Announcing the Harding Prize for Trustworthy Communication
In a year where many have appreciated the need for trustworthy and helpful communication of evidence, which have been the best – and worst – examples?
In association with Sense About Science and the Science Media Centre, the Winton Centre for Risk & Evidence Communication is announcing the inaugural Harding Prize for Trustworthy Communication for 2021. The Weasel Words award is open to nominations, for the worst example of miscommunication, bad evidence, or untrustworthy communication trying to look like it’s being helpful.
The Harding Prize for Trustworthy Communication is a new award, for public communication of information that genuinely helps people decide what to do, or helps them judge a decision by others. It is administered by the Winton Centre for Risk & Evidence Communication, in association with the Science Media Centre and Sense about Science.
What kind of decisions?
Maybe the communication will help with a significant decision in daily life: about a medical treatment, a school, a financial product or a charity to donate to.
Maybe it will help people make a decision on behalf of others: perhaps if they’re policymakers, head teachers, or business leaders.
Maybe it will help people make a decision about what to think: on the pros and cons of a big, topical issue – like lockdown, say.
Or maybe it will help people assess the basis for a decision, such as the reasons for the prioritisation of vaccines or a tax policy.
What subjects and formats?
Those above are just examples. The range of eligible subjects, audiences and media is wide, and could include almost anything involving a significant decision.
‘Communication’ might mean a news article, a Twitter thread, a website, a leaflet, a report, original research in a journal, a podcast, TV, a speech… As long as it can be taken in within ten minutes (e.g. not a book), and you can provide it to us in full for judging.
Communications must be in English but can originate from any country, worldwide.
Entries must have been placed in the public domain during 2021.
How will ‘good’ be judged?
To aid decision-making, good communication should, above all, be trustworthy.
It should primarily serve the interests of the audience, not the communicator.
It will present evidence in a balanced and clear way, which means it should include uncertainties.
Information should be appropriate for its audience in content, length, depth and format.
And it should be clear about what it’s trying to achieve: for example, does it mainly inform, or does it try to persuade?
Note that we’re unlikely to consider advertising or political campaigning.
There are two prizes. The Harding Prize itself for the best entry, worth £3,141.59 (never trust someone in a maths department to come up with a prize value….!), and a separate Weasel Words award open to nominations, for the worst example of miscommunication, bad evidence, or untrustworthy communication trying to look like it’s being helpful.
To avoid confusion (!), please state clearly which prize you have in mind: the Harding Prize, the Weasel Words Prize… or both.
Entries will be shortlisted by: Sir David Spiegelhalter, Dr Alexandra Freeman, Michael Blastland, Dr Sander van der Linden and Dame Theresa Marteau.
The final Harding Prize winner will be chosen by a panel consisting of:
Prof Jonathan van Tam, Prof Onora O’Neill, Fraser Nelson, Helen Boaden, Helen Jamieson.
The ‘Weasel Words’ winner will be chosen by Sir David Spiegelhalter
Who can enter?
Anyone can submit an entry – which can either be a piece of your own work, or something that you have seen and appreciated. All entries should be done online at hardingprize.online
In order to be awarded the Harding Prize, the originator of the communication must be correctly identifiable.
In order to be awarded the Weasel Words prize, all efforts to identify the originator of the communication will be made, but the prize can be awarded even if this identification cannot be made.
Closing date: 31st December 2021.
Spokesperson for the prize: Prof Sir David Spiegelhalter: