The John Maddox Prize recognises the work of individuals who promote sound science and evidence on a matter of public interest, facing difficulty or hostility in doing so.
Sir John Maddox, whose name this prize commemorates, was a passionate and tireless champion and defender of science, engaging with difficult debates and inspiring others to do the same. As a writer and editor, he changed attitudes and perceptions, and strove for better understanding and appreciation of science throughout his long working life.
The prize is a joint initiative of Nature, where Sir John was editor for 22 years; the Kohn Foundation, whose founder Sir Ralph Kohn was a personal friend of Sir John’s, particularly through their Fellowship of the Royal Society; and Sense about Science, where Sir John served as a trustee until his death in 2009.
It pays tribute to the attitude of Sir John who, in the words of his friend Walter Gratzer: “wrote prodigiously on all that was new and exciting in scientific discovery and technological advance, denouncing fearlessly what he believed to be wrong, dishonest or shoddy. He did it with humour and grace, but he never sidestepped controversy, which he seemed in fact to relish. His forthrightness brought him some enemies, often in high places, but many more friends. He changed attitudes and perceptions, and strove throughout his long working life for a better public understanding and appreciation of science.”
The winner of the John Maddox Prize receives £2000, and an announcement of the winner is published in Nature. The award is presented each year at a reception in November.
The prize is a joint initiative of the science journal Nature, the Kohn Foundation, and the charity Sense about Science. The late Sir John Maddox, FRS, was editor of Nature for 22 years and a founding trustee of Sense about Science. His daughter Bronwen Maddox is the patron of the prize.
Eligibility & Nomination Process
Candidates for the John Maddox Prize must be nominated. The nominator should normally be an individual who is familiar with the work of the candidate but self-nomination will be considered in exceptional circumstances. This is a global prize: people from and in any country can be nominated.
The prize is open to nominations for any kind of public activity, including all forms of writing, speaking and public engagement, in any of the following areas:
- Addressing misleading information about scientific or medical issues.
- Bringing sound evidence to bear in a public or policy debate.
- Helping people to make sense of a complex scientific issue.
Researchers in any area of science or engineering, or those who work to address misleading information and bring evidence to the public, are eligible to be nominated. Nominations are to take the form of a letter of recommendation and include biographical information on the candidate and a description of the candidate’s work in standing up for science. Permission must be sought from the nominee. If possible, a supporting referee should be included in the nomination form who may be contacted for supporting information and comments regarding the candidate’s activities. The individual nominated, the referee, and the nominator may be contacted for more information including references.
Staff, trustees and directors of the supporting organisations and previous or current members of the judging panel and their direct relations are not eligible for nomination for the prize, though they may nominate. It is open to anyone else, including people who have published with or worked with either organisation as contributors, advisers or in other collaborations.
Evaluation & Judging
The winner is chosen by a judging panel, not by Sense about Science. Judges sit in a personal capacity.
Candidates will be judged on the strength of their nomination based on the below criteria:
- How clearly the individual communicated good science, despite adversity.
- The nature of adversity faced by the individual.
- How well they placed the evidence in the wider debate and engaged others.
- Their level of influence on the public debate.
The judges recognise that ‘standing up for science’ is likely to be controversial in the eyes of some. The prize will be awarded for specific achievements, and the decision will be final and not open to appeal.