The National Film Awards are biased too

In the third year of the Silver Salt Festival, the Science & Media Award will be presented for the first time. What was the idea behind it and how did it come about?

The Science & Media Awards were actually launched in 2014 in the USA jointly by the Jackson Hole Wildlife Film Festival and the broadcaster WGBH Boston. As part of the Science & Media Summit for researchers and media professionals from all over the world, new work, approaches and ideas were exchanged here - with the support of the National Science Foundation and the Rita Allen Foundation. After three successful editions, we have now teamed up with Jackson WILD to bring the awards to Europe and expand their international reach and recognition. We want to make science accessible to a broader public in different countries through a wide variety of media.

How should that work?

Due to the corona pandemic, we cannot hold a live award ceremony as planned. That's why we decided to move the show to digital space and make it available in the stream in October. We have come up with an entertaining show concept with which we want to reach an international audience. There are also two audience prizes this year, which are awarded by a youth jury and an audience jury. In the case of the films that run at Silbersalz in the festival program, talks with the audience, media professionals and researchers will take place after the screenings in order to enable a dialogue on an equal footing.

We want to expand the original film award in the future and add categories such as honoring outstanding personalities from science or awards for interactive formats - in other words: everything that Silbersalz also reflects as a festival platform. Our goal is to make the Science & Media Awards the world's most prominent award in the field of science communication. We would like to recognize and honor visionaries who have contributed most to fascinating and inspiring us with scientific content; be it researchers, media professionals, innovators or science communicators.

This year the focus is primarily on films: What makes films special as a means of communicating science?

Audiovisual media in general is a great choice for telling empathetic stories that can reach large audiences. Traditionally, television was the means of choice, today it is primarily digital channels and platforms. Only by telling a story creatively is the audience able to develop a relationship with the protagonists. By following the protagonists in the film, the audience learns about their life, work, and research, as well as the impact their work has had on the story.

This year there is seven categories, from the best documentaries to the best series and programs especially for young people. Is there a category that you are particularly looking forward to?

“Only by telling a story creatively is the audience able to develop a relationship with the protagonists.” Donata von Perfall
For me, formats that meet the interfaces between different media are particularly interesting, such as in the "Immersive Science" category. I personally find these immersive formats, which reflect our age of digitization, in which we live, particularly exciting.

How does the evaluation work?

The submissions will be evaluated in two rounds by independent juries. There are researchers, science communicators, journalists and other media representatives from all over the world and with different backgrounds. Diversity is important to us here.

An expert jury of over 40 members from different countries such as the USA, India, Tunisia and Brazil is involved in the pre-selection. We want to ensure an unbiased evaluation of the submissions with regard to their narrative style, the presentation of scientific findings and their relevance for science and society. We work hand in hand with organizations, alumni networks and foundations such as the Global Young Academy, the British Science Association, the Falling Walls Foundation and the Next Einstein Forum to “recruit” people across territorial borders.

In the second round, the submissions are evaluated online by the final jury using a catalog of criteria. This is where narrative style, creativity, craftsmanship, scientific and social relevance and impact count. In addition to the specialist jury, as already mentioned, there will also be a youth jury and an audience jury.

And who is on such an audience jury?

The audience jury consists mainly of residents from Halle, the actual location of our festival. You could apply to participate as a jury member and we put together a great group from these applications. But we also made sure that we represented all age groups and represented different backgrounds. I think it will be very exciting.

"For me personally it is incredibly important that you can transfer facts packed into emotions" in the film. "Donata von Perfall
For the Young Audience Award, the youth jury meets several times in our youth meeting point Passage 13 to view the films submitted. You will be accompanied in the process by mentors from science communication who will help you to develop an understanding of science films and to discuss and evaluate the submissions.

How would you determine an excellent science film by?

For me personally, it is incredibly important that you can transfer “facts packed into emotions” in the film. Because this way you can touch and pick up viewers in a completely different way. This emotional component, supported by the combination of image and music, must succeed. Then scientific content will also be easier to understand for the audience and they will be enthusiastic about it.

Can you watch the award-winning films, or perhaps other candidates, online later?

The winning films will be shown in the film program of the Silbersalz Science & Media Festival from October 14th to 18th, 2020 in Halle. In addition, we work with a worldwide network of partner festivals and will propose both the winning films and the nominated films of the Science & Media Awards for their festival program in order to make them accessible to the largest possible international audience. We will also provide our audience with information on where the films will be shown on our website.


The submission deadline for the Science & Media Awards is June 30th. You can find all information about the conditions of participation here.