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What’s happening at the British Science Association? June 2009

Lisa Hendry surveys the scene

Big Bang winners

The Big Bang Fair was a huge celebration of young people’s achievement in science and engineering. It included both the National Science Competition that we coordinated on behalf of the Department for Innovation, Universities and Skills, and the national CREST final. We were again impressed by the ability and creativity of young people in the UK as they presented a range of stunning projects – from the design of low-cost, solar water heaters suitable for developing markets, to an investigation into how smell could be used to help exam revision. As well as receiving substantial prizes, Peter Hatfield and Chris Jefferies – named UK Young Scientist and UK Young Technologist of the Year – are now acting as ambassadors for their subjects and helping to inspire others to get involved in science and technology.

NSEW success

There was also a big buzz around NSEW – not least due to the Save Our Bees campaign (excuse the pun!) that sought to raise awareness of the plight of UK bees and the simple actions we can all take to help. The Save Our Bees website continued to be popular even after we’d run out of free seeds. The statistics being compiled at the time of writing suggest at least as many events took place as last year, and we had an exceptional response to our mass participation activities. Around 25,000 children from 600 schools took part in the Darwin in Space competition. By the start of NSEW over 22,500 people had pledged support on behalf of more than 430,000 people, and 3,400 schools had registered for information packs.

Science Communication Conference

This year’s Science Communication Conference, organised together with the Wellcome Trust, should ensure some really interesting debate. Jonathon Porritt kicks off the event with his keynote address on how to influence choice with regard to environmental issues. Participants will also get to share their views on how to engage people with an emerging science like synthetic biology, and explore whether or not anniversary years, such as Darwin 200, actually achieve what they set out to. They will also find out how the roles and remits of some of UK’s leading figures in public engagement, like Robert Winston, Kathy Sykes and Jim Al Khalili, relate to the conference theme of influencing behaviour. For more information visit Bookings close 12 June and the conference takes place at trendy new London venue, Kings Place, on 22 and 23 June.

Defining dishonesty

Have you ever tried a grape in a supermarket without paying for it? Do you consider it dishonest? What about buying a pirate DVD, or embellishing your CV? Is one more dishonest than the other? Moral conundrums such as these will be tackled by Honesty Lab. Launched in mid May, the study devised by Dr Stefan Fafinski and Dr Emily Finch from Brunel University, in collaboration with the Brtish Science Association, aims to address a number of questions: is there a common standard of honesty in society? Do personal characteristics of the person under scrutiny affect how their conduct is judged? Take part at You can even share your own transgressions in our online confessional…

British Science Festival

Findings from Honesty Lab will be presented at the British Science Festival, which will be taking place in Guildford and across Surrey from 5-10 September. Its theme will be ‘Creativity, Innovation and Evolution’. Lord May will become President of the Association at the Festival, where he will deliver his Presidential address: ‘Darwin’s unsolved problem and its relevance to environmental concerns’. Find out more at

The 2010 British Science Festival will be held in Birmingham from 14-19 September. The event proposal process has opened, so now’s the time to get involved if you’d like to have an event included. Lord Sainsbury will become President of the Association at the 2010 Festival, taking over from Lord May, and deliver his Presidential Address on the theme ‘Science and human progress’. More information about the activities of the British Science Association can be found at

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Lisa Hendry
Lisa Hendry was until recently the British Science Association’s press officer. The new communications officer is Ollie Christophers
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