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Team prizes and collaborations lead chemistry’s extensive recognition overhaul

Team prizes and collaborations lead chemistry’s extensive recognition overhaul

--- Royal Society of Chemistry’s prizes restructure the most comprehensive in history ---


Details of changes to one of the oldest portfolios of scientific prizes in the world have been announced by the Royal Society of Chemistry, with teams, collaborations and educators to have much greater prominence.

First to be announced is the RSC’s new Horizon Prizes, which open for nominations this week. These awards will highlight the most exciting, contemporary chemical science at the cutting edge of research today with a focus on teams and collaborations. The new category will see the number of awards for teams and collaborations increase from seven to 22.  While individual prizes in the research and innovation portfolio remain, the number of individual awards has been reduced by around two thirds, with awards for individuals more evenly distributed across career stages, sectors and subfields.

The RSC is also announcing details of an expanded group of education prizes, up from five to 11, to recognise the pivotal role played by those who inspire young people to become interested in and study towards a career in chemical science. These awards will open for nominations in the spring after feedback from educators that the previous nomination window clashed with a busy period in the academic calendar.

Dr Helen Pain, Acting CEO of the Royal Society of Chemistry, said: “It is very exciting to announce the new prize structure we have been working so hard on and to be able to reflect on how these changes can transform the way we think about exceptional chemistry.

“Outstanding science is often a team effort, contrary to the stereotypical image of a solo chemist striving in isolation at their bench. This new structure enables us to do more to recognise teams and collaborations so essential to progressing discovery and innovation today.

“Excellence will remain the first criterion for winning an award. However, we will be shining a light on the many types of excellence, skillsets and different facets of diversity that are crucial for modern science.”

The Horizon Prizes respond to how science is changing, now increasingly dependent on brilliant teams and effective collaborations within and beyond chemistry to advance the frontiers of knowledge and its application. These will sit alongside the prestigious historical Research and Innovation prizes, which will continue to celebrate those brilliant individuals advancing the chemical sciences across academia and industry.

The Horizon Prize categories to open next month are:

  • Analytical Division Horizon Prizes
  • Chemistry Biology Division Horizon Prizes
  • Dalton Division Horizon Prizes for inorganic chemistry
  • Energy, Environment and Sustainability Horizon Prizes
  • Faraday Division Horizon Prizes for physical chemistry
  • Materials Chemistry Division Horizon Prizes
  • Organic Division Horizon Prizes

This year’s Research & Innovation Prizes will also open at the same time, as will the Volunteer Recognition Prizes and the Inclusion & Diversity Prize.

One of the key findings from the review was the need to give greater recognition to the vital role educators play in inspiring the chemists of tomorrow, from primary school to higher education.

As a result, a new series of Education Prizes will open in the spring, with a wider range of awards to choose from. The Excellence in Education Prizes will celebrate the inspirational, innovative and dedicated people working at all levels of education and in a variety of roles –  recognising a wide range of skills from curriculum design to effective teaching, personal development and working culture.

The new Horizon Prizes for Education will celebrate the ground-breaking innovations and initiatives that mark a step change in education. This could include teaching programmes or techniques, research breakthroughs or innovative technology.

Dr Pain continued: “Giving greater recognition for the incredible role all educators play in inspiring the next generation of scientists was high up on our list before COVID, but this year more than any other has demonstrated how important they are in shaping the future of the next generation of chemical scientists. I’m very excited about the changes we’ve made here and look forward to announcing more details in the spring.”

Following an independent review of the role of recognition carried out last year, the Royal Society of Chemistry pledged to implement a five-point plan to make recognition fairer, more inclusive and more representative of how science looks today.

They have pledged to:

  1. Place more emphasis on great science, not just individuals; this includes teams, technicians and multidisciplinary collaborations.
  2. Give greater recognition to the people who teach chemistry and inspire the amazing scientists of the future
  3. Showcase leaders, regardless of their normal job or role, who go above and beyond to break down barriers in the chemical sciences and open up new and extraordinary opportunities in science
  4. Celebrate the scientific breakthroughs that transform our understanding of the world and solve major issues like climate change
  5. Set conduct expectations and revoke prizes when those expectations are not met


Deirdre Black, Head of Research and Innovation at the RSC, said: “Excellence, inclusion and diversity are key themes running through the reformed prizes portfolio. In addition to being embedded in the very structure of the portfolio, they are integral to every stage of the process from nomination to the awarding of the prize itself. We continually review our processes and make changes to ensure they are as transparent, inclusive and equitable as possible.

“I am looking forward to nominations opening for our new Horizon Prizes next month and excited to see how the chemical science community responds to a refreshed approach to recognising scientific excellence with the opportunity to get your whole team in the spotlight.”

Professor Jeremy Sanders at the University of Cambridge, and chair of the RSC’s independent review panel, said: “Prizes play an important role in science. They provide direction and help steer aspiration to help solve problems we encounter in all aspects of our lives, from climate change and disease to sustainable materials and transport.


“While these prizes have a history that we should respect, their structure has to be relevant today and in the future. That’s why this modernisation is so important.


“The Royal Society of Chemistry’s awards portfolio is one of the oldest and most respected in the world and this revamped structure will help ensure it continues to be the standard to which other scientific awards should aspire.”


For more information about the RSC’s new awards portfolio, visit:

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Last Updated: 12-Nov-2020