The aim of the 4Cs competition is to provide postgraduate students from all disciplines across the College with the chance to develop their writing, as well as presentation and communication skills. The event has been designed to ensure that all those entering are supported and are given the opportunity to develop in their endeavour to effectively explain their research in language appropriate to a non-specialist audience. The competition allows for Creativity, Content, Clarity and Charisma (the 4 ‘C’s), in communicating science and research. Judges will look for and mark on these qualities.

In a change to previous years, a written element is being introduced alongside the presentation skills event. Both elements are open to ALL postgraduate students from across the College and students will be able to enter one, but not both parts of the competition.

The next competition is due to take place on Wednesday 20 May 2020. Information about how to take part can be found below. Please also look out for emails from your Departmemt and the Graduate School.

How to Apply, Eligibility and Prizes

Eligibility & Competition Criteria

 Entrants must be studying for a postgraduate qualification at Imperial (MSc, MRes, PhD etc.).

  •  Entrants can present or write about on any aspect of the research they are working on
  • The decision of the adjudicating panel is final
  • All entrants, both Taught Course and Doctoral, will be judged via the same criteria
  • Presentations and written work should be aimed at a lay audience

The Writing Competition

Students are asked to submit a written article of no more than 500 words. The writing can take on any form, but the piece must be original, solely the work of the author and not published anywhere else in any format. Please note that pictures, videos etc. can also be embedded. Winners of the writing competition will be announced together with the winners of the presentation competition at the event in May and that the final prize winning articles will be published on the Graduate School’s blog.

 Written Articles - Entry Criteria

  • Comprise original work of no more than 500 words
  • Be creative, engaging and well-written
  • Communicate science clearly and be scientifically accurate
  • All submissions must be original, solely the work of a single author and not published anywhere else in any format
  • Pictures, videos etc. can be embedded
  • References must be included where appropriate and any audio/video material properly credited

Entrants are reminded that if they would like support with their writing, they can contact the Graduate School to arrange a one-to-one session with a member of the tutor team.

The Presentation Competition

Much like the 3MT competition, each presenter will have three minutes to deliver their presentation to the audience and a panel of expert judges. Creativity is encouraged and the presenters can visualise their concepts in a variety of ways, using props, poems, songs or PowerPoint slides (see criteria below). After each presentation, the judges will have two minutes to ask questions and make comments. When the time the time runs out, the next presenter will be introduced. The event will conclude with a reception/networking session.

 Presentation Competition - Entry Criteria

  • Presenters have three minutes maximum to present and competitors exceeding three minutes will be disqualified. The timer will start as soon as they begin speaking, moving, or interacting with the audience
  • Each presenter will be given two minutes following their presentation to answer any questions from the judges
  • Presenters should ensure that they communicate the science clearly and that the information presented is scientifically accurate
  • Creativity is encouraged and the presentation can be delivered in any way the competitor chooses; props, poems, songs as well as PowerPoint slides are all allowed. Pre-recorded material e.g. video/audio recordings, are not permitted

*Please note that competitors can only use props they can carry onto the stage themselves (there will be no time for set up)

Shortlisted entrants will be invited to attend the Graduate School’s Science Communication Presentations Skills workshop, which is due to take place on 20th April 2020. For doctoral students, attendance at this workshop will count towards the Graduate School’s professional skills ESA requirement.

Shortlisting & Judging Criteria


Writing Competition: A panel of expert judges will score and select the top three entries received in order to award first-third place. The pieces of written work will be available to view on the Graduate School's website at the beginning of May, so that voting for the People's Choice Award can begin. All prize winners will be announced at the event on the 20 of May 2020.

Presentation Competition: A panel of expert judges will score and select up to 20 applicants for the presentation skills element of the competition, due to take place on 20 May 2020. The judges will shortlist based on the abstracts submitted by applicants. Abstracts must be concise, clear and give a good overview of the topic to be covered.

Departmental Submissions: Please note that Departments who have held, or wish to hold internal, preliminary competitions, should submit the name of their candidate, together with the required information, by the 20 March 2020 deadline. Students who are put forward by their department for either element of the competition will be recommended for shortlisting. 


Judging Criteria

The judging criteria will be applied to both the written and presentation elements of the competition (with the exception of the final ‘C’, which will not be applicable to the written element). A judging panel of 3-5 judges will determine the winners on the basis of four judging criteria: content, clarity, creativity and charisma*.

  • Content: Quality of content is key in science communication and the scientific topic presented should be well chosen to suit a lay audience. Competitors should demonstrate the ability to explain their chosen topic clearly and concisely by avoiding excessive use of jargon or technical terms.
  • Clarity/Structure: A coherent narrative and clear structure are critical for effective science communication; as well as making sure the reader/audience/judges can follow the talk/narrative of the text, they should also be left with an understanding of the scientific concept chosen.
  • Creativity: Competitors are free to explore different rhetorical modes/modes of delivery for their presentation/article if they so wish. Judges will look favourably upon contestants who employ effective, insightful and engaging approaches.
  • Charisma/Performance: How convincing was the presentation?
    The audience and judges should be left inspired and enthused about science. A successful presentation will be one which makes the science exciting, entertaining and easy to listen to.

How to Apply

Students will be able to apply directly to the Graduate School in order to enter either element of the competition, however some departments may be holding preliminary heats. Please check with your department. 

In order to apply, please email the below to, depending on which element of the competition you are aiming to participate in. 

The Writing Competition
  • Finished written work for this element of the competition
The Presentation Competition
  • Any slides etc. due to be used in the presentation competition (PowerPoint slides only)
  • A short 150-word summary of the research to be presented (to be included in the event programme)
  • A short audio/video recording, of no longer that 1 minute 30 seconds, giving an overview of the research to be presented
  • Three interesting facts about the entrant, unrelated to their research*

*Please note that these ‘fun facts’ will be used to introduce entrants at the presentation competition

Application Deadline

The deadline for students, Departments, programmes, institutes and CDTs to apply/submit their entrants is Friday 20 March 2020. All of the items requested above MUST be submitted by this deadline.  

If you have any questions or queries about the competition, please email the Graduate School. 


Prizes for both elements of the competition are as follows,

1st Prize


2nd Prize


3rd Prize


People's Choice Award


Please note that further details regarding how you can vote for your favourite written article will be circulated in due course. Winners of the writing element of the competition will be announced at the event on the 20th of May.

The 4 C's