MRC Max Perutz Award

The Medical Research Council (MRC) Max Perutz Award is our science communication competition for current MRC PhD students. To enter, students need to tell a non-scientific audience why their area of research matters.

The award aims to:

  • support the career development of MRC PhD students
  • help MRC PhD students build their skills to become tomorrow’s leaders in science
  • encourage and recognise outstanding written communication

In 2024 we are piloting a new approach and accepting video entries only. If successful, we will consider accepting video and written entries in future years. This is informed by feedback from MRC PhD students and our ambition for a more diverse and inclusive award.

The winning video will be published on MRC’s YouTube channel as a YouTube Shorts video. We will also publish the runner-up and shortlisted videos.

There are cash prizes for:

  • one winner: £1,500
  • one runner-up: £750
  • up to three shortlisted entries: £375

The award is named after the well-known scientist and Nobel Laureate, Dr Max Perutz, an accomplished and natural communicator. He was a passionate advocate for communicating the benefits of science and engaging people with research. Dr Perutz was a molecular biologist who founded the MRC Laboratory of Molecular Biology in 1962.

Since the competition began in 1998, more than 1,000 MRC researchers have entered to communicate their research to the public.

The award last ran in 2022 when we celebrated its 25th anniversary and showcased its impact on previous winners.

Who can enter

You are eligible to submit a video entry if you are:

  • an MRC-funded PhD student in a university
  • a PhD student in an MRC unit, centre or institutes, regardless of your source of funding
  • a student currently enrolled on the masters segment of an MRC-funded integrated masters or PhD

Entries must be submitted by 5:00pm UK time on 17 July 2024.

What we're looking for

Your video should tell a non-scientific audience why your area of research matters in up to 60 seconds.

Make sure you communicate in a way that will interest a non-scientific audience.

Get creative, tell a story and grab the attention of the audience straightaway. Your aim is to make them want to know more about the research.

You can communicate your research or the research of someone you work with. It just needs to be in your area of research.

If you haven’t started your research yet or it’s at an early stage, you can still share the research you are planning to do and why it is important.

How to enter

Entry criteria and guidelines

Videos must be:

  • up to 60 seconds long (anything over the time limit will be disregarded)
  • filmed in vertical orientation (portrait)
  • original content that has not already been submitted or published elsewhere
  • in English
  • scientifically accurate

Content

Videos should not include swearing, extreme violence or inappropriate sexual content or nudity.

Footage

Any footage taken must follow appropriate health and safety guidelines. Check your university or research institute’s guidance for getting permission from anyone else in the video, including any participants under 18 years of age.

Equipment and costs

Any video or film camera may be used, including smartphones. Animation, motion graphics and special effects are permitted. Any costs are entirely the responsibility of the producer.

Copyright

If you include any footage or content from a third party, you are responsible for gaining and acknowledging their permission in the description of your video (part of the application form), including but not limited to visuals, narration and music.
You are free to use artificial intelligence as a support tool, but bear in mind it may sound generic and images are not guaranteed to be scientifically accurate.

Captions

You do not need to add your own captions or subtitles, but you are welcome to do so. YouTube provides automatic subtitles, but this does not guarantee their accuracy for scientific terms.

Entry agreement

I agree to and confirm the following:

  • I have read and understood the MRC Max Perutz Award guidelines in full and meet the eligibility requirements as stated in them
  • the video I submit to the MRC Max Perutz Award 2024 is my own work and has not been submitted or published elsewhere. I will not submit or publish my video elsewhere until after MRC publishes the winning entry
  • the topic of my video is within the area of my research
  • I give permission to MRC and UK Research and Innovation to use and publish my name, image and video on their communication channels, if chosen to be shortlisted
  • I have checked my university or research institute’s guidance for getting permission from anyone else in the video, including any participants under 18 years of age
  • I have gained and acknowledged any third-party permission in the description of my video
  • I have notified my supervisor of my entry and will not share any confidential information about the award with anyone prior to any official announcement by MRC
  • I agree to a Creative Commons license that retains my copyright of the video while allowing others to copy, distribute, and make some uses of it. I give permission to MRC to publish my video if it is shortlisted
  • I understand that failing to follow any of the above or providing any false information may disqualify my entry

Submit your entry

To enter, you need to:

  • complete the entry form, providing details about yourself and your place of study
  • upload your entry as an unlisted YouTube Shorts video and then provide a link to it in the entry form in the appropriate section
  • provide a title and short description of the video in the entry form. This should include acknowledgements, permissions and any related links where the audience can find out more about the research

Entries must be submitted by 5:00pm UK time on 17 July 2024.

Complete the entry form and submit your video.

How to make your video

Make your video so that it’s engaging for a non-scientific audience, and so that it is appropriate for publication on YouTube.

Read this blog to learn how to make a YouTube Short video plus some examples and ideas.

We suggest that you:

  • bring in the research immediately
  • engage your audience, they always have other things they could be doing with their time
  • concentrate on what is new and exciting about the research and what it might mean. For example, will it transform how a disease is treated? Does it pose deep ethical questions? Will it change society in the years to come?
  • tell a story rather than make an opinion piece
  • experiment with structure, you do not need to tell your story in a linear way
  • speak with other scientists who are experts in the topic you are talking about, they may help to contextualise the research

Video production tips:

  • think about showing us what you do, examples are great
  • words and images work best together. Wherever possible, show don’t tell
  • get creative with your location
  • if you’re speaking, make sure we can hear you. Find a quiet location
  • if you’re in the picture, make sure we can see you and avoid backlighting. Try to put a source of light in front of you (lamp or window) or get outside
  • if you’re in the picture, plain colours are best. Avoid bright colours and obvious branding

How we assess your video

All submitted videos will be triple-marked through a judging process.

The shortlist of the top five videos will then be reviewed by a judging panel. Throughout the judging process, the videos will be assessed using the following criteria:

  • creativity: you should grab the interest of the audience, from the first frame to the very last
  • content: explain clearly to the audience why the research matters
  • language: explain the research in a way that is easily understood by a non-scientific audience
  • structure: it should be organised in a way that draws the audience along

The judges’ decision will be final.

Previous award winners

The winners of the MRC Max Perutz Science Writing Award from 2012 to 2022 are listed. You can read the winning and shortlisted articles by following the links.

Emily Cornish (2022)

Read the 2022 winning and shortlisted articles

Vicky Bennett (2021)

Read the 2021 winning and shortlisted articles

Sarah Taylor (2020)

Read the 2020 winning and shortlisted articles

Akira Wiberg (2019)

Read the 2019 winning and shortlisted articles

Natasha Clarke (2018)

Read the 2018 winning and shortlisted articles

Kirstin Leslie (2017)

Read the 2017 winning and shortlisted articles

Liza Selley (2016)

Read the 2016 winning and shortlisted articles

Emily Eisner (2015)

Read the 2015 winning and shortlisted articles

Christoffer van Tulleken (2014)

Read the 2014 winning and shortlisted articles

Scott Armstrong (2013)

Read the 2013 winning and shortlisted articles

Andrew Bastawrous (2012)

Read the 2012 winning and shortlisted articles

Ask a question about the award

MRC Max Perutz Award team

Email: scicommprize@mrc.ukri.org

Last updated: 12 June 2024

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