While the sheer volume of Eureka Prizes submissions means that the Australian Museum can’t coordinate personalised feedback for each entrant, a recent survey of judges revealed that much of it would be grounded in the same themes. We considered these insights alongside a review of hundreds of comments left during the judging process, to uncover the key attributes of a strong submission. Make no mistake: a foundation of impressive research, leadership or science engagement is essential, however employing these six strategies will help elevate your entry or nomination and better align it with the expectations of the judging panel.

Communicate in plain English

It might seem counterintuitive, but one of the hallmarks of a strong entry is that it’s not pitched at subject matter experts — it’s written for an educated, but non-specialist audience. While judges are authorities in their field and each panel brings together a wide range of knowledge and experience relevant to the prize, assuming they share your level of expertise can harm your chances of being selected. Ultimately, if your work can’t be understood, it can’t be effectively assessed. Avoid jargon and assume minimal prior knowledge, ensuring that anyone, regardless of their expertise, can appreciate your work's significance. Don’t minimise achievements by oversimplifying them, just consider how you can best communicate relevant information to your target audience. Judges don’t want to spend time unpacking your materials and doing their own research to unearth the impact of your work. “Impossible for a non-expert to understand” is probably not the assessment you want left beside your entry!

Robyn Williams AO

Eureka Prizes founder Dr Robyn Williams AO is a science journalist, and presenter of Radio National’s ‘Ockham’s Razor’ and 'The Science Show’; he is also a longstanding judge of the Eureka Prize for Promoting Understanding of Science.

Image: Tim Levy
© Australian Museum

Provide supporting evidence

It’s difficult for an entry to shine if claims aren’t substantiated with concrete examples, quantitative data, and references supporting the entered activity’s impact and outcomes. Not just a tool for demonstrating the tangible impact of your work, evidence is fundamental in showcasing your robust approach and validating the significance of your contributions as they relate to the prize purpose and assessment criteria. One of the most frequent comments left by judges during their initial reviews relates to a lack of evidence to validate claims, and this will almost certainly see your submission marked down. Achieving a balance is just as important — embellishment rarely goes unnoticed for all the wrong reasons, while cramming your entry with too many examples can dilute their effect.

One of the most frequent comments left by judges during their initial reviews relates to a lack of evidence to validate claims

Craft a narrative

This is not a storytelling competition: the science must come first. By leveraging storytelling techniques, however, you can transform factual information into a memorable narrative, potentially making your submission more engaging for the judging panel. Consider how you can take your audience on a journey to discover your achievement, keeping them invested in the outcome and impacts. Frame your materials with a clear structure and logical flow, using plain and concise language to convey your ideas. Select your most relevant and captivating examples as evidence and think about whether you can use visuals to complement your pitch. Teams will be asked to identify the role of each contributor and many prizes assess real world impact — each an opportunity to humanise your work. While you mustn’t lose sight of the guidelines and entry requirements, getting a little creative has the power to make facts more vivid and memorable.

Respond to the assessment criteria

It more common than you might think for a judge to note that an entry hasn’t addressed the assessment criteria, either adequately, or at all. That’s not to say they don’t always think entered work is worthy of broader recognition: one way entrants miss the mark is by focusing on notable achievements that aren’t relevant to the Eureka Prize they’re entering. Another common mistake is not customising information. While it can make sense to draw on materials from other submissions, take the time to review it in the context of the criteria and ensure your responses are precise. Writing a short essay without itemising your responses might also fall under this heading: expecting judges to distil your ideas then link them back to the assessment criteria will demonstrate, perhaps more than anything, a lack of respect for their time. So, avoid generic content or a one-size-fits-all approach. Tailoring your submission shows that you understand both the unique requirements of the Eureka Prize you’re entering, and how your activity aligns with them.

2023 Eureka Prizes Awards Ceremony

The 2023 Eureka Prizes recipients celebrate their achievements at an award ceremony hosted by the Australian Museum on Wednesday 23 August.

Image: Mel Koutchavlis
© Mel Koutchavlis

Feature carefully selected assessors

As we’ve noted, a carefully selected set of assessors is essential for maximising the quality and impact of your submission. Different viewpoints offer valuable insights and contribute to a more comprehensive assessment of your work. They support your account of the significance and impact of the entered activity, adding depth and credibility to claims. Given the weight they carry, getting your assessor reports right is crucial if you want to make a good impression on the judging panel. Approaching assessors just from within your own organisation will almost always attract commentary during deliberations, and generally do your submission more harm than good. Unless requested in the prize information or they can support your entry in a truly unique way, it’s also best to avoid asking a direct report to contribute as an assessor. Following on from our last point — and for all the same reasons — it’s essential that not just you, but your assessors are responding directly and precisely to the assessment criteria.

Consider how you can take your audience on a journey to discover your achievement, keeping them invested in the outcome and impacts

Comply with guidelines

Throughout the prize information and online entry system, we’ve provided guidance that’s intended to make the judging process that little bit more manageable. What we’re talking about here is related more to formatting and readability than the content itself. Judges review a lot of submissions that can often span very different subject matters, and they’re often doing so within a condensed timeline in between their usual work and personal commitments. We’ve provided templates and additional specificity around exactly what needs to be addressed in materials like your research summary, and set margins, selected a font size and established page limits. We’ve directed you to save your entry materials in .pdf format because it’s generally easier for judges to manage dozens of files when they’re in the same format. Most of the time we require entrants to upload materials instead of sharing links that require judges to be online to assess your work. Assessing entries is a big job, so help judges out by following the guidelines — they’ll appreciate it.

While these insights might seem general in nature, harnessing them will help optimise your submission by communicating the impact and significance of your achievement in the clearest possible way. Additionally, incorporating these strategies will increase the likelihood of your submission resonating with the judging panel, improving your chances of selection. If you’ve gotten this far and there’s no new information, you’re probably on the path to delivering a standout entry or nomination!

The Australian Museum Eureka Prizes are the country’s most comprehensive national science awards, honouring excellence across the areas of research & innovation, leadership, science engagement, and school science.