Past Winners

Awards For Work Done in 2017

We have a winner! it was a very close race but one site edged out the others to win the People's Choice Award for Canada's Favourite Science Site! Did you vote for the winner? Check out our almost-live video announcement. Congratulations to Canada's Fave Science Site! And thanks to everyone who participated. We're letting the world know that Canada has Science! 

Making Big Ideas Happen

by Malgosia Ip

SWCC People’s Choice Award Winner - Canada’s Favourite Science Site: Let’s Talk Science

Amy Cook was a graduate student at Western University when she and her colleague Mira Ray started a small not-for-profit organization called CRAM Science. They were both passionate about science outreach, but found that outreach activities typically missed the teenage demographic.

“Interest in science tends to wane for teens,” says Ray, so we wanted to do something that would connect their world with science and technology.”

The result was an online, interactive, popular science magazine for teens to engage with scientific content. With stories written by an army of graduate student volunteers, CRAM Science explored teen-relevant topics through a scientific lens.

But as Cook and Ray finished their stints at Western and took on other full-time roles – Cook as a Senior Policy Advisor at the Ontario Ministry of Research and Innovation and Ray as a consultant with McKinsey & Company—they needed to find a new home for CRAM Science.

With full time jobs, we didn’t have the capacity to take it to the next level,” explains Cook, “but we wanted to ensure its longevity and continuity.”

During her time at Western, Cook was a site coordinator for Let’s Talk Science, a national charitable organization focused on education and outreach to support youth development. Let’s Talk Science was already well connected with the educator community, an area that Cook and Ray wanted CRAM Science to grow into. It was the perfect fit.

Ten years later, CRAM Science is CurioCity, part of the network of websites featured on Let’s Talk Science’s site, winner of the Science Writers and Communicators of Canada’s People’s Choice Award for Canada’s Favourite Science Site. With over one million page views last year from Canada alone, Let’s Talk Science is an important online resource for teachers, parents, and youth.

But this type of success story is nothing new for Let’s Talk Science, which despite being a national organization with 45 sites across Canada, is at its core made up of local volunteers and their ideas.

The founder and current President of Let’s Talk Science, Bonnie Schmidt, was in the third year of her PhD in physiology at Western University when she had the idea for a science outreach organization. The timing was right: the country was in a recession, and funding for the sciences had been hit hard. Never had it been more important to rally public support for research.

“At that time, there was really no such thing as University outreach,” says Schmidt. “If a teacher wanted to know something about research, they didn’t know who to call.”

Schmidt recruited graduate student volunteers who were then matched with elementary and high school teachers in the region to lead their students in hands-on science activities and share their research experiences. It was an easy and effective model for any University to implement, and what started out as a small outreach project soon grew to multiple sites and became what Let’s Talk Science is today.

Because of her own experience turning an emerging idea into a national, award winning organization, Schmidt makes sure that Let’s Talk Science consistently encourages the entrepreneurial spirit and supports the big dreams of its volunteers.

Each year, Let’s Talk Science hosts a national conference for all of its site coordinators. They meet, learn what’s new and exciting at each site, and decide the direction they want their own site to take. Amy Cook was inspired to create CRAM Science at one of these conferences, after a presentation on accessing STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) through different forms of online and print media.

Paul Cassar, a graduate student at the University of Toronto, also left his site coordinator conference with the enthusiasm and motivation to do something big. He and his fellow graduate students, David Grant and Angela McDonald, were inspired to create a youth-oriented TED-style event about stem cells.  With the support of Let’s Talk Science, Cassar, Grant, and McDonald created a program model and drafted a proposal for the Toronto District School Board.

The first StemCellTalks event, sponsored by the Stem Cell Network, ran in March 2010 at MaRS Discovery District in Toronto. High school students from across the city learned about stem cells from experts in the field, listened to debates, and participated in breakout sessions. The model was soon picked up by other Universities. In 2018, StemCellTalks events will run in Toronto, Calgary, Edmonton, Hamilton, London, Montreal, Ottawa, Vancouver, and Guelph, and are expected to reach over 1000 high school students.

Pick any of the major Let’s Talk Science initiatives listed on their website and chances are, there’s a passionate group of graduate students behind it. Cassar says Let’s Talk Science is really “a platform for grad students,” where they can learn the skills they need for their future career path. For Cook, it cemented her interest in STEM outreach and education.

“[Let’s Talk Science] definitely influenced my career move outside of academia and shaped where I am today,” says Cook.

Cook is currently the Director of Knowledge Mobilization at the Canadian Institute for Advanced Research (CIFAR) and continues to build on the skills she acquired with Let’s Talk Science and CRAM Science.

Today, Let’s Talk Science, continues to grow, not just because of its enthusiastic volunteer base, but also because of the increasing awareness of the importance of Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics education in schools—70% of tomorrow’s jobs will require STEM. The Let’s Talk Science Canada 2067 initiative focuses on shaping the future of STEM learning for Kindergarten to Grade 12.

According to Bonnie Schmidt, the Founder & President of Let’s Talk Science, “The world is changing. We want to show [youth] that they’ve got capacity—even if they have to work at it—and that there are so many opportunities.”

This applies not just to the elementary and high school kids served by Let’s Talk Science’s outreach programs, but also to its volunteer base of graduate and undergraduate students. That’s the secret to making big ideas happen.

The People's Choice Award for Canada's Favourite Blog was won by Body of Evidence. Read about it here:

Book Awards 2017


The 2017 book awards are now closed for submissions. 

The winners will be announced in June and the awards will be presented during 

Science Literacy Week in September, 2018

The Science Writers and Communicators of Canada are celebrating our two book award winners as part of Science Literacy Week. Both events are open to the public and feature special guests - and additional activities. Tell your friends. Come and join us us if you can! 

Wednesday Sept 20th, 10:30 am at the Ontario Science Centre, we present this year's youth book award for Higher, Faster, Smarter to Simon Shapiro.

Hear Simon talk about Faster Higer Smarte and ask him your questions about research, writing, and communicating science. Special guests: Grade 5 and 6 students from Grenoble Public School. 

Friday , September 22, 7:00pm at the Royal BC Museum, we present this years general audience book award for The Killer Whale Who Changed the World to Mark Leiren-Young

The event will also feature local innovators in science communication, with talks by spider scientist Catherine Scott and science photographer Sean McCann representing Science Borealis, and art-science experiences from Vancouver's Curiosity Collider.


2015 Herb Lampert Science in Society Emerging Journalist Award:

Memory in the Flesh: A radical 1950s scientist suggested memories could survive outside the brain – and he may have been right by Arielle Duhaime-Ross, The Verge, 18 March 2015.

Honourable Mention: What We Can Learn from the World’s Longest Hibernator by Yutaka Dirks, Van Winkle's, 6 October 2015.  

2015 Science in Society Journalism Award:

Getting Smarter by Dan Falk, University of Toronto Magazine, Summer 2015.

Honourable Mention: Behind a vegetative patient's shocking recovery, by Kate Lunau, Maclean’s, 31 December 2015.

2015 Science in Society Communications Award:

Slice of PI by Colin Hunter, Tenille Bonoguore, Liz Goheen, and Maxwell Lantz, Perimeter Institute for Theoretical Physics, 2015.

The Statistical Society of Canada's
 Excellence in Data Journalism Award

THE GLOBE AND MAIL'S ELECTION FORECAST, a web page created by journalist Matt Frehner in collaboration with political scientist Paul Fairie. Designed and developed by Jeremy Agius and Julia Wolfe, produced by Chris Hannay. 

2015 Science in Society Children/ Middle Grades Book Award:

The Queen’s Shadow: A Story About How Animals See by Cybèle Young, Kids Can Press.

2015 Science in Society General Book Award:

Is Gwyneth Paltrow Wrong About Everything? by Timothy Caulfield, Penguin Random House Canada.


2014 Herb Lampert Science in Society Emerging Journalist Award:

Floating Away: The Science of Sensory Deprivation Therapy, byShelly Xuelai Fan , Discover Magazine, 4 April 2014.

Sensory deprivation was considered the ultimate psychological torture device. Now it is rapidly becoming North America's new drug-of-choice. Across the continent ""float houses"" are increasing in popularity, offering eager psychonauts a chance to explore this unique state of mind. Those running the business are quick to list the health benefits of frequent ""floats"", which range from the believable – relaxation, heightened senses – to the seemingly nonsensical. Are these proclaimed benefits backed up by science or are they simply new-age hogwash? Floating Away delves into the science of sensory deprivation therapy by interviewing the field’s pioneering researcher at the University of British Columbia, and offers a critical look at the past and future of this fringe research area.

Shelly Xuelai Fan is a PhD student in Neuroscience at the University of British Columbia, where she studies protein degradation in neurodegenerative diseases. She is a science writer with an insatiable obsession with the brain, and her work has appeared in Discover, Scientific American MIND, UBC Medical Journal and other publications.

2014 Science in Society Journalism Award:

The Allergy Fix by Bruce Mohun and Helen Slinger, Dreamfilm Productions. The Allergy Fix aired CBC-TV's The Nature of Things, 27 February 2014.

A documentary that explores the science behind the surge in childhood food allergies over the last twenty years.  More than three times as many children have food allergies now than twenty years ago, and one out of every three children is now allergic to something, be it food, animals, or plants.   

Director/writer Bruce Mohun is a Vancouver-based science journalist and television director who has produced, directed, hosted and written hundreds of hours of TV for broadcasters including CBC, Discovery, and Knowledge. His past documentaries for CBC-TV’s The Nature of Things have won multiple awards including both the Gold and Silver World Medals at the New York Festivals. Bruce has been honoured with both the Science Council of British Columbia's Eve Savory Award for Science Communication, and the Canadian Federation of Biological Societies’ J. Gordin Kaplan Award for Science Communication. 

Helen Slinger is a master storyteller who began her career as a newspaper and then television reporter. After a lengthy left turn into news management, she left mainstream media to pursue her passion for documentary. Since then she has directed, written and produced many documentaries, including more than ten made in collaboration with Dreamfilm."

Honourable Mentions:

Blinded By Scientific Gobbledygookseries, by Tom Spears, The Ottawa Citizen.

Undoing Forever, by Britt Wray, CBC Radio One IDEAS.

2014 Science in Society Communication Award:

The Giant Walk Through the Brain, by Trevor Day, Jay Ingram and Christian Jacob.

In 1972, neuroscientist Joseph Bogen suggested building a giant 60-story high science museum of the human brain. This giant walkthrough brain would educate and engage students and the public by taking them on guided tours inside, making it possible to visualize anatomical relationships among structures surrounding them. Although this architectural project remains an intriguing idea, the cost makes it unlikely an actual walk through brain will ever be built. However, modern computer technology and advances in computational human anatomy models provide another avenue for exploring a three-dimensional virtual human brain. Our team has developed “The Giant Walk through the Brain”, an innovative, engaging, narrative-driven public science communication performance which takes a live audience on a larger-than-life virtual tour of the human brain. “The Giant Walk Through Brain” is a live theatrical performance, including engaging, story-driven narration, dramatic 3-D computer animations and original live music.

Dr. Trevor Day is a neurobiologist and Associate Professor at Mount Royal University in Calgary, Alberta. He is music director and leader of the five-piece band “The Free Radicals”. They have written original music to accompany the narration and guided 3-D tour of the brain during the live performance. Dr. Christian Jacob is a Professor and director of the University of Calgary’s LINDSAY Virtual Human Project and the leader of the animation team. They have developed custom-made, scientifically accurate 3-D models and animations in the form of interactive fly-throughs to support the scientific and narrative content of the performance. Science broadcaster Jay Ingram wrote the narration and acts as tour guide for The Giant Walk Through Brain performance. He is a member of the Order of Canada with 30 years of broadcasting experience with CBC Radio and Discovery Channel, author of 13 books and co-founder of Calgary’s Art, Science and Engineering festival Beakerhead.

2014 Science in Society Children’s Book Award:

The Fly by Elise Gravel, Penguin Random House.

The first in a series of humorous books about “disgusting creatures”, The Fly is a look at the common housefly. It covers such topics as the hair on the fly's body (requires a lot of shaving), its ability to walk on the ceiling (it's pretty cool, but it's hard to play soccer up there), and its really disgusting food tastes (garbage juice soup followed by dirty diaper with rotten tomato sauce, for example).

Elise Gravel is an award-winning author and illustrator from Québec. She is winner of the Governor General’s Award for Children’s Illustration in French, and is well known in Québec for her original, wacky picture books. Having completed her studies in graphic design, Elise found herself quickly swept up into the glamorous world of illustration. Her old design habits drive her to work a little text here and there into her drawings and she loves to handle the design of her assignments from start to finish. She is inspired by social causes and likes projects that can handle a good dose of eccentricity.


2014 Science in Society General Book Award competition:

Bee Time: Lessons from the Hive by Mark L. Winston, Harvard University Press.

Being among bees is a full-body experience, Mark Winston writes—from the low hum of tens of thousands of insects and the pungent smell of honey and beeswax, to the sight of workers flying back and forth between flowers and the hive. The experience of an apiary slows our sense of time, heightens our awareness, and inspires awe. Bee Time presents Winston’s reflections on three decades spent studying these creatures, and on the lessons they can teach about how humans might better interact with one another and the natural world. Like us, honeybees represent a pinnacle of animal sociality. How they submerge individual needs into the colony collective provides a lens through which to ponder human societies. Winston explains how bees process information, structure work, and communicate, and examines how corporate boardrooms are using bee societies as a model to improve collaboration. He investigates how bees have altered our understanding of agricultural ecosystems and how urban planners are looking to bees in designing more nature-friendly cities. The relationship between bees and people has not always been benign. Bee populations are diminishing due to human impact, and we cannot afford to ignore what the demise of bees tells us about our own tenuous affiliation with nature. Toxic interactions between pesticides and bee diseases have been particularly harmful, foreshadowing similar effects of pesticides on human health. There is much to learn from bees in how they respond to these challenges. In sustaining their societies, bees teach us ways to sustain our own.

Mark L. Winston has had a distinguished career researching, teaching, writing and commenting on bees and agriculture, environmental issues, and science policy. He was a founding faculty member of the Banff Centre’s Science Communication programme, and consults widely on utilizing dialogue to develop leadership and communication skills, focus on strategic planning, inspire organisational change, and thoughtfully engage public audiences with controversial issues. Winston’s work has appeared in numerous books, commentary columns for The Vancouver Sun, The New York Times, The Sciences, Orion magazine and frequently on CBC Radio and Television and National Public Radio. He currently is a Fellow in Simon Fraser University’s Centre for Dialogue, and a Professor of Biological Sciences.

For further information, please contact the CSWA at 1-800-796-8595 or