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I just won the Association of British Science Writers’ Best Newcomer award!

What a night.

Tonight, during the gala dinner of the World Conference of Science Journalists, I won the Association of British Science Writers’ award for Best Newcomer 2009, collecting  a certificate, an award and prize money in the Natural History Museum’s central hall. In front of me: hundreds of international science journalists and Dippy the Diplodocus. Behind me: a statue of Charles Darwin. If that isn’t reward for efforts in writing about science, I don’t know what is.

Anyway, the award was a result of popular vote from members of the ABSW, so my heartiest thanks to anyone and everyone who voted, to Natasha for a lovely introduction and to everyone who came up and said congratulations. It’s a superlative honour and it was a pleasure to have met you all. Memo to self: winning an award makes networking, an activity I loathe and dread with a fiery passion, remarkably easy and passive.

I find it incredibly interesting that amid the unsaid conference themes of saving journalism, the rise of new media, and what actually qualifies as journalism, that this award should go to someone who freelances as a journalist but also works in science communication and blogs. I’m going to start describing myself as a triple-reassortant science writer.

Anyway, a couple of amusing things are worth noting. Firstly, my name is spelled wrongly in different ways on both the certificate (Ed Wong) and the tube it came in (Ed Young). A lovely lady from the ABSW took my address down to send me a corrected version, but I may try and see if any particularly wealthy Ed Wongs would like to buy the original.

The book I was given is this, and I have a history with it. I wrote about 2% of it as one of my first ever freelance gigs about two years ago. The cheeky publishers never sent me (nor any of the other contributor, nor indeed the editors) any copies so it’s great to finally have one (and amusing to hear screams of, “I never got a copy either!” throughout the evening.  

And finally, the setting was really special. I first came to London almost 20 years ago to the day, and the Natural History Museum was one of the things that made me fall in love with the city and, indeed, the country. It was where I saw my first dinosaur skeletons. It was where I first heard of some guy called David Attenborough and bought something called Life on Earth. I go back every year for the photography competition and a spot of ice-skating. The NHM is one of my favourite places and the fact that this happened there just made it that much more special.

If there’s one thing I regret, it’s that later on in the evening, they played Carmina Burana through the speakers. Not exactly the music-of-choice for a relaxed chat over wine, but also why couldn’t they have played it while I was climbing up to get the award? That would have been awesome.