John Maddox Prize: Brian Earp commendation

Sense about Science is an independent charity that champions the public interest in sound science and ensures evidence is recognised in public life and policy making. The John Maddox Prize, which recognises the work of individuals who promote science and evidence, advancing the public discussion around difficult topics despite challenges or hostility. Now in its 9th year, the John Maddox Prize prize is run and funded by Sense about Science, where Sir John Maddox was a founding trustee, and Nature, where he was editor for over 20 years, with support from Clare and Andrew Lyddon.  It has been awarded annually since 2012 to researchers who have shown great courage and integrity in standing up for science and scientific reasoning against fierce opposition and hostility. Each year there is one winner, and an additional prize for an early career researcher. The Maddox Prize 2020 received over 100 nominations from 34 different countries.

2020 Winners:

The 2020 John Maddox Prize has been jointly awarded to Dr Anthony Fauci and Prof Salim Abdool Karim for standing up for science during the coronavirus pandemic. The early career award has been awarded to Prof Anne Abbott. 


In response to COVID the judges would also like to recognise the extraordinary efforts to communicate the initial stages of the novel coronavirus both by Ai Fen and Li Wenliang. These doctors from Wuhan General Hospital went above and beyond to communicate their concerns about the presence of a novel Coronavirus, particularly when considering the positions they were in and consequences they were likely to face. They feel that both these doctors require recognition for this effort, Ai Fen in having initiated the communication to her colleagues and thereby ‘distributing the whistles’ and Li Wenliang’s efforts, as he was dying of COVID-19, to communicate to the world his treatment and suppression.

Judges commended the work of Donato Boscia, head of the Bari unit of the CNR Institute for Sustainable Plant Protection (IPSP) in Italy, for continuing to identify and explain the Xylella fastifiosa outbreak decimating the olive industry in Italy despite facing lawsuits and a smear campaign that he started the outbreak.

They commended the work of Lucas Garibaldi, Director of IRNAD, for his engagement with agribusiness in Argentina to explain the evidence for more sustainable farming practices.

They also commended the work of Brian Earp in the controversial field of genital cutting in children for taking a multi-disciplined, science-based approach to a deep-rooted cultural practice. Brian's work on genital autonomy is freely available here.


John Maddox Prize 2020:
Sense about Science:
Brian Earp's publications on Gential Autonomy: