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Prize Question 2020: ‘What can science achieve during pandemics?’

30 July 2020


PDF icon Prize Question 2020 Terms and Conditions

The Austrian Academy of Sciences will award prizes for the best essays.

The worldwide spread of COVID-19 has had drastic social and economic consequences. Scientists have taken on an important role through their actions (and lack of action) in politics and society. As a result the relationship between science and politics may well have attained a new dimension, leading to the formation of mutual dependencies and power relations. During the phase when the virus was spreading rapidly scientists in many countries exercised a decisive influence on the actions of governments, which leads to the question whether more energetic action at an early stage could have prevented the situation from escalating. In view of the extraordinary amount of attention that has been paid to the public statements scientists made during the crisis more pressing questions arise regarding the way in which scientists position themselves in public and how the results of research as well – and above all – as scientific disputes, conflicting assessments and insufficient knowledge on the parts of politicians and the public at large are to be communicated, especially in order to separate these clearly from false reports deliberately spread for political reasons or rumours circulating via social media. The COVID-19 crisis is putting the system of science to the test. Has it passed the test? What lessons can be drawn from the crisis? Will science emerge from it strengthened or weakened?

The Austrian Academy of Sciences (OeAW) shall award a cash prize for each of the three best answers to the question ‘What can science achieve during pandemics?’

1st prize €12,000
2nd prize € 8,000
3rd prize €4,000

This competition is open to both individuals and groups.

Entries are requested in writing in the form of an essay and they are not subject to a restriction of characters. The competition is open for essays in German, English, French, Italian, Russian and Spanish.

Submissions can be sent by email to or by post to the Actuarial Office of the Austrian Academy of Sciences, Dr. Ignaz Seipel-Platz  2, 1010 Vienna, by 31 December 2020. The date of the postmark will apply.

The judging and prize ceremony shall be carried out by an interdisciplinary prize commission. The winners will be notified by May 2021.

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