ICM 2018 inaugurates first awards for math and science journalism

The International Congress of Mathematicians closed out its 2018 gathering with a new beginning. For the first time ever, the ICM awarded the work of journalists covering mathematics and popularizing science with the IMPA-SMB prize.

“One of a number of legacies of this year’s Congress was that we succeeded in getting much closer to our colleagues in communication, press and radio,” said Marcelo Viana, chair of IMPA, as he presented the awards. “We wanted to make this connection more institutionalized, so this year we created the first edition of a prize for the press, to be handed out at the ceremony.”

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Folha do S. Paulo journalist Gabriel Alves scooped first place for the science popularization category for his retrospective portrait of the history of transplants in Brazil. The difficult situation facing Brazil today with cuts to development agencies, according to Alves, could greatly jeopardize the continuity of research projects in the country. “We run the risk of choking on the investigations with the divestment and of not being able to resume the works when they decide to invest again,” he said.

Meanwhile, Maria Clara Viera and Isabela Izidro’s report on Brazil’s Math Olympiad students for Veja magazine came first in the mathematics category. “I have never had a great relationship with mathematics, and I had to do a lot of research to do this story. I talked to several children who took part in the Olympics, and I realized that mathematics is not a seven-headed beast,” said Izidro.

Second place for science went to Piaui magazine’s Bernardo Esteves for his piece ‘The Accelerator’, written about the construction of the Sirius particle accelerator. For mathematics, Paulo Saldaña’s Folha do S. Paulo article showing how students whose parents know math do better in school won second prize in the category.

Barbara Souza was awarded third place in science for her radio piece, which followed scientist Ivan dos Santos Oliveira from his physics laboratory to another lab where he rehearses with his blues band. Earning third place in the mathematics category, Denise Casatti’s piece ‘Mathematics is in everything’, for Jornal da USP, showed how mathematics is present in many elements of daily life.

Journalist Mariana Lima (O Dia+) and O Globo journalist Renato Grandelle were awarded honorable mentions for their contribution to the science popularization category. Lima’s video ‘Humans’ covered applications of scientific methods in humanities research, while Grandelle’s article documented how government budget cuts affected research groups combatting the Zika mosquito Aedes Aegypti.

Paula Martini’s radio piece for CBN on teaching challenges for mathematics earned her an honorable mention in the mathematics category, while journalists Paulo Saldaña and Erica Fraga earned an honorable mention in the same category for their piece in Folha de S Paulo.  It revealed how private schools pull up Brazil’s math Pisa scores compared to OECD countries, despite public schools’ significantly poorer performances.

The 2018 IMC also awarded an Hors-Concours award o TV Globo for their prime-time special on mathematics in everyday life, featuring IMPA Director Marcelo Viana.