UWE Bristol SCU Science Writing Competition

Student writing whilst sat at a table 

It’s back! The UWE Bristol SCU Science Writing Competition 2016, organised to give new science writers a head start in their careers.

Aimed at non-professional science writers, the competition is run by UWE Bristol’s Science Communication Unit (SCU) in partnership with BBC Focus magazine and the Royal Institution.

This year's theme

Entrants are invited to write a 700-word article about “The Next Big Thing in Science.”

There are two age categories: 17 and under and 18 and over.

Please specify your age at the time of entry on your submission.

The closing date for entries is 17:00 (GMT) on Friday 24 June 2016. Posted entries must reach the SCU by this date.

How to enter

You can either e-mail or post your entry to us. Entrants must provide their name, age, address and telephone number.

E-mail your entry to writing.competition@uwe.ac.uk

Or post it to:
Science Writing Competition
Science Communication Unit
Faculty of Health and Applied Sciences
Frenchay Campus
Coldharbour Lane
University of the West of England
Bristol, BS16 1QY

Prizes in detail

The winners and runners-up in each age category will have their names, ages and the titles of their stories published on the SCU/BBC Focus/Royal Institution websites on the date of the announcement. They will also receive a certificate and their entries will be published on the SCU and BBC Focus websites. These may be edited so they are compliant with BBC Guidelines and for accuracy.


  • Winner – 17 and under: will receive a year-long subscription to BBC Focus magazine.
  • Winner – 18 and over: will receive a year-long subscription to BBC Focus magazine and be able to undertake a weeks’ work experience at the offices of BBC Focus magazine in Bristol, England and/or be able to attend a day-long science-writing course run by the SCU. During their time at Focus, they will receive help to develop their competition entry into an article that will be published in the magazine. If they are unable to attend the work experience, they will still receive guidance remotely to develop their story into a longer article that will be published.

Guidance for entrants

The entry should be written in a style that would be suitable for publication in BBC Focus.

Judges will be looking for lively, engaging well-researched stories that are thought-provoking and explain the science clearly. Entries should include a headline, and this will be included in the word count. Further guidance is provided in the judging criteria below.


The judging panel consists of:

  • Dr Emma Weitkamp – Associate Professor in Science Communication, UWE Bristol
  • Andy Ridgway – Senior Lecturer in Science Communication, UWE Bristol
  • David Shukman - the BBC's Science Editor
  • Dr Gail Cardew, Royal Institution Professor of Science, Culture and Society
  • Daniel Bennett, Acting Editor, BBC Focus
  • Graham Southorn – Consultant Editor, BBC Focus
  • Dr Justine Alford, Science Communicator and former News Editor of IFL Science

Announcement of winners

The names of the winning entrants and runners up in the two age categories will be announced on the SCU, BBC Focus and Royal Institution websites on 1 September 2016, and in a subsequent issue of BBC Focus magazine.

Entry restrictions

Published writers (professional journalists and anyone else who writes for money) are excluded from entering the competition. All others, including scientists and bloggers, are welcome to apply.

There are no geographical restrictions on entrants but those wishing to take up the opportunity for work experience at BBC Focus and/or science writing classes must provide their own transport and accommodation for their visit to the BBC Focus offices in central Bristol and/or UWE Bristol's Frenchay Campus.

Terms and conditions

  • Only one entry will be permitted per person
  • The work entered must be the work of the entrant
  • Published writers (professional journalists and anyone else who writes for money) are excluded from entering the competition
  • Only the first 700 words of an entry will be read. Any words over that limit will not be considered by the judges
  • Articles entered into the competition must be previously unpublished work
  • The judges’ decision is final and no correspondence will be entered into.

Judging criteria

The criteria will be applied both during the initial shortlisting process and in the judges’ deliberations:

  • Entrants are being asked to write a story as if it will appear in Focus magazine and so will be judged in terms of how appropriate it is for that publication and its readership. The readership is typically defined as being people who have an interest in, but not necessarily a background, in science. They are intelligent and, above all, curious
  • Stories must capture readers’ attention from the start and maintain it through a lively and engaging writing style
  • The science must be accurate and explained at a level suitable for an intelligent reader who does not necessarily have prior knowledge of the subject in question
  • Stories must be submitted as if they are ready for publication – they must be free of spelling and grammatical errors
  • Originality of topic is a key consideration; stories that cover well-trodden scientific ground will be rated less highly than those that cover an area of research that would be unknown or at least unfamiliar to the audience of a popular science magazine
  • Entrants must, either directly or indirectly by the evidence they include in their story, make a strong case that the science they are writing about really is the ‘next big thing’
  • Only the first 700 words of any article will be considered
  • Entries must be in English and all entries will be considered equally, regardless of country of origin. Entries from overseas will not be penalized if they use region-specific spellings of words (such as North American).

How do you write a good science story?

This is a question we posed to the UWE Bristol SCU Science Writing Competition 2016 judges. Read their replies on the science writing inspiration webpage.

SCU courses and training

The Science Communication Unit runs a range of highly regarded full-time, part-time, short and one-off courses and workshops. Find out more about the science communication courses run by the SCU.

Back to top