Peter Sowerby Essay Contest 2020

The Sowerby Philosophy & Medicine Project at King’s College London invited submissions for the 2020 Peter Sowerby Essay Contest. Any current student at any level of study, both nationally and internationally, were eligible to submit. Please see here for the announcement of our winner.

Topic: “Bias in clinical medicine: Can it be overcome?

It is well established that biases affect human behaviour and decision making in a wide range of contexts. Clinical medicine is no exception. Implicit bias among clinical decision makers can adversely impact treatment response for patients from historically marginalised groups. Structural biases and health inequities may have even more insidious effects. Can medical research and medical practice rise to overcome the unjust impacts of bias? If so, what action is needed? Is it always desirable to overcome bias or are some types of ‘stereotyping’ and generalisation necessary for effective clinical decision making? How do technological changes, such as increased reliance on AI, bear upon these issues?

Eligibility: Current students, including undergraduate and postgraduate, and students of medical and professional schools. 

Prize: £500

Length: less than 4,000 words

Due: 6th of December 2020 (at 23:59 UK time)

Submission: Prepare your paper for blind review by making sure your name does not appear anywhere in the pages of the file and send it as a PDF to Essays will be assessed by a panel of distinguished academics from the University of London, chaired by Dr Tuomas Pernu.

Award Ceremony: The prize will be awarded at the Sixth Annual Peter Sowerby Lecture in Philosophy and Medicine on 16th of December 2020. This year, the lecture will be given by Prof Robyn Bluhm, Michigan State University. 

Questions can be directed at Harriet Fagerberg at

Frequently asked Questions

1. Does the 4,000 word limit include references?

No. It doesn’t include references, but it does include footnotes.


2. Can two people submit an essay they write together?

Yes, papers may be co-authored as long as all authors fulfil the eligibility criteria.


3. Should the essay take a philosophical or scientific or clinical approach?

Philosophical, scientific, clinical, historical, psychological, and other factors may all be relevant to your answer to the question. The important thing is that the essay give an answer to the question and a thoughtful defence of that answer, and use a clear writing style without jargon. An approach to avoid is that of a book report or literature review.


4. What should the title be?

That is up to the author. You may want to tailor the title to your own answer to the question, or you may want simply to title it “Bias in clinical medicine: Can it be overcome?”.


5. What does a winning essay look like?

You can see past winning essays here.