding 2013. You can read her winning entry, 'Hip, Hip, Hooray!' here.

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