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Chemical Sciences in Development

IOCD Essay Competition: Introduction

In 2023 IOCD launched an annual Essay Competition, Young Voices in the Chemical Sciences for Sustainability. The competition is open to entrants who are under 35 years of age at the closing date. A different theme is announced each year.
Organized and managed by IOCD, the aims of the competition are to:
  • highlight the roles of the chemical sciences in promoting sustainability
  • encourage young people to explore the relevance of scientific approaches to tackling sustainability challenges and provide them with an opportunity to present their perspectives.
The competition is sponsored by the Royal Society of Chemistry, which is a leading voice for the chemical sciences and uses its influence to put sustainability in the spotlight, demonstrating how chemical science can provide solutions to the associated challenges.
Evaluation of the entries involves a multi-stage process in which the relevance and quality of the essays is assessed qualitatively and quantitatively and essays are shortlisted for consideration as Finalists. From this group, very high-scoring essays are selected as Regional Winners for up to seven regions, which are defined according to the World Bank geographic classification:
  • East Asia and Pacific
  • Europe and Central Asia
  • Latin America and the Caribbean
  • Middle East and North Africa
  • North America
  • South Asia
  • Sub-Saharan Africa
  • The Regional Winners of the annual competition will each receive a cash prize of US$500 from IOCD and a Winner’s Certificate and their entries will be published by the RSC in its journal RSC Sustainability, which is an open-access journal.
  • The shortlisted competitors designated as Finalist will each receive a Finalist’s Certificate and their entries will be published by IOCD in the annual compendium, Young Voices in the Chemical Sciences for Sustainability. At intervals throughout the year, IOCD may select one of the shortlisted essays and feature the text and author’s profile on IOCD’s website.


  1. Global essay competition: Young Voices in the Chemical Sciences for Sustainability, RSC Sustain., 2023,1, 10, available here.
  2. World Bank Country and Lending Groups: Country Classification. World Bank, Washington DC, 2023. Available here.
  1. Eligibility: The competition is open to entrants who are under 35 years of age at the time of the closing date for that year. All entries are required to be accompanied by a copy of a passport or other identity document showing full name and date of birth. Only one author can be named on the essay and entrants required to confirm that they have not received assistance with writing the essay.
    Entries are encouraged from young people aged under 20 years, including those in secondary education, as well as those in higher education and beyond. Those aged under 18 at the closing date will be required to have their form counter-signed by a parent or legal guardian, assenting to the entry and to the subsequent publication of the essay if it is selected as a Regional Winner or Finalist.
  2. Theme: Broad flexibility will be applied in assessing the approach taken by entrants to framing the given theme, which might be addressed, for example, through (but not limited to) contexts such as those related to the 17 United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, ongoing international negotiations related to specific challenges such as climate change, biodiversity loss or plastics pollution, or critical resource shortages.
    Whatever framing of the problem is adopted, essays will be judged on how well they highlight the importance of scientific approaches grounded in the chemical sciences for solving sustainability challenges. Entrants are encouraged to take a broad, global perspective, including reflecting on the intersection of science, society and policy aspects, rather than to describe a particular scientific advance in great technical detail. Entrants should create their own title for their essay, related to the theme set.
  3. Essay constraints and timelines:
    1. Not later than midnight GMT on the announced closing date for each annual competition, essays must be submitted in English as a Word document, to accompanied by a completed Entry Form (which will be made available on IOCD’s website and any other documentation specified in the annual Call for Entries (such as proof of identity, age and parental permission for minors).
    2. Essays must not exceed the strict limit of 1500 words of main text (i.e., not including title/author, Tables, Figure captions and References). Entries exceeding 1500 words will be disqualified. Literature references to indicate sources should be cited. However, the essay itself should be self-explanatory without requiring further background reading.
    3. Tables or Figures may be included, in excess of the limit of 1500 words. However, these must NOT be copied from literature sources, but original and constructed by the entrant, and the sources of data or other information used to construct them must be cited.
    4. The essays selected as Regional Winners will be published by the RSC in its journal RSC Sustainability and must therefore conform to the standard publication requirements of style, formatting and reference citation that apply to all RSC journals. The IOCD Compendium of annual Finalists will also apply the same requirement. Consequently, ALL ESSAYS SUBMITTED MUST CONFORM TO THESE STANDARD PUBLICATION REQUIREMENTS. An example of a publication in the RSC can be found at and further author guidelines and information from the RSC here.
    5. Entries will initially be screened for compliance with competition rules (including entrant’s age, word count, relevance to the set theme, absence of plagiarism) and then evaluated for short-listing. Those entrants whose essays pass to the final round will be informed that they are being considered as Finalists and may be required to provide additional information or documents to comply with background checks. All entrants will be notified of the results when the Regional Winners and Finalists are officially announced.
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