Looking back on the 2018 Kavli Prize Week in Oslo. Our fellows share their impressions.

The successful 2018 Kavli Prize Week in Oslo (1-6 September) was a unique occasion for our five fellows, all science journalists, to attend the multiple events across the city honouring the seven laureates and recognizing them for their seminal advances in the research areas of astrophysics [the origin, structure, and composition of the cosmos], nanoscience [science at the atomic scale], and neuroscience [science of the brain].

What definitely made a big impression on our fellows were the casual and straightforward meetings with the seven laureates. In this post, each of the fellows shares some highlights that had a significant impact on them as a person and on their careers as science journalists. In the following weeks, we will also publish on this blog some of the fellows’ articles based on their Kavli Prize Week experiences and exchanges. 


Ivan Carrillo [Mexico]

“During the conversations I had with the winning scientists, I got to know more deeply the reasons for their research, the questions that they asked themselves, the dreams they have pursued and the personal and emotional impulses of their professional work, which becomes an excellent material journalistic for me, because in my stories I try to reflect that human part of the scientific activity.”



Angela Posada-Swafford [USA & Colombia]

At some point, before the ceremony, I asked Jennifer Doudna whether I could describe CRISPR-Cas9 in three words: ‘Simple, precise, powerful.’ She beamed and agreed. Simple, precise, powerful. I safely say that these descriptions can also be applied to the entire Kavli Awards week in Oslo last week. The meetings, ceremonies, speeches, the whole thing was like a scientific Goldilocks: not too long, not too short, not too tiresome, not too lacking, not too heavy, not too light.

Absorbing the science from the laureate’s own mouths and getting to feel their emotional, empathetic sides was a priceless experience. I could have sat at their side for many more hours. But then again, I possess a curious mind –open and engaged, and always in awe of our species’ collective ability to understand our natural world. I think I would have enjoyed talking to Fred Kavli.


Simon Pleasants [Australia & Japan]

Attending the Kavli Prize Week has been the high point of my career up until now and an experience I will always recall with gratitude. It was an amazing opportunity not only to hear some of the best scientists in their fields to explain their pioneering research but also to talk to them directly about it. The lab visits in Trondheim were another highlight that provided the chance to learn about the world-leading research being done in Norway. The many social events, including the banquet, were great for interacting with other people associated with the prize and thereby gaining a broader perspective on it. I also really appreciated the opportunity to get to know the other fellows, who are working in very different contexts but all with the common goal of communicating top-level science in a way that the public can understand.


Iván Carrillo [Mexico]

Scientific knowledge is also human emotion. The opportunity to attend the award ceremony of the Kavli Awards and to talk with the laureates is in that sense a privilege for a science journalist. During the conversations I had with the winning scientists, I got to know more deeply the reasons for their research, the questions that they asked themselves, the dreams they have pursued and the personal and emotional impulses of their professional work, which becomes an excellent material journalistic for me, because in my stories I try to reflect that human part of the scientific activity.

All the above happened in a ceremonial and festive context where elegance combines with scientific knowledge and homage is paid to the height of the winners. Hand in hand with this experience is the coexistence with the other fellows, with whom I could learn a lot and establish very useful and satisfactory international bonds.

Undoubtedly, this week in Oslo has been a wonderful and inspiring experience.


Ling Xin [China]

The week in Oslo satisfied all my fascination with basic science as a journalist. During what is one of the biggest celebrations for basic science on Earth, I was almost moved to tears at the awarding ceremony. I learned the hopes and concerns for the future of basic science through interviews with laureates, as well as the President/CEO of the Kavli Foundation. Their insights will intrigue and benefit readers in China, especially at a time when China is developing rapidly in basic science and nurturing its own non-governmental awards in this regard. Thank you, Kavli Foundation, for supporting the advancement of basic science as well as the public understanding of it! And thanks for giving me the chance to see all this with my own eyes. I’m going to remember this unique experience for a long time, and it’ll inspire me to become a better science journalist. 


Sibusiso Biyela [South Africa]

To start off, I was honoured to be among the people chosen to be a part of this year’s event as a fellow and attendee of the Kavli week event. Doubly so, I felt lucky to have had access to prominent scientists, the best in their field and to share in their joy as they get honoured for their impactful work.

It was my first time experiencing such an event, where scientists are recognized for their amazing work, and I was particularly impressed by how their work was communicated. There was a lot of emphasis on how important their work is, and there was an effort from the communication side of things to portray their work to be understood by the lay public as well.

Some of the topics discussed could very easily go over the heads of many, but the concepts talked about in videos and other content shared since before the Kavli Prize week events evidently showed an effort to get more people involved and informed about the most important science happening today. As a South African science communicator, I have gained a lot like my love for communicating science has been further reignited, as well as my curiosity for the universe.

I hope that this will reflect in my work and the content I will produce based on my experience at Kavli Prize week 2018.


Also, check out our previous post with testimonials from the presenter and activist Alan Alda, and laureates Jennifer Doudna, James Hudspeth and Ewine van Dishoeck who are sharing their views on the importance of science journalism and their research.