Navigation path

Left navigation

Additional tools

Other available languages: none

MEMO/05/343

Brussels, 28 September 2005

The 23 nominees for the 2005 Descartes Prize for Science Communication

The 23 projects listed below have been nominated for the 2005 Descartes Prize for Communication (see IP/05/1195). Winners will be announced on 2 December 2005.

Nominee: Dr Anja C. Andersen – star of the show

Category: Professional scientists engaged in science communication to the public

Country: Denmark

Previous award: Danish National Research Communication Award (2004)

Description: A young Danish astrophysicist, Dr Andersen rose to fame in her native Denmark as a guest expert on the TV science show Kosmos. Since then, she has become a renowned personality following numerous appearances on TV, radio and in newspapers. Along with frequent appearances in the media, she travels around the country presenting popular talks and actively participates in debates about science and technology issues at schools, libraries and colleges. Dr Andersen is committed to raising young people’s interest in science, particularly young women, and has an exceptional gift for presenting the complexities of science to a popular audience. The Danish Ministry of Science, Technology and Innovation has noted her “remarkable ability to relate difficult topics within physics and technology to ordinary people’s lives without compromising the scientific quality”. Dr Andersen is nominated for her ongoing dedication to science communication.

Nominee: Dr Robert Arlinghaus – fishing for scientific truth

Category: Professional scientists engaged in science communication to the public

Country: Germany

Previous award: Bscher-Medienpreis (2004)

Description: A popular hobby for many, recreational fishing can have a negative impact on the natural environment. Dr Robert Arlinghaus is one of the first scientists to accurately assess the socio-economic and biological impact of neglected and poorly managed fishing grounds. He is passionate about bringing this pioneering research into the public domain and has worked to present his findings in meetings and fishing magazines as well as through the internet and Germany’s mainstream media. Dr Arlinghaus’ science communication skills have enabled him to stimulate debate among stakeholders while also capturing the attention of the general public.

Nominee: Prof. Dr Albrecht Beutelspacher – Mathematics you can touch

Category: Professional scientists engaged in science communication to the public

Country: Germany

Previous award: Communicator Prize (2000)

Description: Prof. Albrecht Beutelspacher loves maths and works hard to ensure that everyone else loves it too. He created Mathematik zum Anfassen (Mathematics you can touch), a travelling exhibition which later became the world’s first interactive museum dedicated to mathematics and now attracts more than 150 000 visitors each year. In his lectures to students of all levels, from primary school to doctoral candidates, Dr Beutelspacher strives to demonstrate how maths are used in everyday life. The Communicator Prize jury praised his work, stating that Dr. Beutelspacher creates “a new approach for the public at large to the world of numbers, formulas and shapes”. He has also written several best-selling books about maths and is scheduled to publish a children’s book on the subject in 2005.

Nominee: Prof. Colin T. Pillinger – space age media master

Category: Professional scientists engaged in science communication to the public

Country: United Kingdom

Previous award: Sir Arthur Clarke Outreach Award (2005)

Description: While making numerous media appearances to explain the Beagle 2 Mars Lander mission, Prof. Pillinger became a celebrity in his own right. He gave more than 250 lectures about the Beagle 2 to audiences ranging from school children, science and engineering societies, business clubs and parliamentary committees. When Beagle 2 failed to send back a signal and was declared lost in 2004, Prof. Pillinger utilised the media to communicate to the public the risks and challenges of space exploration. Through regular media briefings and appearances on popular TV shows, he has succeeded in raising public awareness of space research. His efforts have also helped to elevate the public profile of the European Space Agency’s Mars Express mission.

Nominee: Dr. Carl Johan Sundberg – Sweden’s Mr Science

Category: Professional scientists engaged in science communication to the public

Country: Sweden

Previous award: Åforsk Prize (2005)

Descrition: Dr Sundberg’s enthusiasm for explaining science in a clear, understandable way is evident in the vast number of projects he has been involved with over the past 20 years. He has held more than 100 lectures on science for students and the public, written dozens of articles about science in the media, created courses on bio-medical science and science communication and helped design several science centre exhibitions. Dr Sundberg also founded the Euroscience Open Forum (ESOF) which was first held in 2004 in Stockholm. Most recently, Dr Sundberg wrote a book about biology for young teenagers. His ability to enthuse a range of audiences from doctoral students to school children has earned him a reputation as a nationally and internationally renowned science communicator. Dr Sundberg is nominated for his liefelong achievements in science communication.

Nominee: Prof. Thorsteinn Vilhjalmsson – spinning a web of science

Category: Professional scientists engaged in science communication to the public

Country: Iceland

Previous award: Honourary award for services to science education (2005)

Description: Prof. Thorsteinn Vilhjalmsson is involved in a number of activities to bring science and the Icelandic community closer together. In addition to developing Icelandic Science Week in 2002, he writes popular science books, conducts summer courses for young students and participates in many educational projects run by Icelandic institutions. Most notably, Prof. Vilhjalmsson recently created the Icelandic Web of Science (WOS), an on-line encyclopaedia where users can submit questions which are then answered by an appropriate expert. The goal of WOS is to encourage dialogue between scientists and the public and figures show that 4.5% of the Icelandic population logs on to the site every week.

Nominee: Nick Arnold – a really rotten book for children

Category: Popularising science through the written word

Country: United Kingdom

Previous award: AVENTIS (Children’s) Prize for Science Books (2004)

Description: How to make green slime, dance like a skunk, eat like a chimp and communicate in cat language are just some of the things kids will learn during a term at ‘Rotten Road School’. It is not a new summer camp concept but rather a children’s science book entitled Really Rotten Experiments. Author Nick Arnold takes readers on a wild ride of unusual experiments designed to stimulate children’s interest in the sciences. Packed with interesting facts and quizzes, the book also describes the scientific processes behind each experiment. One 12 year-old reader said “it was easy to read and understand and it was great learning about the awesome experiments you can do at home”.

Nominee: Prof. Frances Balkwill – making biology child’s play

Category: Popularising science through the written word

Country: United Kingdom

Previous award: Communication in the Life Sciences Award (2004)

Description: In addition to heading a research department and running a high-quality research lab, Prof. Frances Balkwill is dedicated to helping children understand some of today’s most complex scientific issues. Her children’s books, recognised for their clear narratives and creative illustrations, have covered complex topics including stem cells, AIDS and cancer. They have been translated into many languages and are available worldwide. Two of Prof. Balkwill’s latest books, Staying Alive: Fighting HIV/AIDS and You, Me and HIV, focus on educating children in sub-Saharan Africa who are at high risk for HIV. With the help of charitable funding, these books have been distributed for free throughout southern Africa. Prof. Balkwill is currently developing a major new science centre in London, which is scheduled to open in April 2006.

Nominee: Bill Bryson – a journey through space and time

Category: Popularising science through the written word

Country: United Kingdom

Previous award: AVENTIS (General) Prize for Science Books (2004)

Description: With little more scientific knowledge than the average person, author Bill Bryson set out to answer questions about how the world and the universe developed in his book A Short History of Nearly Everything. In this bestseller that tackles topics from the big bang to the rise of civilisation, Bryson collaborated with a host of experts to answer questions such as “How did we end up with a sun in the middle of our planet and how do they know how hot it is?” and “How do they know what goes on inside an atom?” The book aims to explain the world we live in through several distinct topics: the origins of the universe; the discovery of the size and age of the earth; relativity and quantum theory; present and future threats to life and the planet; and the origins and history of life and the evolution of man.

Nominee: Ivan Grinberg – Rediscovering the essence of aluminium

Category: Popularising science through the written word

Country: France

Previous award: Prix Roberval Grand Public (2004)

Description: Aluminium is a subject near and dear to Ivan Grinberg’s heart. His passion for this versatile metal enables him to communicate its merits to others in a clear and inspirational manner. Grinberg’s prize-winning book L’aluminium: un si léger métal (Aluminium: such a light metal) traces the history of aluminium in a rather original way, almost like in a travel book, from its discovery 150 years ago through the industrial revolution to its current place in everyday life. Grinberg’s many writings on aluminium and its role in forging industrial societies makes for surprisingly interesting reading and also has the capacity to encourage the public to reflect on science and technology.

Nominee: Etienne Klein – a small journey into big ideas

Category: Popularising science through the written word

Country: France

Previous award: Prix Jean Rostand (2004)

Description: Quantum physics is one of the most complicated subjects in science and even trained physicists can find it difficult. But physicist Etienne Klein excels at making the topic compelling and understandable. Klein’s book Petit Voyage dans le monde des quanta (Short trip through world of quantum theory), clearly defines concepts of quantum theory through the skillful use of images and metaphors. The book presents guiding principles of quantum theory from the thoughts of its founders to contemporary approaches. He is committed to promoting ways to discuss how scientific discoveries contribute to the progress of human knowledge. Klein is well-known in France for his regular weekly contributions (between 1999-2002) to the science radio programme In Vivo. Since 1995, he has given about 30 public lectures per year to a variety of audiences and is a member of several French scientific councils.

Nominee: George Szpiro – finding the right formula for maths

Category: Popularising science through the written word

Country: Switzerland

Previous award: Prix Media (2003)

Description: Understanding maths came easily to George Szpiro. Developing his talent for communicating about the subject to a wider audience, however, took a little more time. His passion for clarity is evident in his regular column in a Swiss newspaper, for which he was previously a political reporter. Szpiro’s series of stories, which were compiled into a book: Mathematik für Sonntagmorgen – 50 Geschichten aus Mathematik und Wissenschaft (Maths for Sunday morning – 50 stories on mathematics and science), cover a variety of maths topics in a clear, understandable manner. In his column, Szpiro enjoys tackling pure mathematical problems as well as everyday maths topics such as ‘What tax dodgers should know’. The Swiss Academy of Sciences praised his ability to “render complex mathematics accessible to the public at large” and to “successfully arouse interest in a subject previously mostly obscure”.

Nominees: Emanuela Andreoli and Wladimir Tchertkoff – clearing up after Chernobyl

Category: Popularising science through audiovisual and electronic media

Country : France

Previous award : A Nous de Voir – Science et Cinéma (2004)

Description : Le Sacrifice (The Sacrifice) is a film that depicts the science behind the human story of the Chernobyl nuclear disaster. Its creators take viewers on an emotional journey filled with first-hand accounts of the people who experienced Chernobyl, including the ‘liquidators’ who were charged with cleaning up the nuclear aftermath. Audiences also learn about the scientific facts behind the human actions, including that picking up a piece of material from the reactor would transmit more radioactivity in half a second than a person would normally be exposed to in a lifetime.

Nominee: Roland Blaser – a short but sweet look at science

Category: Popularising science through audiovisual and electronic media

Country: Switzerland

Previous award: Prix Media SANW (2002)

Description: During his Fokus Schweiz (Switzerland in the Spotlight) programme on the Swiss TV science show Menschen Technik Wissenschaft (Men, Technology and Science), TV journalist, writer and producer Roland Blaser highlights three Swiss research projects that would otherwise not receive much exposure. Although these mini-reports are only about one minute long, Blaser succeeds in communicating key points to his audience. According to the Swiss Academy of Sciences, these short films arouse viewers’ curiosity and reflect the beauty, complexity and diversity of science.

Nominee: Raphaël Girardot – chronicling the mad tale of BSE

Category: Popularising science through audiovisual and electronic media

Country : France

Previous award : A Nous de Voir – Science et Cinéma (2001)

Description: During the mid-1980’s the eruption of Bovine Spongiform Encephalitis (BSE), or ‘Mad Cow Disease’, devastated the UK’s bovine population and the British beef industry. While conflicting theories debate whether BSE actually first emerged in the mid-1980s or whether it has existed undetected since the 1970s, Girardot’s documentary Folle Histoire (Crazy Tale) establishes that related forms of BSE are not new. The documentary chronicles the history of this disease, beginning with 18th century Spanish shepherds, and highlights efforts by researchers throughout the 20th century to understand the condition, how it is spread and how it can be stopped. The film utilises a variety of images, photos and illustrations to visually tell the story of BSE, which makes it rather spontaneous and accessible.

Nominees: Alain Hubert and the International Polar Foundation – helping kids understand climate change

Category: Popularising science through audiovisual and electronic media

Country: Belgium

Previous award: Prix Georges Lemaître (2003)

Description: The International Polar Foundation (IPF), founded by Alain Hubert, aims to teach young people about the phenomenon of climate change through a series of Flash interactive animations about polar region. Designed for various age groups and with progressively challenging reading levels, the animations strive to provide kids with information that will enable them to draw their own conclusions about this current and controversial topic. IPF collaborated with scientists and communicators from different nations in order to strike a balance between offering sound scientific advice and making the subject matter understandable and fun to watch. The animations are currently available free of charge and in six languages online and on CD-ROM. The IPF is developing plans to distribute the product to youngsters, teachers and the press.

Nominees: Steve Nicholls and Alfred Vendl – bird documentary flies high

Category: Popularising science through audiovisual and electronic media

Country: Spain/Austria

Previous award: Telenatura Festival Award (2004)

Description: First Flight is a television documentary produced by ORF-UNIVERSUM, the Natural History Unit of the Austrian Broadcasting Corporation that establishes a comparison between flights of birds and the history of human aviation. The film puts an original spin on its subject matter and balances the need for scientific rigour with a high-quality script, photography and editing. Recognised for its highe level of quality and innovation, the film was honoured with several awards at the international TV festival Telenatura. The University of Navarra in Spain, the organisers of Telenatura, praised the documentary for being “a highly effective way of communicating scientific content to a wide television audience”.

Nominees: Catherine Peix and Peter Chappell – in search of the origin of AIDS

Category: Popularising science through audiovisual and electronic media

Country: France

Previous award : A Nous de Voir – Science et Cinéma (2004)

Description: Most people think that HIV/AIDS probably originated from a similar strain of the virus found in chimpanzees. However, there are varying scientific theories about the origins of this disease and scientists have struggled to pinpoint its exact source. In Les origines du Sida (The origins of AIDS), film-makers Catherine Peix and Peter Chappell trace the history of HIV/AIDS through interviews and first-hand accounts in this powerful exploration of the mysteries surrounding this devastating syndrome that killed 4.1 million people in 2004 alone. Originally created for television in 2003, the multiple award winning documentary has been shown at dozens of film festivals around the world.

Nominee: Jos Van Hemelrijck – TV show reveals the scientist’s struggle

Category: Popularising science through audiovisual and electronic media

Country: Belgium

Previous award: Prijs van de Vlaamse minister voor Wetenschapsbeleid (2003)

Description: Each week, the Belgian science series OverLeven highlights a scientist or group of scientists attempting to solve a problem or achieve a breakthrough in a range of fields, from zoology to environmental issues. Committed to cover topics that impact society, the show has built up a broad portfolio of programmes, including episodes that have featured the groundbreaking work of a leading Belgian haematologist and a scientist who has trained rats to work as minesweepers. OverLeven focuses on the determination of the scientists as they face their research challenges and presents complex scientific content in a manner that avoids too much technical jargon. By concentrating on the scientists and their successes and challenges, the show adds personality to the story-telling process and creates compelling viewing with a certain amount of dramatic tension.

Nominee: Jorge Candan – sea of stars

Category: Innovative action for science communication

Country: Spain

Previous award: Prismas Casa de las Ciencias (2004)

Description: Underwater photographer Jorge Candan’s film Mar de Estrelas (Sea of Stars), poignantly depicts the consequences of the Prestige tanker oil spill in the year 2002 and the slow recovery of affected marine ecosystems. Candan believes that it is easier to become involved in the preservation of nature not only if we understand it, but if we also love it. This belief is the driving force that takes this film beyond the traditional scientific documentary. Mar de Estrelas celebrates the beauty of the marine world and converts it into a valuable part of our culture. Casa de las Ciencias (House of Sciences), the science museum network of La Coruña city council, has praised the film’s ability to “reach all kinds of publics, regardless of age or background”.

Nominee: Prof. Michael Kobel - creative approaches to physics

Category: Innovative action for science communication

Country: France/Germany

Previous award: Public Outreach Prize (2002)

Description: Prof. Michael Kobel’s innovative teaching and outreach activities are part of his commitment to getting young people excited about modern physics. His courses and computer-based teaching material about particle physics and its application in cosmology and medicine have been taught in several schools in and around Bonn, Germany. Additionally, Prof. Kobel developed the ‘masterclass’ concept which involves organising events during which 30-80 high-school students participate in physics lectures at a university or research centre and perform measurements using actual data from particle physics experiments. More than 3 000 students and 60 institutes in 18 countries took part in the first Europe-wide masterclasses in early 2005.

Nominee: Jan Rydman - Northern light

Category: Innovative action for science communication

Country: Finland

Previous award: J.V. Snellman Award (2003)

Description: Jan Rydman developed Science Forum Finland in the early-90s and it has become the country’s most important science and society event. Now a five-day programme held every other year, the Forum delivers a stimulating agenda of lectures, exhibitions, science theatre and debates. It attracts teachers, students and members of the public as well as prominent researchers and decision-makers including government ministers and MPs. The 2003 Forum, entitled ‘Science in the State of Change – Visionaries and Missionaries’, featured 300 guest lecturers and more than 15 000 attendees. In addition to his work with the Science Forum, Rydman helped found the European Science Events Association and developed Tieteessä tapahtuu into one of Finland’s leading science magazines.

Nominee: Michael Seifert -Children’s University proves a huge success

Category: Innovative action for science communication

Country: Germany

Previous award: PR-Fuchs Prize (2003)

The innovative Kinder-Uni (Children’s University), programme at the University of Tübingen in Germany is a series of lectures designed to interest kids in studying science. Each lecture features one question aimed at a target audience of 8-12 year olds. This unique model has inspired other educational institutions and there are now approximately 70 similar programmes across Germany and neighbouring countries and the best lectures have been published in book format. The lectures series has tackled questions such as “Why do volcanoes erupt?” and “Why don’t the stars fall from the sky?” and even attracted a Nobel Prize winner who posed the demanding question “Why is one not allowed to clone human beings?” Children find the lectures fun, interesting and challenging, while at the same time stimulating their interest in disciplines such as astronomy, philosophy and archaeology.


Side Bar