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Dr Mohammad Razai wins John Maddox Early Career Researcher Prize

Published: 02 December 2021

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Dr Mohammad Razai from the Population Health Research Institute at St George’s, University of London has been awarded a John Maddox Prize as an early career researcher who stands up for science.

Now in its tenth year, the John Maddox Prize is a joint initiative of the charity Sense About Science and the scientific journal Nature. The internationally-recognised prize attracts global nominations from individuals, across disciplines, who are conducting essential work in standing up for sound science in the public interest and in the face of adversity and opposition.

Dr Razai, an Academic Clinical Fellow in Primary Care and GP, was selected as a winner for bringing an evidence-based understanding of racial health inequalities to bear in public and policy debates. His work has covered topics ranging from tackling vaccine hesitancy among ethnic minority groups to revealing systemic racism as a fundamental cause and driver of adverse health outcomes. His must-read research papers, editorials and guidance have received widespread coverage and recognition, influencing international debates on the issues at hand.

On receiving the award, Dr Razai said: “It is the biggest highlight of my career so far to receive the John Maddox Prize. Sir John Maddox set an example for researchers and clinicians like me, to stand up for what is right and never sidestep controversy even if it receives a hostile reception in high places. My work on racial health inequalities brought me in the crosshairs of those who thought that they could sacrifice scientific evidence in the service of a short-term political project.”

Having moved to the UK from Afghanistan as a teenager, he added: “I believe no matter what obstacles and challenges we may face as scientists in the global north, it is not the same as Afghan scientists, especially women and those from racial minorities, who literally pay with their lives in speaking truth and standing up for their rights. I remember them and dedicate this prize to them.”

This year over 100 nominations were received from across 23 countries, with the winners announced last night in a ceremony at the Wellcome Collection. The winners were chosen by an international panel of judges and were presented their awards following comments from Tracey Brown, director of Sense About Science, Nature editor-in-chief Magdalena Skipper and Bronwen Maddox, daughter of the late John Maddox.

The winner of the main prize this year was Dr Elisabeth Bik, in recognition of her outstanding work exposing widespread threats to research integrity in scientific papers, including image manipulation, plagiarism, data manipulation and methodological concerns. She follows in the footsteps of the likes of Dr Antony Fauci, who won the award last year.

The prize commemorates Sir John Maddox, who was a passionate and tireless communicator and defender of science. As a writer and editor at Nature for 22 years, he engaged with difficult debates and encouraged others to do the same.

Speaking on Dr Razai’s award, judge on the panel and Health Policy Editor for The Economist, Natasha Loder, said: “Mohammed Razai has been both courageous and determined in his work on ethnic inequalities and inequities in health, and on vaccine hesitancy, during Covid-19. He is to be commended for bringing science, and evidence, to the public discussion.”

You can read more about Dr Mohammad Razai’s work and experiences at St George’s in our Meet the Researcher article.

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