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Christmas crackers

Karen Folkes sorts through the Science and Society news capsule

Autumn always marks a busy period for Government. With the summer a distant memory, the party conference season and the long run to Christmas recess always bring a flurry of activity for policy teams, and Science and Society is no exception.

The team provided Science and Society input to the relevant sections of the Innovation & Research Strategy and Education and Skills Growth Review. We have also been providing input to theUK’s discussions about the European Commission’s proposals for Horizon 2020 and European Research Area.

Willetts at the science festival

Accompanied by Peter Hatfield, Young Scientist of the Year 2009,Cambridgeundergraduate and BIS work experience student, David Willetts called in on the British Science Festival inBradfordin September. He visited the ‘House of the Future’, a derelict house that had been developed with the most recent advances in energy efficiency, and a stand showing the subtleties of the interaction between the brain and the ear. He also tried out a test to see how successful an individual would be interacting with an ape, and saw a Fab Lab robotic schools experiment in action.

Science and the Media – ongoing work

In October, BIS renewed support for the National Science Journalism Training coordination, hosted by the Royal Statistical Society. After a great first year establishing the project, Martin Griffiths returned to POST, and Frank Swain took up the reins. In another outcome from the Science and the Media expert group’s action plan, a new online resource was launched in October. The website,, is a space for discussion of a series of case studies about how different individuals and organisations have been using online media to communicate science.

An update on Sciencewise and public dialogue

Having confirmed continued funding for Sciencewise earlier in the year, we have also issued the invitation to tender for the new management contract. The deadline for submitting tenders closes at 12pm on 13 December.

In September, the Sciencewise steering group completed a review of past public engagement with GM and published it on the Sciencewise website for comment. Check out the Sciencewise website to read the report or check on the latest news from our dialogue projects.

STEMNET priority subjects

In October, STEMNET published a plan to focus recruitment of new STEM Ambassadors on priority growth sectors to support the BIS Plan for Growth.  These sectors are: Life Sciences; Digital and Creative; and Advanced Manufacturing.  STEMNET will focus on increasing numbers of STEM Ambassadors from these sectors by approximately 10 per cent per year.  As these sectors have large numbers of SMEs within them, STEMNET will be working with key industry bodies to reach those working in these sectors.2

Science engagement… with those not yet born

We may not be around when it is finally unearthed, but the time capsule buried on 11 October under The Francis Crick Institute communicates positive messages to posterity from world-leading scientists and school children on the value of science to those on this planet – now and for evermore. The Institute, scheduled to open in 2015, will be a world-leading centre of biomedical research situated in the London Borough of Camden.

Science Minister David Willetts also ‘lent’ his copy of Matt Ridley’s Francis Crick, a biography of the institute’s namesake, for inclusion in the large brass capsule, buried 12 metres beneath the foundations. ‘It’s been a great honour to contribute to the time capsule,’ said the Minister, who was joined at the ceremony by Mayor of London, Boris Johnson, President of the Royal Society, Sir Paul Nurse and Francis Crick’s daughter, Gabrielle. ‘The Institute will maintain our country’s leading position in biomedical research and help translate the findings into benefits for patients and the economy.’

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Karen Folkes
Karen Folkes is Deputy Head of the Science and Society Team of the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS)
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