2016 Science Writing Competition winners announced

Read the winning entries on ‘The next big thing in science’.

  • pencil and page of text

    The art of science writing.

    Credit: tis_team on flickr

The winners of the 2016 UWE SCUE Science Writing Competition have been announced. The competition, run in partnership between the Science Communication Unit (SCU) at the University of the West of England, BBC Focus Magazine and the Royal Institution, aims to give aspiring non-professional science writers a head-start in their careers.

Entrants in two age categories – 17 and under and 18 and over – submitted 700-word articles on ‘The next big thing in science’. Winners were selected from the very high-quality pool of entries by a panel of judges including Prof Gail Cardew, Professor of Science, Culture and Society at the Ri. She said, “As the UK’s home of science communication for over 200 years, the Royal Institution is delighted to support the UWE’s science writing competition to give a platform to a new generation of science writers.”

17 and under age category

Winner: 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.

Gail said, "Leonie Robinson was the clear winner of the under 18 category. She presented an interesting topic and got the tone correct. Her piece read like a magazine article, rather than an essay."

Read the story here.

Runner up: 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. His story treads a fine line, singing the praises of new technology while also being realistic about its current limitations too."

18 and over age category

Winner 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’.

Gail said: "Kate McIntosh chose an interesting topic, researched it thoroughly and wrote with an easy, elegant style."

Read Kate’s winning entry: Could micro-organisms manage your mood?

Runner-up: 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."

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. Winning entries will be published on the BBC Focus and SCU websites, and have won a year’s subscription to BBC Focus. Winners aged 18 and over will also have the chance to develop their entry into an article that will be published in the magazine itself as well as having the opportunity to attend a science writing course run by the SCU.