idw Audience Award for article on meerkat research
Most popular press release comes from Ulm University

Ulm University

The press release on the changes in the gut microbiome of meerkats in the Kalahari caused by climate change has been honoured with the idw Audience Award 2023. The text from Ulm University's Press and Public Relations collected the most votes in the first ever public vote organised by the news portal Informationsdienst Wissenschaft (idw). The certificate was symbolically presented at an online award ceremony on Friday, 3rd May.

Every year, Informationsdienst Wissenschaft honours the best science press releases with the award of the same name. For the first time, an audience award was also presented for the most popular news item. The unendowed award went to two institutions, Ulm University and Saarland University, which achieved the same number of votes for their topics in the online evaluation. Magdalena Schaeffer, board member of idw e. V., gave the laudatory speeches for the winners. "The demand for well-prepared information from science is very high in these times," said Schaeffer. The idw award is intended as an incentive to write good press releases and thus practise good science journalism.

The press release from Ulm University that was awarded the idw Audience Award is about a study by biologists from the Institute of Evolutionary Ecology and Conservation Genomics entitled: "Meerkats fall ill more often and die earlier - climate change alters the gut microbiome of wild animals". The researchers' key message: The animals find less and less varied food due to the extreme heat; this has an impact on the bacteria colonised in the gut, causing the meerkats to fall ill more often and die earlier. This correlation can be proven on the basis of faecal samples from wild meerkats from the past 20 years. During this time, the climate in South Africa has also changed significantly. The study "Climate change drives loss of bacterial gut mutualists at the expense of host survival in wild meerkats" was published in July 2023 in the journal Global Change Biology. "It was an interesting project with a comprehensible conclusion. It was fun to compile and prepare the results. The researchers also supported us with vivid photos from the research station in the Kalahari. This made the report accessible to a wide audience," says Daniela Stang, author of the press release. The report has appeared more than 40 times across different countries, from Deutschlandfunk to ORF and Bild der Wissenschaft.

99 press offices submitted their best press release of 2023 for the idw Award for Science Communication. An expert jury compiled a shortlist of 15 press releases and selected three winners. These come from the Max Planck Institute for Chemistry in Mainz (1st place), Saarland University in Saarbrücken (2nd place) and the Leibniz Institute for Natural Product Research and Infection Biology in Jena (3rd place). For the first time, an audience award was also awarded, which could be voted for online. The honour is not given to the author of the press release, but to the entire press office or responsible institution.

Informationsdienst Wissenschaft describes itself as the news portal for the latest scientific and research news in German-speaking countries, with around one thousand member organisations ranging from universities and research institutes to research-intensive companies. It brings science and public together by publishing the news and events of its approximately 1,000 member institutions and sending them to 43,000 subscribers, including more than 9,400 journalists. In 2023, a total of 19,000 press releases were sent out via idw.

Text and media contact: Daniela Stang


The press and public relations team at Ulm University (from left): Daniela Stang, Martina Fischer, Andrea Weber-Tuckermann and head Christine Liebhardt (Photo: Elvira Eberhardt)
Daniela Stang, online and social media editor and author of the press release on the gut microbiome of meerkats (Photo: Elvira Eberhardt)
Prof. Simone Sommer with meerkats in the Kalahari (Photo: Nadine Müller-Klein)