The Royal Society of Chemistry (RSC) has more than doubled the number of prizes open to educators, as part of a major overhaul of its established recognition structures to be fairer, more inclusive and representative of modern chemical science.
The announcement comes a year on from the closure of all schools, nurseries, colleges and universities in response to the COVID-19 pandemic and requirement for students and teachers to rapidly adapt to home-based learning.
The RSC is aiming to recognise the valiant efforts of the nation’s inspiring educators after confirming it has increased the number of its education prizes from five to 11 across all levels of education. It comes as part the membership body’s reforms of one of the oldest portfolios of scientific prizes in the world.
Nominations for the education prizes have also been moved to a less busy period in the academic calendar – from the previous November window – to help ease time pressures on applicants.
Dr Helen Pain, acting chief executive of the Royal Society of Chemistry, said: “Educators play such an important role in chemical sciences and we want to reflect just how much we value that contribution to training the next generation with a greater representation within our prizes structure.
“We were determined to do this even before COVID-19 struck, but the last year more than any other in recent history has highlighted just what an amazing a job our educators do, from primary school level all the way up to higher education.
“I’m particularly proud of this increased focus on education and look forward to helping give even greater recognition to the incredible work being done here.”
The new education awards are split into two overall categories: the Excellence in Education Prizes, and the Horizon Prizes for Education, nominations for both open on 19 April.
The Excellence in Education Prizes will celebrate the inspirational, innovative and dedicated people working in a wide variety of roles at all levels of education. From teachers to technicians, these prizes are aimed at 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.
Samia El-Ali, Head of Chemistry at Claremont High School – part of the working group that proposed the new awards – said: “As teachers, lecturers and technicians we often go to extraordinary lengths to ensure our students are not just informed but inspired about chemistry and the world around them. It’s exciting that the RSC will be offering an even bigger platform on which to recognise these efforts – not only to celebrate individual or team creativity, but also to inspire other educators who may be searching for a new way to look at how to engage with their students.
“Similarly, the world of teaching at all levels is increasingly filled with fantastic innovations, for example new apps and teaching methods that have overcome both old and new barriers to education. COVID in particular is a great example of this, where not having access to equipment in the classroom or university lab has been overcome by some fantastic creative thinking.
“That’s why we’re so excited to introduce the new Horizon Prizes for Education, which will champion and celebrate these innovations.
“I believe the new structure will encourage champions of the diverse chemistry communities to be nominated, recognised and represented. The new prizes have been designed to recognise the incredible work of technicians as well as teachers, and to highlight the collaborative nature of chemistry education.”
The RSC has also implemented changes to its overall recognition structure, with the new Horizon Prizes placing more emphasis on teams and collaborations for scientific endeavour.
The number of prizes for individuals, meanwhile, has been reduced by two thirds, with categories to be more evenly distributed across career stages, sectors and subfields.
The changes come as part of a sweeping review of recognition from the Royal Society of Chemistry, which has set in motion several changes designed to make its prizes fairer, more inclusive and more representative of chemical science today.
Following an independent review carried out last year, the Royal Society of Chemistry pledged to implement a five-point plan to achieve those goals:
Place more emphasis on great science, not just individuals; including teams, technicians and multidisciplinary collaborations.
Give greater recognition to the people who teach chemistry and inspire the amazing scientists of the future
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
Celebrate the scientific breakthroughs that transform our understanding of the world and solve major issues like climate change
Set conduct expectations and revoke prizes when those expectations are not met
Deirdre Black, Head of Research and Innovation at the RSC, said: “Recognition is an important mechanism not just to celebrate fantastic endeavour and incredible science, it has a hugely influential role in inspiring new ideas and the next generation of scientists. That’s why it is so important to ensure that it reflects the work taking place today.
“Equally important is making sure that these prizes are fair. Inclusion and diversity is a key theme that runs through the reformed prizes portfolio. Every stage of the process, from nomination to the awarding of the prize itself, has been assessed and changes made where necessary to ensure the process is as fair and equitable as possible.”
To find out more about the new Education prizes and to nominate, visit: https://www.rsc.org/prizes-funding/prizes/
For more information about the RSC’s new awards portfolio, visit: https://www.rsc.org/news-events/features/2020/oct/recognising-excellence-prizes-for-a-modern-world/