9 days to go - consultation closes on October 17th

There are just 9 days to go to have your say on the consultation on a new Science and Society Strategy for the UK, looking at the use of science by society, science education and the diversity of the science workforce.


The consultation closes on October 17th. But it won't stop there - as a strategy is developed we'll continue to canvass opinion on the emerging ideas.

Science and gender in Second Life

September 22nd, 2008

UKRC Second Life consultation event plenary

Thanks to UKRC and Nature for organising an interesting, innovative and inspiring event on Nature’s island in Second Life to help develop their response to this consultation.

The participants walked, flew and teleported into breakout groups to discuss the gender perspective on science careers, teaching and research.

UKRC’s real-world event to discuss the consultation is on 30 September at the Institute of Directors from 10.30am-4pm. More details on the UKRC website.

Science Minister Ian Pearson MP invites you to make your mark on the Science and Society consultation

Ian Pearson at BA Festival

If time flies by when you are enjoying yourself, it seems to positively accelerate when you conduct a public consultation.

This July I launched ‘A Vision for Science and Society’ - an invitation to scientists, educators, employers, the media, voluntary groups, the general public - in short, everyone, to have their say on the relationship between science and society. We now have only one month to go before the consultation ends on 17th October 2008, so I urge you, if you have not already done so to consider your contribution to the Science and Society debate.

What may sound like a big question for the specialists is in reality a fascinating mixture of issues and themes in which we all have an interest. How can we raise the level of scientific literacy of society at large? How can scientists improve the way they communicate and interact with public and policy makers? How can we encourage and enhance the learning of science? How can we ensure a well-qualified and representative scientific workforce, equal to the needs of employers? How can the media help us to achieve these aims?

By responding to these questions, or even by posing questions of your own, you will be helping to develop a long-term strategy which will enable all those who aspire to a society which is scientifically confident as well as scientifically advanced to work together, sharing best practice and improving outcomes.

Developing and putting into practice such a strategy won’t be a quick fix, some of the performance indicators, such as the take-up of science A’ Levels, are set over a six year timeframe, but making a success of it, and that means starting with a mandate from scientific and other communities, will be crucial to the UK’s future economic and social well-being.

I should add that two thirds of the way into the consultation we are enjoying a  positive response. The weather’s been dreadful but a silver lining for me has been the enthusiasm and support for the aims of the consultation from leading figures in the scientific world and also at an organisational level with bodies like the Royal Academy for Engineering and the UK Resource Centre for Women pledging themselves to a full response and actively involving their contacts.

Please make the most of the tools and feedback mechanisms on this site. There is still time to use this facility and also for you to run your own in-house consultation, as some of our stakeholders are doing, with a view to coming back with co-ordinated feedback.  And please get in touch with the Science and Society team in my department if you would like to explore this further by e-mail to scienceandsociety@dius.gsi.gov.uk.

I look forward to hearing from you.

BA Festival, LiverpoolAre there audiences and channels of communication that current science and society work has overlooked? Join Science Minister Ian Pearson, Professor Jim Al-Khalili and other specialists in an interactive workshop to explore ways in which the public engagement, confidence and skills themes in the current Science and Society consultation could be widened to include other attitudinal and demographic groups besides those usually targeted. Audiences with an interest in arts and humanities, young people in danger of offending, people with disabilities or those classified in the Public Attitudes Survey as ‘indifferent’ to science and many others could all be influenced by new approaches. Bring your ideas and an appetite for discussion!

Time: 14.10-16.00, Tuesday 9th September
Location: Rotblat LT, Chadwick (Physics), University of Liverpool
Further details: http://www1.the-ba.net/bafos/events/showevent.asp?EventID=210

UKRC logo

Guest post: Ruth Wilson, UK Resource Centre for Women in Science, Engineering and Technology

“The UK Resource Centre for Women in Science, Engineering and Technology is holding a one hour session to discuss A Vision for Science and Society in the virtual world Second Life.

Second Nature islandYou may already be a member of Second Life – or you may be looking for an opportunity to try it out. Either way, join us on Monday 22 September, 6.50pm at the wonderful and newly-redesigned island run by Nature magazine.

Our aim is to ensure that issues of gender equality are part of the agenda.

It will be a relaxed event: a short presentation followed by small group discussions. Men and women are welcome: SET/STEM professionals, business representatives, academics, policy makers and members of the wider public. You do not need to have read the report in advance.

Places are limited, and prior booking is essential.

Instructions for newcomers and Second Life experts will be sent out on registration.
There is an optional introductory session on Monday 15 September, also at 7pm (booking not necessary).

If you can’t join us in Second Life, you can complete our online consultation questionnaire or come to our London event (30 September)”

Science Blogging

August 26th, 2008

On 30th August Nature Networks in collaboration with the Royal Institution are hosting the inaugural science blogging conference: Science Blogging 2008 London. The Department for Innovation, Universities and Skills is delighted to be suporting this event which aims to bring together science bloggers from around the world to discuss the pressing issues in science, science communication, publishing and education.

The science blogging community is growing rapidly and reaching larger audiences. What can science bloggers do to maximise their impact? Can blogging contribute to scientific research and careers? How can blogs be used to help educate the public about science? What other emerging online tools will play a role in science?

Bloggers, science writers and scientists will be gathering at the Royal Institution of Great Britain in London on Saturday to spend a day discussing these issues. The event was very popular and is fully booked now, but you can check out the website.

DIUS will be there to promote the online hub answer any questions about the consultation. Look back here for future posts.

Keeping up-to-date

August 8th, 2008

How do we capture emerging issues effectively and feed into the communication and engagement process?

It’s a very difficult task. But it’s the challenge of all types of journalists, not just science communicators, to try to determine what is useful to, and desired by, their readers. We have advantages, though: usually, our sources are eager to share their knowledge and opinions, and don’t try to block coverage or dissemble. Despite the difficulties of public engagement, this gives us a leg up over our colleagues in other democratically important fields, such as politics and business.
– Flora Graham, Science Communicator and Journalist

What’s your view? Join the debate in the comments here, via our response form, Facebook or your own blog or website

Launch Video!

July 21st, 2008

At the launch at Thinktank in Birmingham on the 18th July, attendees were shown a short introductory video featuring a number of leading scientists, broadcasters and policy makers:

What’s your view? Join the debate in the comments here, via our response form, Facebook or your own blog or website.

Lord Martin Rees, Professor of Astronomy at Cambridge University, Astronomer Royal and President of Royal Society gives his thoughts on two of the questions raised by the consultation:

What’s your view? Join the debate in the comments here, via our response form, Facebook or your own blog or website.

How should high quality engagement be recognised and rewarded?

High quality schemes should be rewarded simply by securing on-going funding. So many fantastic projects fall by the wayside in favour of ‘pilot’ schemes that stand little chance of sticking around in the long term. It seems we have a preference for the ‘new’ over the ‘tried and tested’ format, with the result that any associated learning is at risk of disappearing. Rewards should focus on recognising outstanding projects, rather than individuals, and should reflect the fact that it is not just scientists who are doing the engagement, but rather a cadre of professional people who are carving out a distinct career path in ‘public engagement’.
Dr Gail Cardew – Director of Programmes, Royal Institution

What’s your view? Join the debate in the comments here, via our response form, Facebook or your own blog or website.

How can we develop the scientific literacy of the science, policy and public communities?

I think the key to improving science literacy is developing the education system so there isn’t such a huge gulf between people who study science and people who don’t. Science courses need to incorporate elements which help future scientists develop their communication skills, and science in school should be taught in a way which encourages our natural interest in science, rather than stifling it. Even if people don’t pursue a scientific career, they wouldn’t be so suspicious and negative about being able to understand scientists if they were taught in a way which was engaging and helped develop a basic literacy in science. If you wait to try to ‘re-engage’ adults with science, it’s probably too late to make a big difference.
– Sarah Day - Science Journalist and Broadcaster

What’s your view? Join the debate in the comments here, via our response form, Facebook or your own blog or website