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Judging panel for 2018 Royal Society Insight Investment Science Book Prize announced at Hay Festival

02 June 2018

The five-strong judging panel for the Royal Society Insight Investment Science Book Prize 2018 has been revealed at the prestigious Hay Festival ahead of an event with 2017 winner Cordelia Fine (Testosterone Rex: Unmaking the Myths of Our Gendered Minds).

“Given the role science plays in the technologies that shape our lives, public policy and our understanding of ourselves and the world around us, it's vital that we have rich, long-form science writing that informs, equips us with evidence and understanding, and feeds our curiosity.”

Cordelia Fine

The panel for the Prize – described as the “Booker Prize of Science Writing” by BBC Radio 4 – will be chaired by physiologist and author Professor Dame Frances Ashcroft. She is joined by: Royal Society Research Fellow, Dr Leigh Fletcher; Hay Festival Director, Peter Florence; writer and broadcaster, Vivienne Parry and editor of WIRED, Greg Williams.

The Prize, which celebrated its 30th anniversary in 2017, boasts an illustrious list of former winners including Bill Bryson (A Short History of Nearly Everything, 2014), Jared Diamond (Guns, Germs and Steel, 1998), the late Stephen Hawking (The Universe in a Nutshell, 2002), Gaia Vince (Adventures in the Anthropocene, 2015) and Andrea Wulf (The Invention of Nature, 2016). Its purpose is to celebrate the best in popular science writing worldwide, bringing it to a wide and general readership. Former judge Naomi Alderman (2017) commented that “there’s no reason that a science book can’t be a bloody good-read”.  

The 2018 judges will be charged with selecting a shortlist of six titles from over 250 submissions published between 1 October 2017 and 30 September 2018. The shortlist will be announced on 2 August 2018.

Chair of judges, Professor Dame Frances Ashcroft, said: “It is a great privilege to be chairing the judging panel for the Royal Society Insight Investment Science Book Prize 2018. This prize celebrates two disciplines that are often seen as worlds apart, but science and literature share many common themes. Both set out to explore the world around us, bringing new ideas to life or helping us to better understand what is already known; and both require insight, passion and creativity. We are looking for exciting science and engaging voices: mind-expanding books that will change the way we think about the world around us. 

“We are impressed by the extraordinarily high standard of the submissions, which span the spectrum of the sciences and include both exciting cutting-edge science and illuminating historical accounts of how we got there. It is going to be an enormous challenge to select a shortlist and eventual winner from this year's entries.”

Last year’s winner, Cordelia Fine – praised by the 2017 judges for Testosterone Rex’s eye-opening, forensic look at gender stereotypes and its urgent call for change – stressed science writing’s vital role in arming readers with the facts with which to address the world around them. 

Cordelia Fine, author of Testosterone Rex: Unmaking the Myths of Our Gendered Minds, said: “Given the role science plays in the technologies that shape our lives, public policy and our understanding of ourselves and the world around us, it's vital that we have rich, long-form science writing that informs, equips us with evidence and understanding, and feeds our curiosity.”  

David Chellew, head of marketing, Insight Investment, said: “This prestigious prize celebrates the best of science literature, showcasing talented authors with the courage to challenge conventional wisdom in the pursuit of greater knowledge and understanding of the world we live in. The books spark the imagination and make a significant contribution to how we perceive our history and our future. We are very proud to support the Royal Society in raising awareness of the sciences and the arts and we wish this year’s judges every success in shortlisting six titles from so many worthy submissions.”

The winner of the 2018 Prize will be announced at a ceremony at the Royal Society on Monday 1 October 2018 hosted by Professor Brian Cox OBE FRS, the Royal Society’s Professor for Public Engagement in Science. The winner will receive a cheque for £25,000, with £2,500 awarded to each of the five shortlisted authors.