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What does it take to scoop Gold at the CMA Awards?


Last Thursday The Biomedical Scientist was awarded Gold in the Best Membership category at the CMA’s International Content Marketing Awards. And if you’re wondering what it took to come out on top at this highly competitive and hugely prestigious event, here’s a precis of our winning entry…

Snail slime on the cover? An LSD-taking, wine-drinking, womanising Nobel prize-winner as a headline feature? Coronavirus particles hurtling towards the earth in a Fifties-inspired illustration? Just some of the surprising content has made The Biomedical Scientist so irresistible to readers that the majority agree it is their favourite scientific publication. 

With members in 61 countries, the IBMS aims to be the world’s leading body for biomedical science professionals. Its magazine, The Biomedical Scientist, is at the heart of this vision. Designed to help members perform their jobs better, access the latest evidence, engage in CPD and retain their IBMS membership.

The magazine touches a broad audience within the scientific community. From senior biomedical scientists to students, each issue must deliver content that informs, inspires and entertains. And we know all our readers are critically time poor. Encouraging them just to pick up the magazine is a significant challenge.

Over the past 18 months – and pre-COVID-19 – members of the IBMS were dealing with a time of unprecedented change driven by the NHS’s pathology network consolidation. This means the mergers of different workplaces, possible job losses and even the need for new vocations. During the pandemic, feelings of uncertainty and pressure ramped-up, as labs and clinicians undertook expanded roles to help process COVID-19 tests.    

Never has the role of The Biomedical Scientist magazine been more crucial. Not just for informing members about the pandemic, but for continuing to promote pride and excitement in belonging to the profession. 

Creative shift
In 2019-20 the need to expand its appeal challenged the The Biomedical Scientist to reach new heights of creativity rarely experienced (and certainly not expected) of a prestigious scientific publication.

Then when the coronavirus took hold – thrusting the biomedical scientific community in the spotlight – the magazine was on hand to provide the latest evidence from the world’s top virologists and epidemiologists and showcase the vital work of the IBMS. From a cover feature on the likelihood of coronavirus causing global catastrophe, which landed on doormats on 1 March – weeks before lockdown –  to international perspectives from lab managers around the globe.      

The past 18 months have seen a creative shift and introduced an unexpected – dare we say – ‘playfulness’ into the magazine, alongside the latest news on the pandemic. At a time when IBMS saw competitor titles rely heavily on dense academic content that can be hard to infiltrate,The Biomedical Scientist enticed readers with an unprecedented run of brilliantly conceived and expertly crafted covers. Combining attention-grabbing artwork with the promise of exclusive features:

  • A snail became the December issue cover star to promote an intriguing story about the search for new antibiotics. (Using spot UV to provide its slime trail, and 10 sneaky snail illustrations hidden for readers to find in the run of pages.)
  • To accompany a world-exclusive interview with Dolly the sheep’s creator Sir Ian Wilmot, the famous animal was given a tongue-in-cheek double helix-inspired vector makeover.   
  • The ‘Great Big Biomedical Lockdown Quiz’ became June’s cover feature, providing interactive entertainment and a CPD resource at a time when training days were being cancelled. 

Inside the magazine, enhancements include increased signposting to additional bespoke content, including podcasts, videos and Twitter chats. Plus exclusive features written by gold-standard professionals, such as Professor Barbara Bain, the world’s most famous living morphologist.     

This is a creative evolution that in no way undermined the magazine’s authority, with cutting-edge science at the heart of everything it does. But it recognises that even biomedical scientists need entertainment. 

The Biomedical Scientist has its own dedicated digital platform,, giving members access to content on the go. And in 2019, the digital drive to widen the influence of The Biomedical Science magazine was extended by a new monthly podcast series. For time-poor members, it’s the ideal channel for CPD on-the-go. For the IBMS, it’s another new entry point reinforcing the value of, and directing listeners back to, The Biomedical Scientist magazine. Whenever a podcast is released, it is amplified with an online Twitter chat to give IBMS members the chance to air their views.   

After a soft launch, interest in the podcast series has been beyond expectation with more than 1,900 listens for one episode alone and great online feedback such as: “#IBMSChat – I love these Biopods. They are great for trainees and brilliant for CPD for registered professionals. Thanks @IBMS_Training”. 

The rising demand for sponsored content marketing participation has contributed to the title’s commercial success. And so the Institute is able to meet its marketing, communication and education, and CPD goals through a creatively cutting-edge scientific publication that also delivers value. 

Which is perhaps why at the 2020 memcom membership excellence awards in September 2020 The Biomedical Scientist was proud to be named Best Magazine for a Professional Association or Membership Organisation <20k circulation. And why it can now add a highly coveted Gold in the Best Membership category at the CMA’s 2020 International Content Marketing Awards to its trophy shelf. 

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