2013 "No-Bell" Prize

The "No-Bell Prize" competition*

Most people don't have a clue about basic medical research. It's a challenge to simplify and avoid jargon, and an increasingly required skill for researchers - why not have fun doing it, or watching other people try? Central Clinical School PhD students are running an inaugural "No-Bell Prize" competition as part of their 20 Nov 2013 postgraduate symposium.

No-Bell Prize format

Two judges and one interviewer, one interviewee, for 5 mins in total for each contestant. There will be a maximum of six people interviewed. The 5 mins is broken up as follows:

  • 1 min for introduction of the person & his or her research area by interviewer
  • 3 mins for interview
  • 1 final min for questions by judges.

The interview format is informal, it is not a presentation and there are no slides to talk to. The more informal the environment, the easier it is to be both non-technical and funny. The questions are about the research (not career highlights or anything else).

The judges' job is to ring a bell if a jargon word is used. A timekeeper will both keep time and tally the number of bell rings. The interviewee has to keep talking regardless of bells, but the bell acts as a prompt to simplify the terminology.


When is something technical? Even a word such as 'neurone', instead of 'nerve cell', is too technical. As for 'gene regulation', 'upregulation' and 'downregulation' - bells! 'Structural component' is no good, but 'building block' is fine. Clinicians who have practice explaining complicated ideas to their patients, and researchers teaching into undergraduate courses are more likely have an edge. Lab based researchers without teaching or clinical commitments might be handicapped. However, there is no weighting for handicap.

Who can go in the No-Bell competition?

Students can nominate their supervisors or lab heads, so we can see how they struggle (or not) to simplify their language. If you do nominate them, they have to know about & accept their nomination! The number of nominations accepted is six, and we hope for a range across our AMREP partners and the continuum from basic to clinical research. Nominate here.

Who wins the prize?

The interviewee with the least number of bells rung.

*Source for the 'No-Bell Prize' idea

This competition is modelled on the Melbourne Neuroscience Institute (University of Melbourne) 2013 Festival of Ideas event. See http://ideas.unimelb.edu.au/events/no-bell-prize