Welcome

to the British Science Association

We are a registered charity that exists to advance the public understanding, accessibility and accountability of the sciences and engineering in the UK.

17/09/2014

Show me content for... +

Show me content for...
Events
Resources
Volunteers
Teachers
Professional development
Families & teenagers (aged 12+)
Families (children aged 12 & under)

Donate

register

Register with us and you can....

  • Sign up to our free e-communications
  • Become a member of the Association
  • Create your own web account, & post comments
  • Be part of British Science Festival
  • Save your favourite items

Register

You are here

Blog

Welcome to the blog, you can read all about the latest news for the sections and take a look in our archive. Scroll through the latest posts below, or select a section from the dropdown.

By Fred Turner, the UK Young Engineer of the Year 2013. Fred won the senior engineering and technology category of the National Science + Engineering Competition earlier this year, and has recently finished his A levels. He’ll be starting his degree in biochemistry at the University of Oxford in the autumn.

---------------------

I’ve always been interested in genetics and have always wanted to read my own genetic code, so about a year ago I decided to try, but soon realised the equipment required is far too expensive for an A level student to afford! After doing some research I decided to try and build the equipment instead. The one thing that I really needed was a PCR machine, which I built for about £250 – much less than the cost of a commercial machine which can cost thousands of pounds.  The best way to describe a PCR machine is a DNA photocopier, it takes a small amount of DNA and makes many copies of a specific region, which is very useful for carrying out a variety of genetic tests.

Aysha Fasal, a Year 13 student at Seven Kings High School was part of the Social Mobility Foundation’s (SMF) Aspiring Professionals Programme in 2012. The programme is designed to support high-achieving students from low-income backgrounds by providing a tailored package of support including mentoring and university visits, and often crucially for the students, work experience placements.

By Monica Lobo, Science in Society Manager at the British Science Association.

---------------

It is stronger than steel, light and thin, transparent and elastic, and can even conduct electricity. These are just some of the amazing properties of graphene, the new wonder material.

Graphene’s future applications are almost endless: unbreakable and paper-thin touchscreens that could make mobile phones flexible enough to be worn as a bracelet, a better desalinisation process for getting fresh water, faster computers and broadband, solar panels or circuits which you can paint or spray on to virtually any surface, and much more. And there are already those who are trying to find the best way to use graphene in 3D printers.

Graphene could potentially revolutionise the telecommunications, electronics, energy and the automotive and aerospace sectors.

Doug WarrenFollowing our blog last week about public perception of the information around GM, Doug Warren explains what the recent Wellcome Trust Monitor can tell us about the way people get information about science and medical research. Doug is a Research Manager at Ipsos MORI.

-------------

Almost nine out of ten of us look for information about medical research online - in the Wellcome Trust Monitor eighty-seven per cent of adults and eighty-six per cent of young people who looked for information about medical research said they looked online - and we turn to the internet when we feel ill. When looking for advice about medical conditions, it is very important that the information people access is reliable. While the internet has brought almost limitless information to people’s fingertips, it doesn’t provide any guarantee of quality. Googling the term ‘vaccination’, for example, returns over 35 million results; a huge number, considering that this is an area where people’s opinions have historically been influenced by media stories, which has had a lingering impact on public health.  Which of those 35 million results led people to informative sources?

By Katherine Mathieson, Director of Education for the British Science Association

-----------------------

Is citizen science merely hype, a fresh way of branding a type of volunteering that’s been around for ages? Or is technology driving new ways to engage public audiences?

I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately as a result of the citizen science session at last month’s Science Communication Conference. I had the privilege of chairing a panel of three researchers and one communications professional who each had deep experience of running citizen science projects.

Jayesh Navin Shah, a researcher working on the Public Attitudes to Science survey 2014, discusses public views of GM.

----------------

Genetically modified (GM) crops – the hardy perennials of science stories – were back in the news last week. The Environment Secretary, Owen Paterson, made a speech at the Rothamsted Research Institute about the future of GM in Europe, and the potential for the UK to become a world-leader in GM crop technology.

Politicians have long tried to engage the public with the issue of GM, with very mixed success – this Guardian blog post rounds up over a decade of politician’s speeches on the subject. In the media, polarised views are presented and there is much heated debate. So how can policymakers ensure an informed discussion of the science behind GM, in the next weeks and months?

by Ellie Chambers, Young People’s Programme Officer at the British Science Association.

----------------------

Students put in a lot of time and effort into completing a CREST project, and we don’t want the students’ journeys to end there. We encourage them to continue to engage with the sciences and engineering in a number of different ways, including through our alumni network, volunteering or public dialogues.

Deepesh volunteering at the National Science + Engineering Competition Finals 2013 (photo courtesy of NSEC)

So we were delighted to find out that one of our alumni was using his CREST skills to work with a local school as part of his biology degree.

Marilyn's avatarMarilyn Booth works in digital communications within the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS), enabling policy makers to utilise digital and social tools during consultation processes and beyond. Prior to that, she worked within the BIS Science and Society team. One project she worked on was Public Attitudes to Science 2011, where she ran a blog for the duration of the project.

----------------------

I was involved with the previous Public Attitudes to Science survey within BIS, so I’ve obviously got a keen interest in seeing the results this time round.

Will we see greater engagement with science? Will people’s attitudes divide them up into segments, with different and multi-layered attitudes to science?

Victoria Raynor is a year 4 teacher and STEM lead at Stephenson Memorial Primary School in North Tyneside. She tweets the STEM club activities from @raynor_vicky & @SMemorial

----------------

STEM: a word so familiar now, that it is hard to believe that two years ago it had very little meaning to me. It all seemed to change in an instant when I attended an inspirational North Tyneside Learning Trust STEM conference in November 2011.

Year 6 students amazed that they have made their own glue!

The underlying message was clear; we need to act immediately to create a generation of children that have the skills and qualifications necessary for a STEM career. The conference certainly had a significant impact on me and the senior management team at my school, but I didn’t realise the changes that would occur as a consequence.

By Toby Shannon, Science in Society Officer at the British Science Association

----------------------

Popular culture has a complicated relationship with the idea of robotics – for each lovable character like Disney’s Wall-E and Star Wars’ R2-D2, there’s a Terminator ready to wreak havoc. Why do some robots provoke a positive reaction and others don’t? And what does this mean for the future of robotics in society?

The uncanny valley

One explanation for this reaction to a robot’s appearance is the uncanny valley theory – a graph that plots a robot’s likeness to a human against how comfortable people are with it; developed by Japanese robotics professor Masahiro Mori.

Pages