As a communications person, much of this job involves striving for precision in meaning.
That isn’t always as straightforward as you might think. In particular, English is not especially adept at indicating clusivity: if I write “we”, do I mean you, me and others? Or do I mean myself and others but not you?
Some languages have separate words for indicating whether the addressee is included, but we have to make do with a degree of ambiguity, or clumsy constructions, or relying on emphasis. (“Are we going to the dinner?” “Well we’re going…”)
But let us be explicit: when we refer to the IOP awards as “our awards”, we mean it in the inclusive sense. These are not owned by a handful of people in some stuffy organisation’s ivory tower. They belong to the whole physics community.
And this year that community has rallied like never before to recognise and celebrate the achievements of its members.
Nominations closed a few weeks ago, and my number-crunching colleagues now tell me that, at 204, we’ve received the highest number of nominations ever – around three times the figure from two years ago – and the highest ever number of nominations per medal, at 9.7.
Science is by nature an international endeavour and the physics community is an international one. Fittingly, our international award, the Newton Medal and Prize, received the highest number of nominations from across the globe.
Speaking of inclusivity, we’ve also had the most nominations for female physicists at 54, and the second highest proportion at 26.5%. Last year’s figure was 27.3% and both of these are more than double the 12.7% from back in 2006 – so quite a dramatic change there.
There is also greater representation from the nations and regions. Most notably, the south west of England and the Yorkshire & Humber region turned in 14 nominations each this year, compared to just three and four per year respectively over 2011–16.
Over the next few weeks, the awards committee, again acting for, and drawn from among, the community, will pore over submissions and select from them this year’s winners – the physicists determined by their peers to be among the best in their field.
Winners are announced via the IOP website and newsletters in July – and then we throw them a swanky party in November.
And by the time the last of the bunting comes down, next year’s awards open for nominations and we do it all again – all of us.
He has an astrophysics MPhys and a postgraduate diploma in journalism, both from Cardiff University, and has worked at the IOP since 2008.
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