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May 24, 2011 / kizi817

May not be perfect

The article “Buying time: Fortifying our last antimalarial drug” wins this year’s New Scientist prize by the editor Roger Highfield. It gives us information about current situation and facing problems on malaria in developing countries, especially in Africa.

Popular science articles should describe the scientific knowledge and discovery by interesting ways. This article using three parts to describe malaria issue: background introduction, raising the current facing problems and situation, solution.

This article is clearly the key to grasp the problem; it has interesting beginning by a hypothesis so that readers will certainly be an immersive experience. Also, the interviewers they chose are very suitable objects.

Some statements are very brief, but very powerful. Such as:

“Of these, one-fifth do not survive. For the majority of malaria sufferers, the only effective antimalarial drug still standing, artemisinin, is too expensive.”

However, even this article got the award from the editor of New Scientist magazine, I still believe some of readers may not fully understand  “what is malaria” and “how serious the malaria is” etc.

If this article can add the following information may be better:

In many of the world’s poorest countries, malaria is the major infectious disease, affecting about 350 million to 500 million populations each year. 1 million people die from malaria each year, and 90% occur in sub-Saharan Africa. Infected pregnant women and their fetuses are particularly vulnerable to the disease, which is caused by low birth weight, anemia and infant mortality. In sub-Saharan Africa, there are 2 000 more children each day die from malaria. The surviving children could not escape injury. Intermittent fever and anemia can damage young children on mental and physical. Malaria can also be debilitating to adults, cannot work in several days or even weeks after the onset. [1]


[1] The Millennium Development Goals Report 2005 Available from:

Picture from The Millennium Development Goals Report 2005

Written by Yuchao



Leave a Comment
  1. Sarah Lambert / May 25 2011 8:26 am

    Hi Yuchao,

    I think your remarks about this article are very appropriate. I also think that in spite of the relavance of the article’s content, it might not be easy for the readers to get what malaria is exactly.

    The article contains many abbreviations which might not be known by the general public. I believe also that most people would need more information about ‘artemisinin’.

    Besides, I did not like the introduction. While I liked the idea of being catapulted from one region to another, I thought that a more direct lead would have been better.

    I agree, however, that the article is well structured. I also found that it provides useful links.

    I think you found a great title for your blog post. I also like the illustration. However, I think you should have add a legend to it in order for your readers to be sure about what it represents. Without a legend, we are not able to interpret it.

    The extract you proposed to add to the original text is helpful in understanding what malaria is but it doe not say how this disease can be contracted. Maybe this could be another useful information for the readers. Nevertheless, I guess that the New Scientist’s audience may be, at least partially, aware of the malaria ‘s issue.

    Finally, your post is a bit short. For example, you could have given more explanations about why you think this article should be improved and developed your thoughts about the positive points of it too.



  2. Aaron Cull / May 25 2011 9:45 am

    Yuchao, thanks for the blog. You provided a concise summary but I still have a couple of questions for you:

    Why do you think this article was chosen for the New Scientist prize in science writing? There must be something that sets it apart from other articles discussing malaria – perhaps the way the author paints a picture of the symptoms in the beginning which seems to keep us enthralled? Or maybe you believe the judges were wrong in their decision – do you think the article you block quoted (Millennium Development Goals) is a better example of science writing?

    The map of Africa is relevant, but I’d like to know why some countries are coloured and others are not… is the distinction related to malaria? Like Sarah said, it would be nice to include a legend or caption to help us interpret it.

    Thank you.
    – Aaron

    • kizi817 / May 25 2011 12:41 pm

      Hi, Aaron

      I think this article has a good structure and can move people’s content. The article does not have very long sentences, which can effectively convey information as well as you will not be bored.
      I tried to find some pictures, but the pictures are not quite appropriate, so I gave up using them.
      Millennium Development Goals was based on African realities. Therefore, the information is true and reliable. The last part in italics is from my idea, but it is not the reference to the Millennium Development Goals.
      For the picture colored part, these areas with high incidence of malaria, I admit, I had neglected to explain pictures.
      Thank you for your comments, let me reflect further on these questions, how to write a science blog.


  3. piyasd01 / May 25 2011 11:37 am

    Hi Yuchao, Sarah & Aaron,

    I found the article quite an interesting piece to read. I agree with all of your comments in that at the start the article grabbed my attention when the author made comparisons to the symptoms of malaria by saying:

    Imagine lying naked on frozen Arctic ground. Every limb shudders with the intense cold. Suddenly, you’re catapulted to the baking dunes of the Sahara desert, engulfed in a cocoon of scorching air. This torment lasts 36 hours. Then your journey begins again.

    Then, the majority of the article discussed the expensiveness and difficulty in producing the antimalarial drug, artemisinin. I agree with Sarah that more information should be provided about this drug. Yuchao, I do agree with you in that a brief introduction to the global burden of malaria would have made this article much more attractive to readers. I think the paragraph you provided is sufficient.

    I agree with the previous 2 comments that the image (African continent) that was used, requires a legend or some sort of description. I looked through some information and found this figure which shows “African countries that, by 2004, had changed their policy on treatment of malaria to one requiring the use of artemisinin-based combination therapy”. [1]

    I am currently doing an assignment discussing the impacts of future climate change on human health and one of the diseases I am looking at is Malaria. Therefore, I can provide everyone with some basic details: Malaria is a vector borne disease. It is transmitted when an infected mosquito bites a human and injects the malaria parasite into our blood stream. It is endemic to tropical regions (countries located near the equator that experience warm weather) and mostly prevalent in poor regions, such as Africa. Due to the low GDP and its associated lack of resources, it is very difficult for such countries to make antimalarial drugs readily available to the general public. [2]

    Finally, I would like to know why you think the judges chose this as a winning submission for New Scientist prize for science writing? Was it the language that grabbed your attention?


    [1] (see page 28)

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