I feel I must dedicate this blog to the gentleman who posted an online comment in response to my letter in The Times yesterday, saying it caused him ‘metaphor indigestion.’ I could almost hear the indefatigable voice of my English teacher, the late Brian Mitchell, behind every word.*
So….like the Red Arrows at one of their seaside displays in summer, science and the Government broke formation last week and hurtled towards eachother in a low pass over the crowded beach of onlookers. It was not quite a collision but it caused enough downdraft to make us all lose balance. For a moment only one hopes.
In terms of the ongoing debate, Brian Cox is interviewed by The Sun today (I never thought I’d link to that paper), rumours continue to abound and some have drawn a distinction between the cyber-activisim it has spurred and the more sedate approach of others. It was ever thus with campaigns. The most important thing must be that this doesn’t disintegrate into a fight among ourselves rather than a debate with government. I know my members’ energies are focused on how to encourage Ministers to be brave enough to believe that science can help them achieve a barrell roll through the recession and recover in a steep climb upwards.
At some point we all need to be flying in formation again. Pigs might fly, I hear you say, but I have very good evidence that pink t-shirts can.
Strange and as incredible as it may seem I wish that I was in Birmingham this week. To attend the British Science Festival of course which started today. Unfortunately their website feels a bit ‘static’ and the conference blog is non too prolific as yet but it is early days I suppose. My hot tip for festival organisers is stick to one site through the years but what do I know….I would still like to go to Birmingham.
Anyway, some of you may have seen that BBC Online have been running the following piece about Lord Sainsbury’s speech there today. In essence he has called on scientists to enter into a more public debate about science. He also refutes the usual knee-jerk accusations that the public don’t understand risk and need to ‘be ‘educated’ or made ‘scientifically literate’ (I’d rather prioritise ensuring people have basic standards of literacy and numeracy first if I was honest as I’m sure my Times critic would).
Suffice to say that Lord Sainsbury has made me feel better about my comment at a David Willetts roundtable last month on the need for the UK to be more radical and strategic in our approach to public engagement on science. For example, this from China. My sense from the aforementioned meeting is that the Minister would like to return to the subject in due course so I hope some good ideas come out of Birmingham while at the same time not forgetting the job is simple at heart – it is about separating fact from fiction as my colleagues who dealt with the Vitamin B story last week will tell you.
And finally, just to mention that tomorrow or Thursday we will be publishing our submission to the Academy of Medical Sciences inquiry into the pros and cons of a single regulator for research as well as announcing 3 new member charities. It’s enough to cause you indigestion just in anticipation isn’t it.
In the meantime, I’m off to join my 121..sorry 124…members flying in formation.
*Apparently it’s the thing to do name your favourite teacher at school as though other people should know them. A little like going on holiday to America and everyone asking if you know Mr/s x.