Tuesday, 25 March 2014

A night of winners!

Last night marked the Access to Understanding 2014 science-writing competition award ceremony.

At its heart, the competition is a celebration. It celebrates the commitment and enthusiasm of early career researchers to share scientific advances with an interested public audience.  It’s also a celebration that all of the articles that entrants could write about (spanning cancer to neurodegeneration, malaria to arthritis) are freely available from Europe PMC – along with over 2.8 million others. They were put forward by the Europe PMC funders, who each expect their researchers to make their articles freely available, or open access, so that anyone can read them.

©The British Library Board
Of course, access does not always equate to understanding, as research articles often use highly specific technical language. The Access to Understanding competition bridges this gap by encouraging researchers to explain research to a non-specialist audience making it truly accessible. Entries were judged on accurate representation of the research, as well as how easy it was to understand.

We were honoured that Sir Mark Walport (Chief Scientific Advisor to the UK Government) joined us to give a keynote presentation in which he told us how important 'access to understanding' is in his role to advise ministers on often complex and critical scientific issues - it's necessary for him to clearly explain the science 'without changing the message' and it's also important that he gets clear briefings from his many advisors about the areas of science that don't fall into his personal sphere of expertise. Sir Mark then went on to present the awards.

The overall winner of the Access to Understanding 2014 science-writing competition is Elizabeth Kirkham, a PhD student in the Department of Psychology at the University of Sheffield, for her entry, ‘Beat box: how the brain processes rhythm’, explaining the brain structure involved in beat prediction.

Elizabeth Kirkham and Sir Mark Walport ©The British Library Board
Second place was awarded to Elizabeth McAdam, CRUK London Research Institute, for her entry, ‘Reforming rheumatoid arthritis treatment: a step in the right direction’. Third place went to Aidan Maartens, Gurdon Institute, University of Cambridge, for his entry ‘Populations within populations: drug resistance and malaria control’.

As a new element of the competition, entries were opened up to public vote and after collecting votes for nearly a month, Simon Denegri (NIHR’s National Director for Public Participation and Engagement in Research) presented the People’s Choice award to Lucia Aronica, Max F. Perutz Laboratories, for her entry ‘How healthy eating could starve out cancer’.

Left to right: Aidan Maartens, Elizabeth Kirkham, Elizabeth McAdam, Lucia Aronica
©The British Library Board
Six other entrants were commended by the judging panel for writing the best summary of their respective article. All the entries are available to read in the competition booklet. Over the next few weeks these entries will be posted here, and all of them will be permanently associated on Europe PMC with the article about which they were written.

Stay tuned to the blog or twitter for future posts about the competition. 

Thank you to all who entered the Access to Understanding 2014 competition, the judges and those who voted in the People’s Choice award. And big congratulations to this year’s winners!

Europe PMC and the British Library are the partner organisations who bring you the Access to Understanding competition. Read more about the award ceremony on the British Library's Science Team's blog: Access to Understanding Awards 2014: Everyone's a Winner 

By Anna Kinsey and Rebecca Withers