Content, Clarity and Charisma

The winning recipe of FameLab is all in the three Cs that are written on the evaluation chart of the judges. If you are a young researcher and dream of communicating your science to the public in a TV-like setting, challenge yourself with the FameLab golden rules and give an amazing three-minute speech at the next FameLab competition in any of the participating countries.


Fergus McAuliffe during the 2013 FameLab final.

Last week, the Cheltenham Science Festival hosted the 2013 FameLab final. Participants from 19 countries – the winners of the national heats – gave amazing speeches in front of a large  live audience and an even greater online audience following the webcast. And the winner was… Fergus McAuliffe from Ireland!

Fergus’ research focuses on the use of willow trees for sustainable wastewater treatment. His fellow contestants were all university and PhD students involved in a variety of scientific fields, from medicine to particle physics and microbiology. Besides their degrees, these young scientists had another thing in common: their passion for communicating science.

Since its birth in 2005, FameLab has grown into one of the world’s leading science communication competitions and more than 5000 young scientists and engineers have already taken part. This year’s international final brought together the winners from Austria, Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, the Czech Republic, Egypt, Germany, Greece, Hong Kong, Italy, Lithuania, Malta, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Serbia, Spain, Switzerland and the UK. According to the FameLab rules, each contestant had three minutes to present a science, technology, mathematics or engineering-based talk using only the props he or she could carry onto the stage: PowerPoint presentations are not permitted. The contestants were judged by a panel of three judges who evaluated the content, clarity and charisma of their talks.

What's unique about FameLab is the fact that content is indeed an important aspect of the performance. At the end of their presentation, contestants are often questioned about the scientific relevance of their talk and about their personal contribution to the research involved. In other words, FameLab is not yet another talent show. Its magic formula truly helps actual scientists reveal their communication skills. The result is an amazing collection of speeches that are inspiring, educational and accurate despite their brevity.  

“What are you going to do, Fergus, after winning the 2013 edition of FameLab International?” – asked Quentin Cooper, the presenter of BBC Radio 4's weekly show "The Material World", who was the compere at the final. “I will need to finish my PhD”, replied the winner. That's the beauty of FameLab…

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CERN participated as a heat venue for FameLab Switzerland in 2012 and 2013. If you wish to receive more information on next year’s competition in Switzerland, write to

by Antonella Del Rosso