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Harding Prizes for most Useful & Trustworthy Communication in 2023 awarded

Winton Centre for Risk and Evidence Communication

News - Harding Prizes for most Useful & Trustworthy Communication in 2023 awarded

When we need to make a decision or make up our minds for a specific subject in our private or our professional life it is often difficult to access clear and well-balanced information. The Harding Prize for Trustworthy Communication recognises those who provide scientific evidence in a balanced and useful manner.

The judges awarded the Harding Prize for Trustworthy Communication for 2023 to a news article by Clare Wilson for the New Scientist on polygenic tests and a feature by Katharine Lang for BMJ on Covid antivirals.

Clare Wilson’s feature article won the General Public Audience Award. The article focused on new DNA tests that are used to predict disease risk. The judges thought that “in a field of glittering promises, this was a clear, impartial, evidence based exploration into what’s currently known about polygenetic testing and whether it is useful to the individual.” They stressed that “the article presented the benefits and problems of the tests in a balanced and thoughtful way…” and that the article was tailored to the needs of the targeted audience and “did not duck the open questions and uncertainties in the research.

Katharine Lang’s specialist article addressed on the use Paxlovid and other Covid antivirals in current treatment regimes and won the Specialist Audience Award. The judges commented that this short pithy piece targeted at busy doctors “successfully offered prescribing practitioners solid information in a complex and evolving field.”. The judges felt that Lang “broke down their piece into a series of key questions which might be asked by clinicians and suggested a balanced range of evidence and well sourced expert opinion in response. This approach acknowledged the individual judgements involved in the prescribing process whilst sharing the latest insights in an informed and accessible format. The judges applauded the piece for being genuinely useful.

The Harding Prizes are specifically for those who try to gather together the information that helps someone make a decision, or make their mind up about a subject, without trying to tell them what to do. 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, and it should include uncertainties and limitations of the evidence.

Winners were chosen by a panel consisting of Helen Boaden, Alf Collins, David Schley and Fraser Nelson, from nominations submitted by the public.

David Spiegelhalter, Chair of the Winton Centre for Risk & Evidence Communication who award the prize said: “I congratulate the winners for their trustworthy communication!  They deal with important and complex issues - polygenic risk scores and Covid treatments - and deliberately engage with a variety of viewpoints. They raise the understanding of their audiences, without trying to persuade them of a particular point-of-view.  Just what we need."

Tracey Brown, Director of Sense about Science, one of the sponsors of the Prize said: “The best science communication helps people think, it doesn’t tell them what to think. This year’s winners show that misinformation and misunderstanding are best countered with clear open discussion of evidence in a way that acknowledges people’s questions.

Katharine Lang, one of the winners, said “I'm surprised and delighted to win the Harding Prize. I came to journalism late, having completed a Masters in Science Communication at Imperial college three years ago as a mature student. I would like to thank Mun-Keat Looi at the BMJ whose encouragement (and commissions) led me into the field of medical journalism.