The 2020 ABSW Awards shortlist was announced in June and the winners were announced at an Awards Ceremony at the UK Conference of Science Journalists on Wednesday 14 October.  The Awards highlights reel will be available w/c 26 October

Report from the ABSW Awards Chairs

The Chairs of the 2020 Awards Panels have reflected on the judging process in a report which you can download at the bottom of this page.

Many congratulations to all the shortlisted entries and winners, set out in detail below.


Editor of the Year

  • Daniel Bennett, BBC Science Focus
  • Leo Hickman, Carbon Brief

Winner: Leo Hickman, Carbon Brief

The judges said: 

"He’s had the courage to give his journalists extra time and latitude to research complex but vital climate issues, championing a long-form format that’s desperately needed to convey the full story at a juncture when time to do something about climate change is running out. Also, the interactive graphics are absolutely awesome, and make otherwise dry subjects much more fun and entertaining. And to extend geographical reach, he’s getting the material translated into multiple other languages."


British Science Journalist of the Year - sponsored by ABPI

  • Elizabeth Gibney, Nature
  • Amit Katwala, WIRED
  • Oliver Morton, The Economist

Winner: Oliver Morton, The Economist

The judges said:

"For part-writing and completely editing the entire edition of The Economist devoted to climate change. What a brave venture, and how well he carried it through. And what an amazing cover to set it off….in and of itself, leaves no room for doubt about global warming!"


Engineering or Technology Story of the Year - sponsored by BIVDA

  • Liam Drew, Agency and the Algorithm, Nature
  • Olive Heffernan, The hidden fight to stop illegal fishing from destroying our oceans. WIRED
  • Oliver Morton, Synthetic biology: A whole new world, The Economist

Winner: Liam Drew, Agency and the Algorith, Nature

The judges said:

"This blew my mind, the possibility that relying on machines that interface with our brains could mess with our sense of who we are. It’s not something I’d considered before, but it clearly deserves much more thought and discussion. Once the possibilities of machine learning come in, the analogy with the perils of predictive text looms large! Great stuff!"


Feature of the Year - general audience

  • Victoria Gill, Chernobyl: The end of a three-decade experiment, BBC News
  • Alok Jha, Gravitational astronomy proves its maturity, The Economist
  • Michael Le Page, Infectious Optimism, New Scientist

Winner: Michael Le Page, Infectious Optimism, New Scientist

The judges said:

 "Original and well-sourced; in 2020, we are all afraid of viruses, one in particular. But this piece shows us that they can be a force for good in fighting tumours, and could even recruit the immune system as allies in the struggle."


Feature of the Year - specialist audience

  • Giorgia Guglielmi, Facing up to injustice in genome science, Nature
  • Aisling Irwin, The Everything Mapper, Nature
  • Amit Katwala, Global insect populations are collapsing, and we don't know why, WIRED
  • Gayathri Vaidyanathan, India’s tigers seem to be a massive success story — many scientists aren’t sure, Nature

Winner: Gayathri Vaidyanathan, India’s tigers seem to be a massive success story — many scientists aren’t sure, Nature

The judges said:

"Excellent; India seems to be the world’s best place to be a tiger. But in fact, the figures for tiger numbers there are dubious, tigers are becoming  inbred due to range fragmentation, and as this remarkable investigation shows, the pressure on numbers and habitats keeps on growing."


Innovation of the Year

  • Shamini Bundell, Davide Castelvecchi and Noah Baker, The history of the universe in the blink of an eye, Nature
  • Simon Evans and Rosamund Pearce, How the UK transformed its electricity supply in just a decade, Carbon Brief
  • Philip Robinson, Ben Valsler, Patrick Walter, Neil Withers, The data behind the Nobel prizes, Chemistry World

Winners: Simon Evans and Rosamund Pearce, How the UK transformed its electricity supply in just a decade, Carbon Brief

The judges said: 

"These amazing, comprehensive and entertaining interactive graphics tell an incredibly upbeat story amid all the doom and gloom of climate destruction, showing that countries can rapidly turn the corner towards carbon neutrality without destroying their economies or way of life. Wonderful stuff!"


Newcomer of the Year

  • Giorgia Guglielmi, freelance
  • Nicholas Howe, Nature
  • Annabelle Timsit, Quartz
  • Victoria Williams, freelance

Winner: Annabelle Timsit, Quartz

The judges said:

"The pieces she submitted show that the winner is already a seasoned professional, with awesome, beautifully sourced and written pieces on deep and varied subjects from as far afield as the capital of Mongolia."


News Analysis or Explanatory Reporting of the Year

  • Nicola Davis, Euthanasia and assisted dying rates are soaring. But where are they legal?, The Guardian
  • Emma Howard and Georgie Johnson, Life support: How bugs put food on the table, Unearthed, Greenpeace
  • Oliver Morton and Matt McLean, What goes up, The Economist

Winner: Emma Howard and Georgie Johnson, Life support: How bugs put food on the table, Unearthed, Greenpeace

The judges said:

"This was a snappy, entertaining way to get over in just four minutes why conserving insects actually benefits us humans. I watched the accompanying vids too (on coral reefs, biodiversity and krill), and they were equally good."


News Item of the Year

  • Damian Carrington, Plummeting number of insects threatens 'catastrophe for planet', The Guardian
  • Debora MacKenzie, We may finally know what causes Alzheimer's - and how to stop it, New Scientist
  • Kelly Oakes, Amazon Prime Video is full of dodgy documentaries pushing dangerous cancer 'cures', WIRED

Winner: Debora MacKenzie, We may finally know what causes Alzheimer's - and how to stop it, New Scientist

The judges said:

"Well researched and, as far as I can tell, exclusive; an amazing new and encouraging twist to the puzzle of what causes Alzheimer’s, with the promise of a completely new type of treatment." 


NUJ Stephen White Award for communication and reporting of science in a non science context

  • Emma Howard and Georgie Johnson, Life Support: How sea creatures control the climate, Unearthed, Greenpeace
  • Oliver Morton, Remembering a robot, The Economist
  • Jonathan O'Callaghan, What is space junk and why is it a problem?, Natural History Museum

Winner: Oliver Morton, Remembering a robot, The Economist

The judges said: 

"Not everyone can get away with writing about a machine in the obituaries section. Doing an obituary was a very fun way to sum up the achievements of an iconic robot in a novel but still newsworthy way."


Opinion Piece or Editorial of the Year

  • Eva Amsen, Genetic medicine Is poised to create new inequality. Here’s how to fix it, Undark
  • Michael Le Page, The biofuel delusion, New Scientist
  • Angela Saini, Identity crisis, Tortoise

Winner: Eva Amsen, Genetic medicine Is poised to create new inequality. Here’s how to fix it, Undark

The judges said:

"The winner of this category is a very popular member of the ABSW community, whose scientific expertise has recently been increasingly seen in the scientific media.Their winning piece tackles an overlooked threat to modern society - and refreshingly offers solutions to overcome it. "


Research Policy or Funding Story of the Year

  • David Adam, Science funders gamble on grant lotteries, Nature
  • David Cyranoski, The potent effects of Japan’s stem-cell policies, Nature
  • Ehsan Masood, How China is redrawing the map of world science, Nature

Winner: Ehsan Masood, How China is redrawing the map of world science, Nature

The judges said:

"In scale, scope, effort, vision, colour, thoroughness, accuracy, sourcing and impact, this was a clear winner, exposing in greater detail and scope than anything before it the sheer scale and ambition of China’s efforts to build influence, empire and self-directed scientific expertise by stealth all around the world, even under our noses in Europe!"


Royal Society Audio Award

  • Melanie Brown, Louisa Field, Eleni Hassabis and Marnie Chesterton, Why can't I remember my accident?, CrowdScience BBC World Service
  • Deborah Cohen, Andrew Luck-Baker, Rami Tzabar and Kevin Fong, 13 minutes to the moon Episode 5: The Fourth Astronaut, BBC World Service
  • Dimitri Houtart, Jheni Osman, Anne-Marie Bullock,  Alasdair Cross, Costing the Earth: The e-DNA revolution, BBC Radio 4

Winners: Melanie Brown, Louisa Field, Eleni Hassabis and Marnie Chesterton, Why can't I remember my accident?, CrowdScience BBC World Service

The judges said:

"This was a very tough choice because ALL the shortlisted entries were excellent"


Steve Connor Award for Investigative Journalism - sponsored by UK Research and Innovation

  • Benedikt Heubl, Lithium firms depleting vital water supplies in Chile, Engineering and Technology
  • Adam Murphy, Phil Sansom and Chris Smith, The fly infest-agation, Naked Scientists
  • Peter Schwartzstein, One of Africa’s most fertile lands is struggling to feed its own people, Bloomberg Businessweek

Winner: Benedikt Heubl, Lithium firms depleting vital water supplies in Chile, Engineering and Technology

The judges said:

"Excellent piece, using open source data and clever illustrations to help expose an environmental time bomb in Chile through lithium mining that despoils the unique Atacama desert in Chile."


Video Story of the Year

  • Victoria Gill, Jemma Cox, David Cheeseman, Linda Sills, Alison Francis: producer. Our World: In the shadow of Chernobyl, BBC News 
  • Alok Jha and Oliver Smyth, Why does time go forwards, not backwards?, BBC Ideas
  • Angela Saini and Adam Pearson, Eugenics: science’s greatest scandal, BBC Four

Winners: Victoria Gill, Jemma Cox, David Cheeseman, Linda Sills, Alison Francis: producer. Our World: In the shadow of Chernobyl, BBC News 

The judges said:

"A touching and wonderfully insightful film on Chernobyl."


The Dr Katharine Giles Award for best popular article written by a scientist or engineer

  • Anna Henschel, Can really *everyone* be a data scientist?, Glasgow Insight Into Science & Technology
  • Lauren Nelson, Drug design of the future, A Short Scientist 

Winner: Anna Henschel, Can really *everyone* be a data scientist?, Glasgow Insight Into Science & Technology

The judges said:

"We hear a lot about data, but how often do we hear about the true effects of the data revolution, and ways in which ordinary people can be involved as actors rather than victims?"


Science Under the Microscope - sponsored by IBM Research Europe

Chosen by the judges from all shortlisted entries and made to the entry that provides the most insight into the process and personalities of science

Winner: Dimitri Houtart, Jheni Osman, Anne-Marie Bullock,  Alasdair Cross, Costing the Earth: The e-DNA revolution, BBC Radio 4


Lifetime Achievement Award

For a member of the UK journalism science community who has consistently set an exemplary standard in his or her work throughout their career

Winner: Robin McKie, The Observer

See full citation at the bottom of this page


The 2021 Awards will open for submissions in December 2020. If you are not a member of ABSW, sign up for our newsletter for updates.


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