The Ockham Awards 2021: honouring the best in skepticism, and the worst in pseudoscience


Michael Marshall
Michael Marshall is the project director of the Good Thinking Society and president of the Merseyside Skeptics Society. He is the co-host of the Skeptics with a K podcast, interviews proponents of pseudoscience on the Be Reasonable podcast, has given skeptical talks all around the world, and has lectured at several universities on the role of PR in the media. He became editor of The Skeptic in August 2020.

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Since 2012, The Skeptic has had the pleasure of awarding the Ockham Awards our annual awards celebrating the very best work from within the skeptical community. The awards were founded because we wanted to draw attention to those people who work hard to get a great message out. The Ockhams recognise the effort and time that have gone into the community’s favourite campaigns, activism, blogs, podcasts, and outstanding contributors to the skeptical cause.

Nominations for the 2021 Ockham Awards are now closed – winners will be announced on Thursday 9th December, at 7pm UK time, during the Skeptics in the Pub Online event.

Two Ockhams

Last year’s Ockham winner was Dr Natália Pasternak, from the Instituto Questão de Ciência, for her excellent work combating Covid misinformation in Brazil. Natália, a regular contributor to The Skeptic since its relaunch, has been inspirational in reaching the public with clear, evidence-based information in response to health pseudoscience, including giving expert testimony to the Brazilian Senate.

Alongside Dr Pasternak, a special Editors’ Choice award was given to the Skeptics in the Pub Online team, celebrating the work that representatives from dozens of skeptical groups across the UK – and beyond – in producing regular, high-quality online skeptical talks and events throughout the pandemic.

Other past Ockham winners include Professor Edzard Ernst, the European Skeptics Podcast, Say WHY To Drugs podcast, Britt Hermes, the Edinburgh Skeptics’ annual Skeptics on the Fringe event, and more.  

Rusty Razor

While we recognise the best in skepticism, our awards are also an opportunity to highlight the danger posed by promoters of pseudoscience with our Rusty Razor award. The Rusty Razor is designed to spotlight individuals or organisations who have been prominent promoters of unscientific ideas within the last year.

Last year’s Rusty Razor recipient proved a popular choice – the announcement that the award had gone to Dr Didier Raoult quickly became the most-read article on The Skeptic‘s site. Dr Raoult received the award for his continual promotion of hydroxychloroquine as a treatment for COVID-19, including publishing a study that was littered with fatal methodological flaws. Dr Raoult’s study, despite its small sample size and lack of proper controls, was hugely influential in the push to encourage COVID-19 patients to put their faith in the drug, leading to Jair Bolsonaro in Brazil and Donald Trump in the US publicly endorsing and recommending people turn to hydroxychloroquine.

Other previous Rusty Razor recipients have included Andrew Wakefield for his ongoing promotion of anti-vaxx misinformation, and Gwyneth Paltrow for her pseudoscience-peddling wellness empire, Goop

One of the most important elements of our awards are that the nominations come from you – the skeptical community. We’d like you to tell us who you think deserves to receive the Skeptic of the Year award, and who deserves to receive the Rusty Razor. 

Nominations are now closed. Winners will be chosen by our editorial board from the nominations we receive, and they will be announced at Skeptics in the Pub Online on December 9th.

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