MDPI English Writing Prize 2020
Subjects: Linguistics

The MDPI Writing Prize is an annual award supported by MDPI Author Services, which provides services including language editing, reformatting, plagiarism checks. The winners of the 2020 MDPI Writing Prize about the theme “My work and the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals” are posted on Encyclopedia. In this competition, we received many excellent submissions from entrants who shared their inspirational and thought-provoking work.

  • English Writing

1. Introduction

Good communication is fundamental to scientific research. With over 20 years’ experience in publishing and research communication, MDPI understands how crucial good writing is. For this reason, we have held the annual MDPI Writing Prize since 2018. It aims to promote clear, high-quality prose that powerfully communicates key scientific concepts.

2. About the Organizer

MDPI ( is a publisher of over 200 scholarly open access journals covering all disciplines. It also offers author services, including English editing, to academic authors ( MDPI aims to support the rapid communication of the latest research through journals, conferences, and other services to the research community.

3. Target User

The competition is open to non-native English speakers who are Ph.D. students or postdoctoral fellows at a research institute.

4. About Awards

Essays of up to 1000 words are invited on the following topic:

“My work and the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals”

1st prize (one winner): 500 CHF and certificate

2nd prizes (two winners): 250 CHF and certificate

3rd prizes (three winners): 100 CHF and certificate

Submissions should be made via email to with the subject line “MDPI writing prize 2020”. Entries will be judged by the MDPI English Editing Department and evaluated on grammar and spelling, content and overall presentation.

5. Winning Prize

All award-winning works will be listed below.

5.1.  From Local to a Universal Commitment to Achieve the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals

Author: Diogo Guedes Vidal

Affiliation: UFP Energy, Environment and Health Research Unit (FP-ENAS), University Fernando Pessoa (UFP), Praça 9 de Abril 349, 4249-004 Porto, Portugal

Once I start doing research I knew that the main goal was to make things done better. As a young environmental and health sociologist, believing in a more balanced and fair world, the motivation that triggered the passion for research has started since I contacted with the 2030 Agenda [1]. This ambitious and truly inspiring document contains the most powerful message: no one lefts behind. This mote has been, since them, side by side with my research goals and targets. Working in the field of environmental and health justice, namely in the urban green spaces fairly provision across all social groups, independently of their socioeconomic, cultural and ethnic background, is a small step to contribute to the UN 2030 Agenda. More than never, in a world experiencing socioenvironmental challenges, that gain more expression in urban spaces, urban green spaces research should be more intense and based on transdisciplinary approaches. The classic methods and techniques no longer make sense, once the potential to analyse the complex interaction between ecological and social systems is reduced. It is time to develop innovative approaches, to combine different perspectives and methods to be able to pursue this ambitious agenda that represents a global commitment towards a more fair and sustainable world. Urban green spaces are an essential part of SDG 11 [2], thus it is necessary to deeply understand what users feel, believe and expect from these spaces. The current scientific evidence states that these spaces are not fairly distributed within the cities: disadvantage communities are more likely to have less access to urban green spaces with quality than the wealthier ones [3,4]. This is a clear example of an environmental injustice issue that compromises the physical and mental health of these communities, and that does not lead the opportunity to promote social cohesion and empowered public open spaces [5–7]. Within this background, my research aims to contribute to a deep understanding of these dynamics, namely in the city of Porto, a coastal city in the north of Portugal. Many studies have assessed the ecosystem services potential in the urban green spaces of the city, and the conclusions are clear: urban green spaces ecosystem service potential differs from the city area and this relation is mediated by the socioeconomic and environmental vulnerability variables [4,8–10]. These results are extremely important to highlight this complex issue, but something is missing in these approaches, and that is the peoples’ voice. My work aims to fill this gap, to contribute with people perception about the urban green spaces that they visit, about its preferences, motivations and expectations. Science should be made to improve people life and in this case, urban green spaces interventions should fulfil the users, and potential users, expectations. Alongside, this research applies an innovative technique called behavioural mapping [11]. Behavioural mapping joins direct observation and practices mapping, which is a powerful combination to identify patterns of peoples habits, practices and behaviours concerning space. This small contribution from a local city in a small country of the western part of Europe intends to be a “puzzle piece” towards global commitment that we all have been called to assume. At the present, the well know saying “Thing global, acting local” is more comprehensive than never. Small actions can make big things and this should be the mindset. The United Sustainable Development Goals are more than just a vague and political document. It is undeniable that this agenda has changed the way we do science, the way that we publish and write, and, more importantly, the way that we think.


  1. United Nations Transforming our world: The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. Resolution adopted by the General Assembly on 25 September 2015, A/RES/70/1; Geneva, 2015.
  2. Vidal, D.G.; Barros, N.; Maia, R.L. Public and Green Spaces in the Context of Sustainable Development. In Sustainable Cities and Communities, Encyclopedia of the UN Sustainable Development Goals; Leal Filho, W., Azul, A.M., Brandli, L., Özuyar, P.G., Wall, T., Eds.; Springer Nature Switzerland AG: Cham, 2020; pp. 1–9 ISBN 978-3-319-95718-0.
  3. Hoffimann, E.; Barros, H.; Ribeiro, A.I. Socioeconomic inequalities in green space quality and Accessibility—Evidence from a Southern European city. Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 2017, doi:10.3390/ijerph14080916.
  4. Vidal, D.G.; Fernandes, C.O.; Viterbo, L.M.F.V.; Vilaça, H.; Barros, N.; Maia, R.L. Combining an Evaluation Grid Application to Assess Ecosystem Services of Urban Green Spaces and a Socioeconomic Spatial Analysis. Int. J. Sustain. Dev. World Ecol. 2020, 1–13, doi:10.1080/13504509.2020.1808108.
  5. Moran, M.; Van Cauwenberg, J.; Hercky-Linnewiel, R.; Cerin, E.; Deforche, B.; Plaut, P. Understanding the relationships between the physical environment and physical activity in older adults: a systematic review of qualitative studies. Int. J. Behav. Nutr. Phys. Act. 2014, 11, 79, doi:10.1186/1479-5868-11-79.
  6. Jennings, V.; Bamkole, O. The Relationship between Social Cohesion and Urban Green Space: An Avenue for Health Promotion. Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 2019, 16, doi:10.3390/ijerph16030452.
  7. Gao, T.; Zhang, T.; Zhu, L.; Gao, Y.; Qiu, L. Exploring Psychophysiological Restoration and Individual Preference in the Different Environments Based on Virtual Reality. Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 2019, 16, doi:10.3390/ijerph16173102.
  8. Graça, M.; Alves, P.; Gonçalves, J.; Nowak, D.J.; Hoehn, R.; Farinha-Marques, P.; Cunha, M. Assessing how green space types affect ecosystem services delivery in Porto, Portugal. Landsc. Urban Plan. 2018, 170, 195–208, doi:10.1016/j.landurbplan.2017.10.007.
  9. Vieira, J.; Matos, P.; Mexia, T.; Silva, P.; Lopes, N.; Freitas, C.; Correia, O.; Santos-Reis, M.; Branquinho, C.; Pinho, P. Green spaces are not all the same for the provision of air purification and climate regulation services: The case of urban parks. Environ. Res. 2018, 160, 306–313, doi:
  10. Vidal, D.G.; Fernandes, C.O.; Viterbo, L.M.F.; Barros, N.; Maia, R.L. Healthy Cities to Healthy People: a Grid Application to Assess the Potential of Ecosystems Services of Public Urban Green Spaces in Porto, Portugal. Eur. J. Public Health 2020, 30, ckaa040.050, doi:10.1093/eurpub/ckaa040.050.
  11. Ng, C.F. Behavioral mapping and tracking. In Research Methods for Environmental Psychology; Gifford, R., Ed.; John Wiley & Sons: Nova Jersey, 2015; pp. 29–51 ISBN 9781119162124.

5.2.  Microinsurance Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)

Author: José Miguel Flores Contro

Microinsurance is a type of insurance that is focused on protecting low-income people against specific risks in exchange for paying a premium that is calculated according to the likelihood and cost of the insured risk. This essay explains how microinsurance could be helpful in reaching some of the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

How Can Microinsurance Help Attain United Nation's Sustainable Development Goals?

The Role of Microinsurance in the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development

On September 25 2015, the United Nations (UN) published the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development whose main purpose is to give an action plan for people, planet and prosperity. Moreover, it seeks to build societies which are free from fear and violence by promoting a culture of peace [1] . The Agenda was built on eight Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), which comprise a development framework that was established by world leaders at the beginning of the new millennium [2]. By recognizing the MDGs were not fully achieved, the Agenda presents a new set of seventeen Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and 169 targets that replace the MDGs [3]. Figure 1 shows the transition from the original MDGs to the new SDGs.

Figure 1: Transition from the original MDGs to the new SDGs. Obtained from [3] and [4].

As a second year Ph.D. student at the University of Lausanne in the Department of Actuarial Science (DSA), my research work is mainly focused on microinsurance (also known as inclusive insurance).

There have been multiple attempts to find the most suitable definition for microinsurance. For instance, [5] presents a detailed list with different definitions. In general, we could say that microinsurance is a type of insurance that is focused on protecting low-income people against specific risks in exchange for paying a premium that is calculated according to the likelihood and cost of the insured risk. At first sight, it might be hard to find the differences between microinsurance and traditional insurance. However, once you get more involved in the study of these fields, it is easy to come up with many dissimilarities between the two. In my opinion, even though both sectors work under the same principles, they need to be studied separately. The fundamental basis of microinsurance lies in the fact that its target market are low-income populations. Consequently, theories of traditional insurance may not apply. For example, nowadays people are used to paying high premiums for protecting themselves against specific risks. Indeed, how many of us have paid a huge amount of money for some type of insurance? I would bet that most of us have. Expecting customers to pay high premiums for a microinsurance product is inadequate. Certainly, not only could charging high premiums lead to the failure of a microinsurance product but there are many other factors to be considered. In particular, some researchers have studied the main factors affecting microinsurance demand [6] . Table 1 gives a brief overview of the sign of determination (positive or negative relationship) of these factors with microinsurance take-up. 


Sign of Determination




Economic Factors

Price of Insurance (including transaction costs)


Wealth (access to credit/liquidity) and Income


Social & Cultural Factors

Risk Aversion


Non-performance and Basis Risk


Trust and Peer Effects



Financial Literacy


Structural Factors

Informal Risk Sharing

Quality of Service


Risk Exposure


Personal & Demographic Factors



Table 1: Determinants of microinsurance demand [6]. The most common sign of determination is shown.

It is challenging to determine an appropriate design for a microinsurance product since it needs to fit some of the target population's characteristics including religious beliefs, level of education and risk exposure, among others. It is not yet clear which approach to use in the design and introduction of a new microinsurance product in a particular territory. Hence, further investigation needs to be done. In fact, some researchers have even questioned whether microinsurance overall is a helpful safety net for low-income populations [7]. Despite these statements, while it may appear redundant, I am convinced that a well designed microinsurance product is assured of a great future.

So far we have only defined microinsurance and discussed some of the challenges this sector might encounter. The question lies in how this "special" type of insurance could help achieving the SDGs. In fact, there is not a clear answer for this question. However, there have been several studies that have attempted to provide an answer. For instance, two examples are [3] and [8]. Figure 2 displays microinsurance as a primary and secondary factor in reaching eleven of the SDGs. 

Figure 2: Microinsurance as a primary (solid) and secondary (dashed) contributor to the SDGs.

Some of the links shown in Figure 2 are easy to guess. For example, microinsurance works as a shock absorber against risks and therefore minimizes the losses a family might face due to the occurrence of an unfortunate event, protecting them from falling below the poverty line. Thus, it is clear how microinsurance helps in the reduction of poverty (SDG 1). In addition, this example also illustrates how this type of insurance could also be helpful in eradicating hunger (SDG 2) since a microinsurance coverage stabilizes households' income and consequently improves food security. On the other hand, some other links might be hard to determine. For instance, one might wonder how microinsurance can help improve the quality of education (SDG 4). Actually, it could be a key factor in reaching this goal. For example, let's consider the unfortunate event in which the breadwinner of a family dies. In this scenario, one can assume that a plausible solution  would be to overcome the economic difficulties resulting from this event by reducing the family's expenses related to child education. Consequently, in most of the cases, the quality of education is also reduced. A life microinsurance policy for the breadwinner could have prevented this. Just as for these three SDGs, we could also find the primary or secondary link between microinsurance and the other SDGs shown in Figure 2.

The main goal of this essay is to give a brief introduction to the concept of microinsurance and to explain how it could be helpful in reaching some of the SDGs. Furthermore, we have discussed some of the main challenges this industry might encounter and highlighted the fact that there is still more to be done in order to build successful microinsurance schemes. I feel privileged to be part of the research on the microinsurance industry. I look forward to completing my studies as a Ph.D. student so that I can be part of the successful implementation of microinsurance schemes which will achieve the attainment of the SDGs.  

  1. United Nations. Resolution adopted by the General Assembly on 25 September 2015. United Nations 35 (2015).
  2. United Nations. The Millennium Development Goals Report. United Nations 72 (2015).
  3. Wanczeck, S., McCord, M., Wiedmaier-Pfister, M. & Biese, K. Inclusive Insurance and the Sustainable Development Goals: How Insurance Contributes to the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development (Giz, 2017).
  4. United Nations Millennium Development Goals. Accessed: 2020-08-03.
  5. Blacker, J. Actuaries in Microinsurance: Managing Risk for the Underserved (Actex Publications, 2015).
  6. Eling, M., Pradhan, S. & Schmit, J. T. The determinants of microinsurance demand. The Geneva Papers on Risk and Insurance - Issues and Practice 39, 224–263 (2014).
  7. Kovacevic, R. M. & Pflug, G. C. Does insurance help to escape the poverty trap?—A Ruin Theoretic Approach. The Journal of Risk and Insurance 78, 1003–1027 (2011).
  8. Gonzalez-Pelaez, A. Mutual microinsurance and the Sustainable Development Goals (University of Cambridge Institute for Sustainability Leadership (CISL), 2019).

5.3. AMR and Sustainable Development Goals

Author: Márió Gajdács

The discovery and subsequent clinical use of antibiotics may be considered as one of the „game-changing” achievements in medicine, revolutionizing the care of patients, who would have previously succumbed to the onslaught of deadly bacterial infections. Since the 1950s, antibiotics have saved millions of lives and they have allowed for the development of complex surgical interventions, organ transplantation, neonatal care and the safe therapy of cancer patients. However, the emergence of bacteria resistant to these drugs has proven to be one of the most serious concerns of the millennia. Multidrug-resistant (MDR) bacteria are usually defined as bacteria resistant to three of more different antibiotic groups; these microorganisms can withstand previously lethal doses of antibiotics. Infections caused by these pathogens are associated with worse clinical outcomes, longer hospital stays, excess mortality in the affected patients and an increasing burden and costs on the healthcare infrastructure.

The discovery and subsequent clinical use of antibiotics may be considered as one of the „game-changing” achievements in medicine, revolutionizing the care of patients, who would have previously succumbed to the onslaught of deadly bacterial infections. Since the 1950s, antibiotics have saved millions of lives and they have allowed for the development of complex surgical interventions, organ transplantation, neonatal care and the safe therapy of cancer patients. However, the emergence of bacteria resistant to these drugs has proven to be one of the most serious concerns of the millennia. Multidrug-resistant (MDR) bacteria are usually defined as bacteria resistant to three of more different antibiotic groups; these microorganisms can withstand previously lethal doses of antibiotics. Infections caused by these pathogens are associated with worse clinical outcomes, longer hospital stays, excess mortality in the affected patients and an increasing burden and costs on the healthcare infrastructure.

Two phenomena have been identified as the main driving forces behind the clinical problem of antibacterial resistance: on one hand, the imprudent use of these agents in human medicine (including overuse and misuse), which facilitates the development of resistance in bacteria (this is why these drugs are often termed “social medicines”, because the misuse by one person affect the efficacy of these drugs for society as a whole); on the other hand, pharmaceutical companies are turning away from the development of novel antimicrobial drugs, due to the difficulties in drug development, the lack of returning financial investments and the inevitable development of resistant strains. Additionally, the use of antibiotic in animal husbandry (both as preventative medication and as growth promoters) and in the food industry must also be mentioned: globally, around 70-80% of antibiotics-consumption is attributed to these industries. Based on their overall clinical impact and significance, the so-called “ESKAPE” pathogens (E: Enterococcus faecium, S: Staphylococcus aureus or recently Stenotrophomonas maltophilia, K: Klebsiella pneumoniae or recently C: Clostridioides difficile, A: Acinetobacter baumannii, P: Pseudomonas aeruginosa, E: Enterobacter spp., orrecently Enterobacteriaceae) receive the most attention, both from public health authorities and from drug development agencies. It has been suggested that the issue of antibiotic resistance needs to be addressed using the One Health approach, during which interdisciplinary interventions should be designed and implemented.

According to the projections of the European Centers for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) MDR bacteria are responsible for over 400,000 infections and 25,000 excess deaths annually, while the US Centers for Disease Control (CDC) projects over two million MDR infections and 23,000 excess deaths per year. The World Economic Forum (WEF) has compared the insidious nature of the resistance problem to that of climate change. The O’Neill Report – sequestered by the UK National Health Service – projected the worse outcome, namely over 10 million excess deaths and financial costs of 100 billion US dollars associated with drug resistance by 2050. Several international declarations have been published for government stakeholders around the globe to take action. The concern for antibiotic resistance has been highlighted by the fact that the issue has been discussed by the United Nations (UN) General Assembly; this was only the fourth time a health-related issue has even been considered by the UN.

The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) were defined in 2015 by the UN to serve as a global blueprint for a better, more equitable, more sustainable life on our planet; the initiative includes 17 well-defined goals from the fields of ecology, climate change, societal issues, economy, education and healthcare – that are frequently interlinked – with well-defined actions, targets and monitoring criteria to allow for the evaluation of the progress of these goals. The deadline for attaining most of the SDGs has been set in the year 2030, however, other do not have a specific deadline. Unsurprisingly, increasing levels of antimicrobial resistance threaten the attainment of the SDGs as this phenomenon considerably influences changes in society and healthcare. Among other things, antibiotic resistance may limit Goal 1 (No Poverty) and 2 (Zero Hunger): as food production is expected to grow by 50-70% in the time-frame between 2010-2030, and so will the need for antibiotics in this industry. Resistant bacteria threaten long-term food security, in addition, they may lead to the demise of the economic prospects of the farmers (see Goal 8: Decent Work and Economic Growth); the same thing may be said for people experiencing adverse outcomes after MDR infections, which may affect their opportunities to be employed. People living in poverty are generally more vulnerable to infectious diseases and to be affected by drug resistant bacteria; these patients often do not have the means to obtain some of the more expensive medications. It may be said that antibiotic resistance can directly worsen societal inequalities (Goal 1 and Goal 10: Reduce Inequalities). Conversely, implementation of Goal 6 (Clean Water and Sanitation) will hopefully curb the need for antibiotics by reducing the prevalence of several infections transmitted by contaminated water, and it also reduce the spread of resistant bacteria (e.g., from hospitals or animal farms).

Antibiotics should be considered important hallmarks of present-day medicine; thus, it is unsurprising that the Goal 3 (Good Health and Well-Being for All at All Ages) will never be achieved if the disadvantageous developments in resistance and the associated excess death toll are not addressed. From the standpoint of prudent antibiotic use and antimicrobial stewardship, the Goal 12 (Responsible Consumption and Production) may be relevant. To monitor the impact of antibiotic resistance and to track the progress of specific interventions – in the context of SDGs – an important issue that needs to be solved is the development of a specific indicator. As previously mentioned, most of SDGs have clearly-defined performance indicators and specific actions to attain the goal set. Some suggest that ensuring universal health coverage globally would widen the scope of visibility for sustainable development. The more one assesses the importance having effective antibiotics available, the inter-relatedness of resistance and the SDGs becomes more apparent; these common points should be highlighted for stakeholders to facilitate the fight against antibiotic resistance to be taken on the national agendas.

Keywords: antibiotic resistance; sustainable development goals; SDG; AMR

5.4. Minding the gap

Minding the gap in times of a pandemic

Author: Joris Van Doorsselaere

Purposeless, irrelevant, uninspired, isolated … Just some of the thoughts and words that went through my mind during the past month. Inspiration seems to be in lockdown as well. What a moment to start a new research project.

September began quite all right. The transition from a full-time history teacher to one with a half-time engagement went well. In October, a new exciting challenge awaited at Ghent University, to conduct practice-based research on heritage education. However, by the end of the month, the pandemic crisis hit Belgium hard again. Infections were rising, and the hospitals gradually became overcrowded. Luckily, the schools stayed open, and my colleagues and pupils provided sufficient social interaction.

Nevertheless, the University switched to code red. Working from home on my research was required, alternated with some social contact at school. Unfortunately, infections kept climbing. By the end of October, the government decided to close down the schools entirely for the first two weeks of November, followed by distance learning until further notice. Social contact was limited once again. So, the virus took away the opportunity to meet my new colleagues in person. The feeling of total confinement during March and April, while I was investigating intangible cultural heritage at the Free University of Brussels, slowly came back. A perspective on rebooting schools and universities remains unclear. Most likely in February, according to a fairly straightforward statement.

When reading on heritage education, I stumbled upon the special issue of Sustainability. My mind digressed, and I found myself clicking a page about an English Writing Prize. Maybe this helps to write away discouragement? Anything that can pass for a comfortable alternative to formal academic writing. Luckily, linking my work on heritage education to the Sustainable Development Goals doesn’t pose much of a challenge. Making it interesting maybe will.

I have been working as a secondary school teacher for almost ten years now. However, to be honest, the sustainable development goals, which came into effect in January 2016, were relatively unknown to me during recent years. The United Nations developed seventeen global goals and divided them into 169 targets. Even the ambitions for education were captured in a specific plan. But it must have been in September 2019, when I was outlining my research design on the 2003 UNESCO Convention on the Safeguarding for Intangible Heritage in Flanders, when I first heard of Agenda 2030. Rather shameful for a school teacher who considers himself to be usually well-informed on upcoming educational matters. How could I miss the launch of this global and ambitious framework, which appears to be relevant to me professionally? Or was something else to blame?

Over the course of the last months, Agenda 2030 slowly became more transparent. Nevertheless, I gradually realized there might be a problem with the framework itself. As a secondary school teacher active as a researcher on the SDGs and its relation to heritage education, I never felt truly connected with the mixture of goals and targets. When investigating them, they appeared to be very distant and unrealistic to me. Although culture was conceived as a driver and enabler of sustainable development, much of this mostly remains on paper. The presence of heritage aspects, or culture in general, is minimal. And as a teacher, the goals and targets feel like they are continually floating above my head but never seem to land. The implementation lags behind. With roughly ten years to go, world leaders at the SDG summit in 2019 called for a Decade of Action.

To join in on this action, I can say my research design would fit right into it. In an attempt to close the gap between theory and classroom practice in the field of heritage and history education, I set up a participatory action research project. The main aim is to investigate didactic tools that came about in an academic context and see how they would function in a real-life secondary school setting. Learning about heritage not only happens in formal learning situations. In most cases, it depends on the local environment. Therefore, I hope to develop ways to establish sustainable connections between schools and the local context in which they are embedded. In the case of heritage education, formal and informal partners are essential in achieving common goals. In this way, the last sustainable development goal on partnership proves to be the most relevant for my research.

To end on a positive note during this pandemic, I want to share something else I just recently found out. When I was walking in the hallway of the secondary school a few months ago, I noticed a banner for the first time. It mentioned the UNESCO concept of Lifelong Learning, contained in a word cloud. It has been there the whole time, but it recently drew my attention due to my research on the 2003 UNESCO Convention. The concept has come a long way since 1972, when it first appeared in the thoughts and texts of UNESCO. Over the course of the past decades, the international concept made its way into SDG 4, but apparently down to the lowest levels on various banners as well. Does this mean that Lifelong Learning also reached the minds of pupils, students, parents, and teachers in Flanders? Maybe this could be the premise of a new research project on its implementation? For now, I wanted to show that gaps between theory and practice can grow closer; they just need some time and belief.

A banner on the SDGs is not yet present in the hallway of my school. Or maybe I just haven’t noticed it?

Keywords: sustainable development goals; education; flanders

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