The British Science Association (BSA) is pleased to announce the winners of its prestigious Award Lectures for 2020. Following a competitive selection process, seven top UK researchers have been recognised for their cutting-edge work and committed public engagement efforts.  
The winners and their respective Awards are:  

  • Dr Richard Tyser, University of Oxford, is the Charles Darwin Award Lecture winner for Agriculture, Biological and Medical Sciences
  • Dr Carolyn McNabb, University of Reading, is the Margaret Mead Award Lecture winner for Social Sciences  
  • Dr Chris Pak, Swansea University, is the Jacob Bronowski Award Lecture winner for Science and the Arts  
  • Dr Daniella Rabaiotti, Institute of Zoology ZSL, is the Charles Lyell Award Lecture winner for Environmental Sciences  
  • Dr Xinyuan Wang, University College London, is the Daphne Oram Award Lecture winner for Digital Innovation  
  • Dr Meera Joshi, Imperial College London, is the Isambard Kingdom Brunel Award Lecture winner for Engineering, Technology and Industry: 
  • Dr Euan Allen, University of Bristol, is the Rosalind Franklin Award Lecture winner for Physical Sciences and Mathematics  

Each Award Lecturer has historically delivered a special talk at the British Science Festival. As the British Science Festival is not taking place in September, all 2020 Award Lecturers will be presenting at the British Science Festival 2021. The event will be hosted by Anglia Ruskin University and held in Chelmsford and Essex from 7-11 September 2021. 

Ivvet Modinou, Director of the British Science Festivalsaid: 'We’re delighted with the year’s cohort of Award Lecturers and we’d like to extend our warmest congratulations to them. The breadth of research covered is inspiring and doesn’t always get the attention it should, so we’re thrilled to offer these talented early-career researchers the chance to showcase their work. Alas, given the current situation, we will have to wait until 2021 to hear from them in person’.

The Award Lectures have been presented since 1990. They are to recognise and promote the pivotal research being carried out in the UK by early-career scientists. Notable Award Lecture winners include: Professor Brian Cox (winner in 2006), Maggie Aderin-Pocock (2008) and Richard Wiseman (2002).  

About the 2020 Award Lectures  

Charles Darwin Award Lecture for agricultural, biological and medical sciences  

Dr Richard Tyser, University of Oxford 

This event will draw on research examining the early developmental processes behind the formation of the heart, using pioneering techniques including time-lapse imaging of heart development. With congenital heart defects occurring in 1 out of 150 births, find out how understanding the first heartbeat can have enormous implications for the treatment of heart conditions.  

Margaret Mead Award Lecture for social sciences  

Dr Carolyn McNabb, University of Reading 

 How important is friendship and how can it change the way our brains grow? Drawing on their experience of using magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) to study the influence of friendship and stress on brain development, the speaker will explain what their research might mean for spreading positive behaviour and reducing the damaging influences of challenging experiences in adolescents.   

Jacob Bronowski Award Lecture for science and the arts  

Dr Chris Pak, Swansea University 

Through their research, specialising in science fiction, this speaker will demonstrate how digital, environmental and animal sciences play a key role in creative writing and other media. They are fascinated by the concepts of terraforming and panotropy - the modification of planets and bodies to enable the habitation of otherwise uninhabitable environments, respectively. The representation of these topics in literature allows us to engage with issues linked to with climate change and the environment.  

Charles Lyell Award Lecture for environmental sciences  

Dr Daniella Rabaiotti, Institute of Zoology ZSL 

This lecture will explore species extinctions due to climate change. Using the case study of African wild dogs, the speaker will highlight how long-term data and technological advances in tracking can offer insights into behavioural change and influence the way conservation scientists work to prevent climate driven species loss. 

Daphne Oram Award Lecture for digital innovation  

Dr Xinyuan Wang, University College London 

Through research in the field of digital anthropology, this lecturer has gained a fascinating insight into the use of social media across different nations and people groups. They have previously spent 15 months living in a factory town in China, learning how social media is providing a new type of online home for migrant workers, who have left their communities to work in urban areas. This field helps us understand how the online and physical world are shaping each other.  

Isambard Kingdom Brunel Award Lecture for engineering, technology and industry   

Dr Meera Joshi, Imperial College London 

Revealing the role of wearable sensors in emergency medicine and surgery, this lecturer will explore how new technology allows patients with sepsis to be quickly identified, dramatically improving patient outcomes. They will also shed light on the implications of this new technology for models of healthcare in the wider community.  

Rosalind Franklin Award Lecture for physical sciences and mathematics  

Dr Euan Allen, University of Bristol 

This lecturer will discuss what the development of highly powerful quantum computers will mean for hard to tackle problems across all areas of science and society. From drug discovery and material engineering to understanding the aerodynamics of planes and optimising delivery routes, this emergent hardware may be able to address some of the most challenging questions we face. But why is it so difficult to develop this technology, that guides and control light on a scale smaller than a human hair? And what might the advancement of quantum computers mean for the fairness and security of future societies?  

Hear from our 2020 Award Lecturers  

We will be publishing a series of interviews with all of our 2020 Award Lecturers over the coming months. This will provide an opportunity to showcase each lecturer and to also bring to life the themes and topics their work focuses on. 

British Science Festival 2020 

The British Science Association and Anglia Ruskin University have taken the difficult, but sadly inevitable, decision to postpone the British Science Festival 2020, due to take place from 8 – 12 September in Chelmsford.  

The safety of everyone in our community is paramount and – due to the ongoing social distancing measures – it is impractical to plan and execute an event on the size and scale of the Festival at this challenging time. 

The Festival will take place instead from 7 – 11 September 2021. Further updates will follow in due course, and the full programme will be launched in June 2021. 

We would like to thank everyone who has been involved to date in the planning of the British Science Festival 2020, and look forward to continuing to build relationships with partners across the city in the lead up to the Festival next year. 

Read the full statement here. 

Future of the Award Lectures 

We expect that this will be the last time the Awards carry their current titles. 

There are several challenges with naming Awards such as these after individuals. One is that the most prestigious or well-recognised names in Western science do not reflect all the people who contributed to the current state of science, due to colonialism and structural racism & sexism. Another is we believe that naming Awards after individuals contributes to narrow societal stereotypes about scientists being lone geniuses (and there’s evidence that indicates narrow stereotypes contribute to under-represented groups seeing science as “not for me”).  

Therefore, instead of the ‘Isambard Kingdom Brunel Award Lecture for Engineering Technology & Industry’ the title would become the ‘British Science Association Award Lecture for Engineering, Technology & Industry’, and so on.  

We recognise that renaming these Awards is just one step, and the BSA is currently considering the idea of conducting a review that will seek to assess where our heritage and history, while very successful in many respects, may be at odds with the values, aims and explicit EDI focus (of transforming the diversity and inclusivity of science) of the modern BSA and the organisation we want to be in the future.