Royal Society Insight Investment Science Book Prize 2019

Invisible Women: Exposing Data Bias in a World Designed for Men by writer, broadcaster and feminist campaigner Caroline Criado Perez, is the 2019 winner of the Royal Society Insight Investment Science Books Prize.

Imagine a world where your phone is too big for your hand, where your doctor prescribes a drug that is wrong for your body, where in a car accident you are 47% more likely to be seriously injured, where every week the countless hours of work you do are not recognised or valued. If any of this sounds familiar, chances are that you’re a woman.

Invisible Women shows us how, in a world largely built for and by men, we are systematically ignoring half the population. It exposes the gender data gap–a gap in our knowledge that is at the root of perpetual, systemic discrimination against women, and that has created a pervasive but invisible bias with a profound effect on women’s lives. From government policy and medical research, to technology, workplaces, urban planning and the media, Invisible Women reveals the biased data that excludes women.

The Guardian interviewed Caroline Criado Perez about the win.

The author and feminist campaigner who successfully pushed for Jane Austen to be featured on the UK’s £10 note, called her £25,000 win on Monday night a huge relief.

“Obviously it’s a huge honour, but mainly because it has the official endorsement of scientists and so it can’t be dismissed now, and that’s so important,” she said. “Writing this book was hellish. It really tested my mental strength to its limits, partly because it was a really emotional book to write because of the impact this is having on women’s lives and how angry and upsetting it was to keep coming across this gap in the data. But also it was very challenging because it was a book about the whole world and everything in it, and I had to work out how to synthesise that into something manageable.”

When she began writing, she said, she gave a talk at the launch of the women’s health all-party parliamentary group, during which she said “very innocuous things that are very well-known, like how women are more likely to be misdiagnosed with a heart attack, how female animals are not being included in studies, how women are having adverse drug reactions”. She received an angry response from some of the male doctors present.

“It was a real shock to me. As someone who doesn’t have a science background, I’ve always looked up to scientists as objective and rational. Even though I knew there was this bias in medical science, I thought that hearing the evidence, they would react in a ‘We need to fix this’ kind of way rather than a ‘What is this stupid woman talking about?’ kind of way,” she said. “I was really aware this book was going to ruffle feathers and I was very worried about how it would be received by people who might feel defensive about it, that I wasn’t going to be able to do justice to this incredibly important topic and that I would make a mess of it and it wouldn’t have the impact I knew it had to have.”

She is the fifth woman to win the prize in five years.

2019 Royal Society Insight Investment Science Book Prize Shortlist

The 2019 Royal Society Insight Investment Science Book Prize recognizes the best of science writing for a non-specialist audience. The shortlist was announced August 27.

The author of the winning book receives £25,000 and £2,500 is awarded to each of the five shortlisted books. The winner is announced at a special award ceremony in the autumn.   

Shortlist 2019

The title links lead to full articles about the finalists.

Chair of this year’s judging panel, Professor Sir Nigel Shadbolt, principal and professorial research fellow in computer science at Jesus College, University of Oxford, said:

This year’s shortlist is a great collection of popular science writing. Each book on the list presents an area of science that is fascinating, enthralling and important: from the mysteries of the quantum universe to the air we breathe, from the way that data encodes bias to the skin that is our largest organ, from the infinite power of calculus to new kinds of matter, our shortlist will appeal to all.

Within these titles we encounter triumph and tragedy, hope and despair, enlightenment and enduring mysteries. The writers share great stories, rooted in outstanding research. They open up our understanding of the world in which we live and remind us of the important discoveries taking place around us every day.

The members of this year’s judging panel are:

Professor Sir Nigel Shadbolt FRS (Chair)

Professor Sir Nigel Shadbolt is one of the UK’s foremost computer scientists.

Dr Shukry James Habib 

Dr Shukry James Habib is a Principal Investigator and a Sir Henry Dale Fellow at the Centre for Stem Cells and Regenerative Medicine at King’s College London and a member of the UK Regenerative Medicine Platform.

Dorothy Koomson

Dorothy Koomson is an internationally bestselling author whose award-winning novels include the Sunday Times bestsellers The Friend, That Girl from Nowhere, The Ice Cream Girls, The Woman He Loved Before, The Chocolate Run and My Best Friend’s Girl.

Stephen McGann

Stephen McGann has worked extensively in British theatre and on screen. He is currently starring as Dr Turner in the BBC’s global hit Call the Midwife.

Gwyneth Williams

Gwyneth Williams is the Controller of BBC Radio 4 and 4 Extra (2010 to present).

2018 Royal Society Insight Investment Science Book Prize

The 2018 Royal Society Insight Investment Science Book Prize recognizes the best of science writing for a non-specialist audience. The 2018 winner was announced October 1:

We often joke that teenagers don’t have brains. For some reason, it’s socially acceptable to mock people in this stage of their lives. The need for intense friendships, the excessive risk taking and the development of many mental illnesses – depression, addiction, schizophrenia – begin during these formative years, so what makes the adolescent brain different?

The entire 2018 award shortlist (in order of author surname):

The prize winner receives a cheque for £25,000, with £2,500 awarded to each of the five shortlisted authors.

This year’s judging panel was led by Frances Ashcroft who, as well as being widely published in the field of cell physiology, has also written two popular science books.

The rest of the panel was:

  • Greg Williams, Editor of WIRED.
  • Vivienne Parry OBE, a scientist by training, who hosts medical programmes for Radio 4. Her book ‘The Truth about Hormones’ was shortlisted for the 2005 Royal Society Book Prize.
  • Dr Leigh Fletcher, a Royal Society University Research Fellow and Associate Professor in Planetary Sciences at the University of Leicester, specializing in the exploration of planetary weather and climate using Earth-based observatories and visiting spacecraft. He is a co-investigator on the Cassini mission to Saturn, and the JUICE mission to Jupiter.
  • Peter Florence CBE, Director, Hay Festival

2017 Royal Society Insight Investment Science Book Prize

Cordelia Fine

The Royal Society Insight Investment Science Book Prize 2017 winner is —

  • Testosterone Rex: Unmaking the Myths of Our Gendered Minds by Cordelia Fine (Icon Books)

The award, celebrating its 30th anniversary, recognizes the best of science writing for a non-specialist audience. The winner was announced September 19.

In Testosterone Rex, Fine uses the latest scientific evidence to challenge – and ultimately overturn – dominant views on both masculinity and femininity, calling for readers to rethink their differences whatever their sex. Testosterone Rex was chosen from a six-strong international shortlist with Fine becoming the third woman to scoop the Prize in as many years, following Andrea Wulf (The Invention of Nature) in 2016 and Gaia Vince (Adventures in the Anthropocene) in 2015.

Chairing this year’s panel of judges was Professor Richard Fortey, award-winning writer and television presenter, palaeontologist and Royal Society Fellow, joined by award-winning novelist and games writer, Naomi Alderman; writer and presenter of BBC Radio 4’s All in the Mind, Claudia Hammond; Channel 4’s Topical Specialist Factual Commissioner, Shaminder Nahal and former Royal Society University Research Fellow, Sam Gilbert.

Fine will receive a cheque for £25,000, and £2,500 was awarded to each of the other five shortlisted authors.

2017 Royal Society Insight Investment Science Book Prize Shortlist

The Royal Society revealed the shortlist for the Royal Society Insight Investment Science Book Prize 2017 on August 3. The award, celebrating its 30th anniversary, recognizes the best of science writing for a non-specialist audience.

  • Beyond Infinity: An Expedition to the Outer Limits of the Mathematical Universe by Eugenia Cheng (Profile Books)
  • Testosterone Rex: Unmaking the Myths of Our Gendered Minds by Cordelia Fine (Icon Books)
  • Other Minds: The Octopus and the Evolution of Intelligent Life by Peter Godfrey-Smith (William Collins)
  • In Pursuit of Memory: The Fight Against Alzheimer’s by Joseph Jebelli (John Murray)
  • To Be a Machine: Adventures Among Cyborgs, Utopians, Hackers, and the Futurists Solving the Modest Problem of Death by Mark O’Connell (Granta Books)
  • I Contain Multitudes: The Microbes Within Us and a Grander View of Life by Ed Yong (Bodley Head)

Joseph Jebelli’s compelling debut, In Pursuit of Memory, which explores the difficulty scientists face in finding a cure for Alzheimer’s is up against Cordelia Fine’s explosive study of gender politics, Testosterone Rex, which weighs up the latest evidence to debunk the myth that the inequality of the sexes is hardwired. Mark O’Connell’s To Be a Machine looks wryly at the age-old human quest to live longer and better and the latest fixes, from exosuits to cryogenics. Peter Godfrey-Smith’s Other Minds, a close-up look at the octopus, is a fascinating examination of intelligent life on our own planet. On the subject of infinity, international maths sensation Eugenia Cheng’s Beyond Infinity takes readers on a hugely enjoyable journey into the world of maths to reveal the inner workings of infinity. Lastly, Ed Yong’s I Contain Multitudes looks at our internal ecosystems in a fascinating study of the millions of microbes that live within us.

Chair of this year’s panel Professor Richard Fortey, award-winning writer and television presenter, palaeontologist and Royal Society Fellow, is joined on the judging panel by: award-winning novelist and games writer, Naomi Alderman; writer and presenter of BBC Radio 4’s All in the Mind, Claudia Hammond; Channel 4’s Topical Specialist Factual Commissioner, Shaminder Nahal and former Royal Society University Research Fellow, Sam Gilbert.

The 2017 winner will be announced at a ceremony on September 19 and will receive a cheque for £25,000, with £2,500 awarded to each of the five shortlisted authors.

ANNIVERSARY POLL RESULTS. The Royal Society also marked the 30th anniversary of the Science Book Prize by polling the public about “the most inspiring work of science writing of all time.” In July, Richard Dawkins’ The Selfish Gene was announced as the most popular choice from a selection of 11 inspiring books chosen by Keith Moore, Head of Library at the Royal Society. Also included were Bill Bryson’s 2003 book A Short History of Nearly Everything and Charles Darwin’s 1859 classic On the Origin of Species, which came in second and third place respectively. The poll had 1,309 participants.