The Science Challenge

Part of my job this year is to organise the RCSU’s annual national essay competition: The Science Challenge. This is our longest (and most extravagant) event of the year, effectively lasting from the Launch in January to the Finals in March.


The Science Challenge was founded in 2006 when the Faculties re-merged and the RCSU was reformed. Essentially it is a competition we run for both Imperial students and school students – with six hundred schools anticipated to take part this year – that focuses on the importance of ‘science communication’. Our panel of four guest judges – which this year includes famous faces from the BBC and the Times, all top secret however until December – set a question each, which is normally very open ended and intended to spark debate. Entries can only be eight hundred and fifty words maximum, so space is short and words must be chosen carefully to have maximum impact. The very best entries in the Imperial students competition (and the school’s competition – they’re marked separately) will be invited along (free of charge, as always) to our exclusive Final.


Part of the reason why the Challenge is so extravagant is the prizes. Again, the arrangement for this year are all hush hush for now, but judging by previous years’ prize pots of £20,000 shared between only a few deserving people, I can promise you wont be disappointed by what’s lined up for this year. In fact you can’t even put a price on this years’ prizes…


‘Why do we do this?’ …you may be asking. Well, we like to challenge you occasionally. Some of the entries we receive each year are outstanding, and we think that any scientist who is capable of arguing a scientific point in such a way that any member of the public could understand – this is a ‘science communication’ competition remember – deserves recognition. Far too often do scientists fail to win over the public opinion because, whilst their ideas are briliiant, they suck at PR. Take CERN and the belief they’re risking destroying the earth for example. Total rubbish. But because they weren’t able to quell to rumours some fool started by explaining themselves properly to the media, the media ran with the ‘end of the world’ story.


This whole competition wouldn’t be possible without the generosity of both the College and our sponsors, who this year are Accenture. Each year the Faculty of Natural Sciences donates to this competition, which I hope you’ll agree is testament to its worthiness, and an indication that this year’s Science Challenge is something you should be getting involved in!


To find out more about the Science Challenge, visit the website