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News Alert

Descartes Prizes for Research & Science Communication
– 2005 Winners announced

London, 2 December 2005

Outstanding European research teams in genetics, climate change, astronomy, social sciences and disease management, as well as innovative science communicators have today received the prestigious EU Descartes Prize from EU Commissioner for Science and Research, Janez Potočnik at a high level ceremony in London. The €1,000,000 Descartes Research Prize was shared this year between five pan-European teams who achieved major scientific breakthroughs in key European research areas. In addition to the winners, for the first time, prizes of €30,000 each were also awarded to the five runner-ups. Complementing the Descartes Prize for Research, the €250,000 Descartes Prize for Science Communication, now in its the second year, was shared between five exceptional science communicators for their success in bringing science and technology to wider audiences in Europe. The five runner-ups also received a €5,000 prize each.

Descartes Research Prize

For the Descartes Research Prize, the Grand Jury, chaired by Ene Ergma, Vice President of the Academy of Sciences of Estonia and President of the Estonian Parliament, chose five laureates from a highly competitive field of 85 entries. The teams which will receive €200,000 each are:

  • the EXEL (DALHM) team for developing a new class of artificial meta-materials, called Left-Handed Materials or Negative Index Materials, which have the ability to overturn many familiar properties of light;
  • the CECA team for breakthrough findings on climate and environmental change in the Arctic;
  • the PULSE team for demonstrating the impact of European pulsar science on modern physics;
  • the ESS project, European Social Survey, for radical innovations in cross-national surveys; and
  • the EURO-PID project for cutting-edge research on a group of over 130 rare genetically determined diseases known as primary immunodeficiencies.

The five finalists, receiving an additional €30.000 each include: the HESS team for enhancing the understanding of the extreme universe; the PITCID project for new understanding of and development of new treatments for chronic inflammatory disease; the TANNIN team for development of natural tannin based, formaldehyde free adhesives for wood composite products; the HIDEMAR project for revolutionary new nanoparticles and nanopatterned arrays for high-density data storage; and the PATHFINDER project for demonstrating the effects of nuclear receptors in health and disease.

Descartes Science Communication Prize

The second Descartes Prize, the Descartes Communication Prize, was awarded to five leading personalities for their achievements in making science accessible and interesting for the European public. The winners sharing the €250,000 Prize are:

  • Carl Johan Sundberg from Sweden, for his lifelong enthusiasm for explaining science in a clear, understandable way;
  • Anja C. Andersen the young astrophysicist from the Dark Cosmology Center, Copenhagen University for her exceptional gift for presenting the complexities of science to a popular audience;
  • Jos Van Hemelrijck from VRT Television, Belgium, for producing “Overleven”, an innovative science TV series which follows the work and personalities of scientists as they solve key scientific enigmas;
  • the author Bill Bryson for his highly inspiring, innovative and entertaining book A Short History of Nearly Everything; and
  • Michael Seifert from Universität Tübingen, for the “Children’s University”, a highly successful series of lectures designed to stimulate young people’s interest in studying science.

In addition, the 5 finalists receiving €5000 each included: Raphaël Girardot for a documentary film chronicling the history of BSE; Frances Balkwill for her children’s books helping children understand some of today’s most complex scientific issues; Colin T. Pillinger for his work in raising public awareness of space research; Catherine Peix for her documentary “Les origines du Sida” tracing the controversial history of the origins of HIV/AIDS; George Szpiro for his series of stories “Maths for Sunday morning – 50 stories on mathematics and science”. 


Main media contact for the Descartes Prizes
Patrick Vittet-Philippe,
Press and Information Officer, Research DG
European Commission
Tel: + Mobile + 32 477 274663 E-mail:

For additional background information on Descartes Prizes
Georges Vlandas,
Directorate Science and Society, Research DG,
European Commission
Tel: + Mobile + 32 475 753100 E-mail:

Spokeswoman for Commissioner Potočnik
Antonia Mochan
European Commission
Tel: + Mobile: +32 498 969921 E-mail:

The Descartes Prize online:



1 - 2005 EU Descartes Prize for Research Laureates (PDF 145 KB)

2 - 2005 EU Descartes Prize for Science Communication Laureates (PDF 104 KB)

3 - Descartes Prizes finalists list for both Research Prize and Science Communication Prize (PDF 103 KB)




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