The European Union (EU) Contest for Young Scientists, an initiative of the European Commission, was set up to promote the ideals of co-operation and interchange between young scientists. The Contest is the annual showcase of the best of European student scientific achievement and as such attracts widespread media interest.
The EU Contest gives students the opportunity to compete with the best of their contemporaries at European level.
The young scientists also have the chance to meet others with similar abilities and interests and to be guided by some of the most prominent scientists in Europe. In this way, the Commission seeks to strengthen the efforts made in each participating country to attract young people to careers in science and technology.
The EU Contest for Young Scientists is part of the Science and Society activities managed by the Directorate-General for Research of the European Commission. Within the Framework Programmes for Research and Technological Development, and the European Research Area, Science and Society aims to build a more harmonious relationship between scientific endeavour and the European society at large. You can find out more about Science and Society via the web site, which also contains a page on the Contest for Young Scientists.
How does it work?
Only National Organisers can put in entries, i.e. the winners of Contests organised at national level. Each project consists of a technical written report and display materials, models, etc. Each country may submit up to 3 projects, with a maximum of 6 contestants (aged between 14 and 21). At the Contest, the contestants set up their project in a display stand in the Science Exhibition Hall and are required to answer questions from members of the scientific jury. The Science Exhibition is open to the public and contestants are encouraged to explain their projects.
How to present a project ?
The EU Contest for Young Scientists accepts project entries from all fields of scientific endeavour. Only projects that have been nominated by the National Organiser in each participating country are admissible. Contestants shall provide a written project, and a project suitable for display in a public exhibition.
What research can / cannot be accepted?
Contestants will set up their project for display. The project must both conform to the strictest safety requirements and be suitable for public display. A project that in any way can be construed to be a threat to either animal or human health will be withdrawn from the Contest. In particular experiments that involve radioactive substances, dangerous equipment, toxic and carcinogenic materials are all excluded from public display.
Projects that involve experiments with living animals shall only be accepted on non-human vertebrate and invertebrate animals when non-invasive experimentation has been conducted.
A good display is essential so that the Jury can appreciate the quality of the project. The projects are presented on a stand with side walls and must not exceed the dimensions that are given in the diagram below. The display is part of the contestant’s project and is used to exhibit the essential parts of the work. The display may include, for example, working models, a video, and other demonstration material.
Who can participate?
Young scientists who have won first prize in their national science competition and who have been designated by their respective national jury can participate in the EU Contest. In each country, the National Organiser is responsible for nominating the projects, and therefore the contestants, who are entered for the EU Contest.
Projects may have been worked on by individual participants or by teams of not more than three people. The rules concerning age and education requirements are applicable to all members of a project team. Where a team is involved all members of the team must be represented at the Contest so the Jury can conduct a thorough evaluation of their combined efforts.
The National Organisers are responsible for selecting projects, submitting applications, and for all communication with the Commission.
All contestants will be accompanied to the EU Contest by their National Organiser, or by an adult escort appointed by the National Organiser. The National Organiser, as the principal contact in all participating countries, will assure liaison between the contestants and the EU Contest in all matters concerning the Contest.
National Organisers and/or escort(s), together with their contestants,constitute their respective country’s official delegation and are the only ones that can enjoy access to all public and private events associated with the Contest.
National Organisers assume responsibility for the well-being and behavior of their party.
- ensure that their party travels with adequate health, accident and travel insurance that covers them for both the travel and duration of the Contest.
- handle the linguistic or other problems that may arise during the Contest or in relation to associated activities.
- ensure that they have their own measures in place to assure their party’s behavior remains beyond reproach.
What constitutes a winning project?
During a long period scientific work followed two different directions: describing and explaining the nature of phenomena which had been observed and searching for new ways and means to improve the quality of life, possibly generating a little profit into the process. Early scientists were scientist-philosophers who could boast that they understood everything known in the realms of philosophy, science and technology during the period in which they lived.
… no more!
As time has evolved human knowledge has increased to such an extent that nobody can now claim to know everything there is to know. Scientific disciplines are divided into a number of different specialised areas and fields of research that are extremely diverse and sharply focused. The 20th Century saw outstanding progress in our understanding of the universe and in the development of new technologies. The 21st Century will also undoubtedly lead to a host of ground-breaking discoveries. In parallel to the major leaps forward are the everyday advances in tiny steps. While our young scientists start with tiny steps, these steps could one day lead to major new discoveries and scientific advancements.
What is the secret of a successful project?
Who would not like to know the recipe?
What scientist has not dreamt of developing the procedure for an experiment which would radically alter the scientific landscape or call into question concepts which have been accepted as “true” for generations? If only we had a list of apparently ordinary substances which, on reacting together, would cause something new, something earth-shattering, to appear. Imagine the prospects if we had a technology bank from which you just had to make a careful choice of technologies which, when combined in the right order, would lead to something never seen before. Or what about a breath-taking computerised database which, when intelligently consulted and used, would cast a completely new light on a particular problem? Of course, the world is not yet like that.
Curiosity, creativity and intuition
An idea is often born of an intuition and it may take root when you are thinking about something completely different. The first idea leads to another and, gradually, the project takes shape. Highly productive episodes are followed by periods of profound gloom. Sometimes, a course of action that seemed to be promising turns out to lead nowhere. Sometimes, an idea that seemed to be unrealistic and without any rational foundation has led on to exciting and unexpected developments. All scientists are curious; they tend to be creative and have good intuition.
So what is the recipe? Here is one: choose a subject that interests and inspires you (the idea must of course be an original one). Add a little curiosity and know-how, a touch of perseverance and obstinacy, some advice from specialists, a good pinch of ingenuity, a large measure of a critical mind, enthusiasm and an enterprising spirit and, above all, the best part of your imagination.
If the recipe is a good one, it will contribute to scientific and technological progress, but will also give you intellectual pleasure and personal satisfaction. There is obviously the risk of failure and disappointment. This difficulty is quickly overcome if you take the trouble to ask what caused things to go wrong and then try to find ways of remedying the situation.
A sense of pride
So what, then, is a winning project? Being selected by a jury – which is always subjective – is not the most important thing. The main thing comes at the end of the day: it is that feeling of a very legitimate personal sense of pride in having overcome untold difficulties to develop and see through an original idea and to have given the best of yourself to increase your own understanding and for the benefit of the community.
The Jury is composed of 20 members of international reputation, who carry out their duties as individuals and not as representatives of an institution or country. Members of the Jury are selected on the basis of scientific criteria; they are drawn from both academia and industry. They are appointed by the Commission, which ensures an appropriate geographical and gender balance. Up to one third of the Members of the Jury are replaced each year.
The criteria used to assess projects are as follows:
- originality and creativity in the identification of and the approach to the basic problem
- skill, care and thoroughness in designing and carrying out the study
- following through of the study from conception to conclusion
- reasoning and clarity in the interpretation of the results
- quality of written presentation and ability to discuss the project with the Jury Members
How the Jury works
- Each Jury member awards each project a preliminary mark in the following categories:
- Worthy of a prize – A
- Maybe worthy of a prize – B
- Not worthy of a prize – C
- At the beginning of the EU Contest, the President will contact each of the other Members of the Jury, who notify the President of the preliminary marks they have awarded to each project. The President draws up a preliminary assessment list.
- During the EU Contest, the Members of the Jury have a first meeting to review the preliminary assessment list marks. After discussion, the President of the Jury decides which Members of the Jury should visit which projects at the Science exhibition. The Jury ensures that each project exhibit is visited by at least by 5 members of the Jury for interviews. Detailed discussions with all the contestants involved takes place over three days.
- Based on the results of these interviews, the Jury may amend the preliminary assessment list. The Jury shall award the core prizes and decide whether any Honorary and/or Special Donated Prizes should be awarded. The Jury reaches its decisions based on consensus.
- The list of prize winners, the recipients of the Honorary and Special Donated Prizes (if any) are drawn up and signed by the President on behalf of the Jury. The Jury secretary makes arrangements for the official announcement and for the Award Ceremony to take place.
The President of the Jury gives an overview of the Contest at the Award Ceremony. The President of the Jury may at any time inform the Commission where, in the opinion of the Jury, any of the following is apparent: (i) contestants are estimated to have received undue assistance from experts; (ii) contestants have had undue privileged access to resources; or (iii) the contestants have clearly plagiarized ideas from others. In such a case, the Commission will withdraw the project from the competition and even after the event retain the right to demand if necessary, the return of any prize monies.
The decision of the Jury is final.
The contestants compete on the basis of their work and interviews with the Jury for nine Core Prizes awarded by the European Commission.
In addition to these prizes, a number of Honorary Awards and Special Donated Prizes are awarded to contestants who, in the judgment of the jury, would benefit from the specific experiences that these prizes offer.
The competition started in 1989 after the then European Commission President Jacques Delors decided to take over a Europe-wide science fair that Dutch electronics firm Royal Philips had been running since 1968. The European Commission launched the contest in Brussels with the aim of promoting cooperation and exchange between young researchers, and giving them the chance to discuss their work with some of t he world’s leading scientists. Since then, the event has been continuously implemented giving a generation of young researchers the confidence to pursue careers in science.