Statistical excellence in early career writing

Want to get your work published in Significance magazine?

Our 2020 writing competition, jointly organised with the Young Statisticians Section of the Royal Statistical Society (RSS), is now open for entries.

The competition is for two categories of people: students currently studying for a first degree, Master’s or PhD in statistics or related subjects, and graduates whose last qualification in statistics or related subjects (whether first degree, Master’s or PhD) was not more than five years ago.

The rules of entry are simple: send us your best statistical writing in the form of a magazine article (1,500 to 2,500 words) on any subject you like, and the winning entry will be published in our October 2020 issue.

But what should you write about?

Successful submissions from past years were based on original analyses, produced specifically for the competition. This does take work, but it often results in a unique and compelling article.

You might also write about work you have done as part of your studies or during your career. However, if these articles draw on previously published work, you must ensure that the competition submission is sufficiently different in terms of style and structure. Remember, Significance is a magazine, not an academic journal.

You can also write about the work of others, but this must be in the form of a critique or wider overview of a subject area.

Whatever you choose to write about, articles must be engaging and easy to read. Significance is published for a broad audience, so accessibility is key. This means technical terms and mathematics must be kept to a minimum and explained clearly where used.

We recommend you read articles from past winners and finalists to get a sense of the style of writing and storytelling that judges are looking for. A list of published articles from previous years' competitions can be found on the Significance website.

Previous winners

Last year’s winners, Liam P Shaw and Luke F Shaw, followed in the footsteps of RD Clarke, a British actuary who sought to determine whether the apparent clustering of V‐1 strikes on London during the Second World War was the result of targeting or random chance. The year before that, Letisha Smith scraped online recipes and used clustering algorithms to group together foods with similar ingredients to help streamline meal plans and reduce food waste.

Download the official poster

Please help promote the competition in your statistics department or workplace by downloading and displaying our official poster.

Key dates

The competition is open until 23:59 on 29 May 2020. Three finalists will be selected in June, with the winner announced in July. The winning article will be published in the October issue of Significance and online at significancemagazine.com. Runners-up may also be published online or in print at the editor’s discretion.

Finalists will be invited to give presentations based on their articles at a special session of the Royal Statistical Society International Conference (7–10 September 2020 in Bournemouth).

How to enter

Email your submissions as a text/Word file, or as a PDF, to significance@rss.org.uk. Make sure to include our competition entry form.

Competition rules and guidelines

  • Entrants must be either (1) students currently studying for a first degree, Master's or PhD in statistics or related subjects, or (2) graduates whose last qualification in statistics or related subjects (whether first degree, Master's or PhD) was not more than five years ago.
  • Articles must be between 1,500 and 2,500 words in length, and can include tables and figures – though, for space reasons, there should be no more than five tables/figures in total.
  • Writing style must be accessible and engaging.
  • Technical terms and mathematics must be used sparingly, and suitably explained where used.
  • End references are encouraged but should be limited to five.
  • Footnotes must not be used.
  • Only submissions in English will be considered.
  • Manuscripts must be original and not under consideration for publication elsewhere. You may submit articles based on work in theses or in papers that have been submitted to, or accepted by, academic journals, provided that the competition submission is sufficiently different in style and structure.
  • Winners, finalists and entrants from previous years of the competition are not excluded from participating in this year’s competition.
  • Articles will be reviewed by a judging panel featuring representatives of both the Young Statisticians Section and Significance.
  • Three finalists will win a full registration to the 2020 Royal Statistical Society International Conference in Bournemouth. Please note that travel and accommodation costs will not be covered.
  • The winning article will be published in Significance magazine and online at significancemagazine.com.
  • Runner-up articles may be published on the Significance website or in Significance magazine at the editor’s discretion.

Watch our webinar

On 10 April 2019 we hosted a webinar to share tips and advice on crafting an award-worthy article. For a recap of the webinar's content, download speaker presentations from Significance editor Brian Tarran and 2018 award winner Letisha Smith