Several years ago now, we commissioned an independent review of our prizes. It’s good practice to review things as a matter of course, but this review was also a response to new ideas about recognition and reward in and beyond science, as well as issues relating to research culture and diversity, and an understanding that science itself is changing, with greater emphasis on collaboration and translation. Our review group heard so much from members through consultation, and found many aspects of our prizes that were both valuable and valued by our community. And simultaneously, they highlighted clear opportunities for us to modernise.
We made a commitment to evolve recognition and prizes at the Royal Society of Chemistry to better reflect the many types of excellence that are crucial for modern science. Overseen by our Trustees, we have been on – and are still on! – a multi-year journey to bring the vision set out in the review to life. The journey has seen changes big and small, some very visible and others behind the scenes, and is one where our Subject Community Councils and their Presidents have played a pivotal role in leading.
The big things include growing our offering of prizes for education and educators, to give greater recognition for the incredible work they do. A real ‘landmark’ moment in 2021 was the award of new prizes to individuals and teams working in primary science for the first time. Keep an eye out for our latest cohort of Education prize winners to be announced in November.
Another has been the development and launch of our new Horizon Prizes, in education and in research. Predominantly for groups, teams and collaborations, these are a new type of prize deliberately designed to celebrate each of the different contributions and roles that make breakthroughs and innovations possible.
Three years on from these changes, we’ve been reflecting on what we’ve seen during this time. Some things have stayed the same – each year, we award about the same number of prizes as before the review. But so much is different – by celebrating far more teams and collaborations, the number of people who can call themselves prize-winners each year has increased by a factor of six.
Through the Horizon Prizes in particular, we saw huge diversification in the types of roles our prize-winners work in, where they work, and in their career stages. To give just a couple of examples here, a greater proportion of winners work in industry in SMEs and in large companies, and a quarter of our prize-winners have been students (school through to university). And while there is still further to go on diversity, by rebalancing our prizes for individuals across sectors and career stages, there’s been a step change in the proportion of women being nominated for and winning prizes.
Our journey continues: looking ahead
Our 2024 prizes open for nomination soon, and we continue our journey to better reflect the diversity of people and contributions in science. Working with Subject Community Council members and previous prize winners working in industry, we have evolved several prizes to complement our broader recognition opportunities for chemists working in industry (like our Emerging Technologies Competition, professional awards like CChem, our Horizon Prizes and Research & Innovation Prizes).
Some of the changes you’ll see when nominations open include:
- New prizes that recognise and celebrate the crucial contributions of teams and individuals working as technicians or in technical roles in the chemical sciences
- An expansion to our recognition of outstanding apprentices
- A new prize to recognise organisations working together in partnership to deliver impact for the chemical sciences
This wouldn’t have been possible without the insights and guidance from our working group:
- Dr Paul Brewer CChem FRSC, National Physical Laboratory and RSC Prize Committee (Chair)
- Dr Ian Ball CSci CChem FRSC, Johnson Matthey and RSC Analytical Science Community Council
- Dr Berceste Beyribey Price CSci MRSC, Department for Energy Security and Net Zero and RSC Environment, Sustainability & Energy Community Council
- Dr Oscar Kelly MRSC, BYK Additives and RSC Industrial Physical Chemistry Group
- Lydia Meyer Turkson FRSC, Johnson & Johnson and RSC Chemistry Biology Interface Community Council
- Katty O’Brien-Quilty RSciTech MRSC, Thames Water and 2020 RSC Chemical Sciences Apprentice of the Year
Dr Paul Brewer, Chair of the working group, said: “The latest set of changes to the RSC’s prizes place special emphasis on collaboration, and on the diverse number of roles within chemistry and routes into chemistry. Apprenticeships and technical roles form a vital part of the chemical sciences workforce, and we are proud to expand our recognition of these. We’re also excited to be launching a new prize recognising partnerships and collaboration – which are essential to tackling many of the challenges we face today in an increasingly connected world.”
For full details, check our webpages from 18 October. As always, please consider making a nomination yourself, or encourage others to do so, before the deadline of 18 January 2024, to make sure that our nominees reflect the whole breadth and diversity of the chemical sciences and our community. You might think not only about amazing individuals, but incredible teams who have come together to achieve great things.
Making a nomination is your opportunity to influence who, or what achievements, we celebrate together in 2024. You don’t have to be in a senior position to make a nomination; it’s a myth that nominations carry more weight based on who has submitted them – our prize committees never see the identity of the nominator.
Haven’t made a nomination before? Everything you need to know about the process can be found on our Frequently Asked Questions page.