The awards are organized by L’Oréal and the United Nations Educational, Scientific, Educational and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) as part of their women in science programme. “This partnership is a concrete expression of our firm conviction that science is the source of all progress and that the contribution of women is vital to its future,” says Lindsay Owen-Jones, chairman and chief executive of L'Oréal.

The programme has three aims: to encourage the participation of more women at all levels in the world of science; to work to reduce women's present unequal access to the research professions; and to recognize the contributions of outstanding women in scientific research.

The winners will be selected by a jury chaired by Pierre-Gilles de Gennes, who won the Nobel Prize for Physics in 1991 for his work on the theory of soft condensed matter. The deadline for nominations is the end of August.