The Bragg UNSW Press Prize for Science Writing has been awarded to a leading astronomer, Professor Fred Watson, for Here come the ubernerds: Planets, Pluto and Prague.

Professor Watson is Astronomer in Charge of the Anglo-Australian Observatory at Coonabarabran and a regular commentator on ABC radio.  His winning piece is from his 2013 book, Star-Craving Mad: Tales from a travelling astronomer (Allen and Unwin).

The Governor of New South wales, Her Excellency Professor Marie Bashir, presented the $7000 Prize to Professor Watson on Tuesday evening at a reception at Government House in Sydney.

Two runners-up receiving $1500 each were also announced: UNSW’s Professor Chris Turney, for Martyrs to Gondwanaland: the cost of scientific exploration and psychologist and writer, Gina Perry, for Beyond the Shock Machine.

The winning works appear in The Best Australian Science Writing 2013, the third edition of an annual collection established by UNSW Press to acknowledge the very best of science writing.

Professor Bashir said the achievements of Australian scientists filled her with awe and gratitude and science journalists and writers played a vital role in keeping the public informed about new developments.

“There is so much here that will appeal to a wider community,” she said, in launching The Best Australian Science Writing 2013.

UNSW Dean of Science, Professor Merlin Crossley, said the book editors - science journalists Jane McCredie and Natasha Mitchell - had produced “a collection of science writing gems.”

Efforts like theirs, by discerning editors, had never been more important in a time when “internet noise” from Twitter, Facebook, emails and sounds bites could obscure great writing, he said.

“There is so much wonder in science. We never want good science or good science writing to be forgotten.”

NewSouth Publishing established the annual Bragg UNSW Press Prize in 2012 to recognise the best short non-fiction piece on science written for a general audience.

It is supported by the Copyright Agency Cultural Fund and named after Australia’s first Nobel laureates – William Henry Bragg and his son, William Lawrence Bragg.

Professor Chris Turney’s piece is from his book 1912: The year the world discovered Antarctica (Text Publishing)

In late November Professor Turney, of the UNSW Climate Change Research Centre, will lead the Australasian Antarctic Expedition 2013-2014 – in the Spirit of Mawson - to celebrate the centenary of the expedition by the great Australian scientist and explorer, Sir Douglas Mawson.

Gina Perry’s entry was from her book Behind the Shock Machine: The untold story of the notorious Milgram psychology experiments (Scribe).

Four other writers were shortlisted for the prize and will also appear in the anthology:

Jo Chandler for The last laughing death (The Global Mail)

Becky Crew for It’s time to become gonads, from her book, Zombie Tits, Astronaut Fish and Other Wierd Animals (NewSouth)

Dr Elizabeth Finkel for Dreamtime cave (Cosmos Magazine)

Professor Clive Hamilton for Earthmasters: Playing God with the climate, from his book, Earthmasters: Playing God with the climate (Allen and Unwin)

The inaugural Bragg UNSW Prize in 2012 was awarded to Jo Chandler for Storm front.

UNSW Science media: Deborah Smith: 9385 7307, 0478 492 060,