New repository of European science prizes

April 18, 2006

Brussels, 17 Apr 2006

Have you heard of the Bulgarian Science Publication Award or NATO's Science Partnership Prize? Thought not. These two prizes and hundreds more like them are now classified in a new online database of science and science communication prizes available on the EU's Descartes Prizes website.

René Descartes, the 17th century mathematician and philosopher, is perhaps remembered best for his statement cogito, ergo sum (I think, therefore I am). In honour of his contributions to the sciences, the EU created prizes to identify and showcase the best European research, as well as the best ways to communicate science to the public.

With the recent launch of the new online database of science and science communication prizes, the EU is looking to build awareness of such science-related prizes Europe-wide. At the time of writing, a total of some 530 entries (370 research prizes and 160 science communication prizes) can be searched using different criteria depending on which type of prize you are looking for.

To access the web database, follow the 'Other prizes…' links on the homepage of the Descartes website (Europa) and then select your search criteria from the drop-down menus. For example, on the first row you can "Choose your country of origin to find all the prizes in which you may participate". This means the results will show not just prizes organised in the chosen country but all countries in which a scientist or scientific communicator might wish to take part in.

Other ways of refining the search for research prizes include specifying which field you are interested in, from 'anthropology' and 'environmental science' through to 'theology'. A similar delimitation can be made for the communication prize, with categories such as 'press article', 'scientific documentaries' and 'innovative action for science communication'. A third layer of search criteria includes special characteristics like 'focus on women', or 'focus on young people'.

Why science prizes?

The European Commission created the Descartes Prize for excellence in scientific collaborative research in 2000. In this short time, it has built up a reputation for showcasing major scientific breakthroughs in key European research areas. To date, 16 different projects, involving 25 teams from 24 EU and non-EU countries, have taken home the prestigious prize.

In 2004, a second string was added to the Descartes Prize bow with the creation of a prize for excellence in science communication. Its goal is to stimulate interest in – and improve the quality of – science communication directed at the general public. It rewards creative achievements in the fields of television, radio, publishing, public events, and more.

This year, Descartes' organisers at the Research DG are putting up a total of €1.425 million for leading researchers and science communicators. A joint call for proposals for both Descartes Prizes was published on 17 December 2005. The closing date for applications is fast approaching (4 May 2006). See the 'call' for guidelines on who can apply for either of these prizes and how to proceed.

DG Research
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