SNSF Scientific Image Competition
Get your cameras! Give Swiss research a face
The SNSF Scientific Image Competition encourages researchers working in Switzerland to present their works to the public and the media. Photographs, images and videos will be rated in terms of their aesthetic quality and their ability to inspire and amaze, to convey or illustrate knowledge, to tell a human story or to let us discover a new universe.
All the entries to the competition (almost 2800 to date) are available in our online gallery on Flickr.
The jury has awarded four first prizes and fifteen distinctions out of the 435 submitted entries.
Category 1 – Object of study
Searching for a good father, by Francesca Angiolani-Larrea
PhD student, University of Bern
Parental care in the animal world has traditionally been seen as the work of the mother, but displays diverse forms in amphibians. Fathers play a key role in the survival and fitness of certain species. A case in point is Hyalinobatrachium valerioi, a type of glass frog with a transparent belly. The mother’s only tasks are to select the best mate and to produce the eggs. Fathers stay with their young and look after them – sometimes up to seven clutches at the same time.
I study the interactions between parents and offspring in the glass frogs, which are a perfect example of the diversity of reproductive strategies such the behavioural mechanisms of the group to ensure their offspring’s fitness. This photo was taken in a glass frog colony recently housed at the University of Bern. I placed the camera and a flash underneath a Petri dish with the frog in it.
Comment of the jury │ The picture cleverly takes advantage of a common piece of laboratory equipment – a transparent Petri dish – to offer a striking new perspective on a tiny frog. The simple but efficient composition lays out the whole subject in front of the viewer’s eye, including the inside of the animal’s belly.
Category 2 – Women and men of science
Not only wearing white coats, by Mariafrancesca Petrucci
PhD student, University of Bern
The transdisciplinary One Health approach aims at achieving optimal health outcomes by recognising the interconnection between people, animals, plants and their shared environment. It recognises that the life and health of animals, humans and other living beings are equally important and that the highest standard of care must be guaranteed for all, wherever they are. In this photograph, a vet auscultates the heart of a minipig. My research project conducted at the Experimental Surgery Facility of the University of Bern studies pain and its characteristics in these animals.
The picture was taken with a tripod on a farm, my colleague Alessandro Mirra helping me with post-production. It underlines the fact that doctors and scientists do not always wear white coats in sterile environments.
Comment of the jury │ The very well composed picture attracts the viewer with its warm colours, brilliantly showing the rarely seen emotional side of science. It raises the complex issue of animal testing, balancing it by a tender and caring gesture. It reminds us that research with animals can also benefit their welfare.
Category 3 – Locations and instruments
Bees and chips, by Rafael Barmak
PhD student, EPFL
Honeybees evolved to live in colonies where collaboration and the division of labour increase their chances of survival. Studying this complex collective behaviour in conditions close to their natural environment is difficult because of the small, dark and humid places they live in, their aggressiveness towards foreign bodies such as sensors and cables, and the large numbers of bees. Robots capable of interacting with the bees can help scientists investigate their behaviour.
The picture is a close-up of a honeybee-populated robotic device developed within the Mobile Robotics Systems group at EPFL. It was being tested in Austria in collaboration with biologists at the University of Graz as part of the EU-funded Hiveopolis project. Croissant-shaped larvae inside the wax cells are visible in the lower central and left-hand parts of the picture, a sign of the strong integration between the insects and the robot. The device can modulate the internal hive environment using thermal cues. This new type of biohybrid society helps scientists investigate these fascinating creatures and explore how their behaviour can be steered at individual and colony levels, potentially supporting them in an increasingly hostile environment.
Comment of the jury │The high-quality picture transports us into a new biohybrid world where the natural meets the artificial. We wonder what the goal of the research is, before then being caught up by the details of the photograph. It does not reduce but enhances the bees’ complex behaviour and our fascination for this unique animal society.
Category 4 – Video loops
Wingtip vortex in ground effect, by Cyprien de Sepibus
PhD student, Haute école du paysage, d’ingénierie et d’architecture de Genève HES-SO
Albatrosses often fly only slightly above the surface of the water, probably to save energy by using the ground effect. The latter occurs when a lifting surface operates close to the ground, resulting in an increase in lift and a decrease in drag. This has been well known to aeronautical engineers and pilots for a long time, but current scientific explanations are still incomplete and do not provide satisfactory answers, especially on why birds adopt a specific morphology by arching their wings and pointing the wings’ tips downwards.
The movie shows the flow pattern in a wind tunnel test section occurring downstream of an arched wing placed close to a solid surface. Whereas in a classic flight condition far above the ground a single vortex occurs at the wingtip, near the ground a complex vortical system can be seen.
Comment of the jury │ The video details mesmerising turbulences, magically making the invisible visible. It surprises viewers by leading them from the physical world to a fluid stream that looks almost virtual. But it is very real as the phenomena is firmly grounded in our concrete, human-scale reality.
About the competition
The competition is held annually. An international jury will meet at the beginning of the year and award a CHF 1,000 prize in each category for the winning entry, as well as CHF 250 for each distinction. The award-winning works are announced in April or May, displayed in an exhibition at the Biel/Bienne Festival of Photography and made available to the public and the media, as well as to scientific institutions.
The competition has multiple aims: to highlight the growing role of images in scientific research, to reveal how scientific work is conducted and to give a face to the researchers conducting it. The competition also aims to encourage the media to use more images in their science coverage and make them accessible to the public through exhibitions.
We encourage researchers to pick up their camera and document the – often unusual – environment in which they work, and to give their colleagues a face.
The jury includes international experts in the fields of photography, museums, media and research from around the world.
- Mónica Bello, director of Arts at Cern (Switzerland)
- Tanja Gesell, biologist and artist, University of Vienna (Austria)
- Emmanuelle Giacometti, director of l’Espace des Inventions (Switzerland)
- Lars Lindemann, head of photography at Geo (Germany)
- Alexander Sauer, photographer (Switzerland)
Award ceremony, exhibition and online galleries
The award ceremony will take place in May 2023 during the Biel/Bienne Festival of Photography, where a selection of the works will be exhibited.
The images are presented at other exhibitions as well as online:
All scientists working at a research institution in Switzerland are eligible to participate. The works must have been produced less than 12 months before the deadline for submitting entries.
Researchers who wish to take part in the competition must fill in the online form.
Categories of the competition
Each participant may submit from 1 to 5 entries, in one or more of the following categories:
1) Object of study (image)
From the microcosm to the macrocosm, images of the research object captured by scientists using a camera or generated by a computer.
2) Women and men of science (photographs)
Photographs of research in practice, presented by and featuring those conducting it.
3) Locations and instruments
Photographs of the surroundings in which scientists take measurements, generate data and make discoveries, and of the instruments they use while doing so.
4) Video loop
Chronophotography, video or animated gif, documenting some aspects of categories 1 to 3.
Digital image file obtained from a camera. Format: JPEG or TIFF. Maximum size: 100 MB. Minimum resolution: 2000 x 3000 pixels (16.9 x 25.4 cm to 300 dpi). Digital touching up permitted.
Digital image file taken from a camera or computer-generated from data obtained through observation or computer simulation (excluding explanatory infographics). Others: see "Photographs", above.
Digital video file taken from a camera or computer-generated from data obtained through observation or computer simulation (excluding explanatory infographics). Formats: GIF, AVI, MP4 (edited in a loop). Maximum size: 300 MB. Duration: from 3 to 15 seconds. Minimum resolution: 480 x 720 pixels (DVD resolution). Digital touching up permitted.
The participants retain their copyright. They authorise the publication of the submitted images under a CC-BY-NC-ND licence (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/3.0/): unaltered images can be used freely for non-commercial purposes as long as they are credited as the creator of the image.
People’s prize 2017-2021
In March 2021, the public voted for its favourites from among 50 photographs and 15 videos. The preselection had been made in February 2021 by 20 photography students of Arts College Bern/Biel.
A view from inside the neocortical forest (2017)
Nicolas Antille (EPFL)
Jump! (2021) - Video
Daniel Huber (University of Geneva)
Winners 2017 - 2021
All of the images are presented in our online gallery. Follow the images from the competition on Twitter using the hashtag #SwissScienceImage.