About the Science Prizes

The Prime Minister's Prizes for Science are the nation's most prestigious and highly regarded awards for excellence in science and science teaching. Five prizes are awarded annually to Australian citizens or permanent residents each year and these are the:

  • Prime Minister's Prize for Science
  • Frank Fenner Prize for Life Scientist of the Year
  • Malcolm McIntosh Prize for Physical Scientist of the Year
  • Prime Minister's Prize for Excellence in Science Teaching in Primary Schools
  • Prime Minister's Prize for Excellence in Science Teaching in Secondary Schools.

The prizes are a tribute to the contributions that Australian scientists have made to Australia and international economic and social wellbeing as well as the contributions science educators have made by inspiring and encouraging an interest in science in their students.

Prime Minister's Prize for Science

Prime Minister's Prize for Science medallion and lapel pin 

Prime Minister's Prize for Science medallion and lapel pin

The Prime Minister's Prize for Science is the nation's pre-eminent award for excellence in science. The prize is a tribute to the contributions that Australian scientists have made to Australia's and the world's economic and social wellbeing, and is awarded for an exceptional specific achievement or series of related scientific achievement advancing human welfare or benefiting society.

The Prime Minister's Prize for Science may be awarded to an individual or jointly to up to four individuals, if the achievement is a collaborative or team effort in realising those achievements. Where such is the case, papers cited in support of the nomination must be co-authored by a majority of the group's members. Should a group be awarded the Prize, each member of the collaboration would receive a medallion and an equal portion of the cash prize. The Prime Minister's Prize for Science comprises an award certificate, a gold medallion and lapel pin, and a grant component of $300,000.

There are no restrictions as to when the achievement was accomplished, however nominees (either single or collective) should be currently active in research.

Previous nominees of the Prime Minister's Prize for Science are eligible for re-nomination and be considered for an award of a Prize.

Nominees must meet the eligibility criteria noted in the Guidelines, which also note an expectation of further public roles for the Prize recipients during the year following their award.

Past recipients of the Frank Fenner (or its predecessor, the Science Minister’s Prize) or Malcolm McIntosh Prizes may be considered for the award of the Prime Minister's Prize for Science, subject to provisions of eligibilities consistent with the criteria for the award of that prize.

Frank Fenner and Malcolm McIntosh Prizes

Malcolm McIntosh Prize for Physical Scientist of the Year

Malcolm McIntosh Prize for Physical Scientist of the Year

The Frank Fenner Prize for Life Scientist of the Year and the Malcolm McIntosh Prize for Physical Scientist of the Year are awarded to scientists at an early or mid-career investigation stages in their careers.

Each of these prizes is awarded for an outstanding achievement in science that advances, or has the potential to advance, human welfare or benefits society. These Prizes are awarded only to an individual. Each comprises an award certificate, a silver medallion and lapel pin, and a grant component of $50,000.

The objectives of the Prizes are to acknowledge and reward outstanding early-career research and to demonstrate to the public, and to school students and science undergraduates in particular, that early-career achievement in science is not only possible but can be of world-class importance.

These prizes are open to early- to mid-career researchers who have realised significant research achievements. Early- to mid-career researchers are defined as those who, at the time of nomination, are not more than ten years full-time equivalent past the award of their highest degree (e.g. Bachelor's, Master’s or PhD). Allowance is made for periods of time out of research, for example for parental leave.

To be eligible in 2014, the date of the nominee’s testamur must be on or later than 20 March 2004, or the nominator must provide a statement of assurance citing the circumstances that justify an earlier testamur date and demonstrating that the nominee has been an active researcher for not more than ten years full time equivalent (FTE).

Research conducted as part of the studies leading to the award of the Nominee’s highest degree is eligible for consideration. At least four years of a Nominee’s research must be spent in Australia.

For all nominations, a certified copy of the testamur must be provided as evidence.

Nominees must also meet the eligibility criteria in the Guidelines, which also note an expectation of further public roles for the Prize recipients during the year following their award.

Previous nominees are eligible for re-nomination subject to the eligibility criteria being met. Past recipients may be eligible for nomination for the award of the Prime Minister's Prize for Science.

Prime Minister's Prizes for Excellence in Science Teaching

 Prime Minister's Prize for Excellence in Science Teaching in Primary SchoolsPrime Minister's Prize for Excellence in Science Teaching in Excellence Schools

Prime Minister's Prizes for Excellence in Science Teaching in Primary Schools (left) and in Secondary Schools (right)

The Prime Minister's Prizes for Excellence in Science Teaching in Primary Schools and Secondary Schools are awarded annually to two teachers who have made an outstanding contribution to science education in Australia.

Science teachers have a fundamental role in nurturing an interest in science in our youth. Their contributions, commitment and dedication to effective and creative science teaching are celebrated in two new awards, created in 2002.

The Science Teaching Prizes each comprise an award certificate, a silver medallion and lapel pin, and a cash prize of $50,000. Each prize is only awarded to an individual teacher.

The cash component of the awards is to be shared equally between the prize recipient and the school in which they were teaching at the time of the nomination. The share of the prize monies is in recognition and reward the Principal’s and school’s supporting roles in providing teachers with the facilities required to achieve their results. The school's share is to finance a project that will improve the school's capacity to teach science.

Nominees must also meet the eligibility criteria noted in the Guidelines, which also note an expectation of further public roles for the Prize recipients during the year following their award.

Previous nominees are eligible for re-nominations and can be considered for an award of a Prize, subject to eligibility criteria being met. 

The Medallions

The medallions and lapel pins for the Prime Minister's Prizes for Science were designed and manufactured by internationally renowned designer and engraver, Wojciech Pietranik from the Royal Australian Mint. The three science prizes have been awarded since 2000.

The Prime Minister's Prize for Science embossed medallion is manufactured from 6.5 ounces of solid gold, with a central silver inlay on which the Australian Coat of Arms is 'pad printed' in colour. This unique process greatly enhances the medallion's beauty and the quality of its appearance reflects its status as Australia's most prestigious science award.

The other four medallions are each manufactured from 6 ounces of solid silver. They also centrally feature the Australian Coat of Arms, with the exception of the Malcolm McIntosh Prize for Physical Scientist of the Year and the Frank Fenner Prize for Life Scientist of the Year. The Malcolm McIntosh medal features an image of Sir Malcolm McIntosh AC. Sir Malcolm, who held a PhD in Physics from the Australian National University, was the Chief Executive Officer of CSIRO from 1996 until February 2000.  The Frank Fenner medal features an image of Professor Frank Fenner AC who was internationally renowned for his work on myxomatosis, which provided a basis for the effective use of this disease for the biological control of Australia’s worst agricultural pest, and his knowledge of poxviruses was instrumental in demonstrating that there was no animal reservoir of the smallpox virus thus enabling the global eradication of smallpox. 

Each medallion is presented in an Australian Jarrah crafted wood case.

Nominators are advised to refer to the Prime Minister's Prizes for Science guidelines when submitting a nomination. Nominations will be assessed according to the guidelines.

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