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30/08/2014

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Developing a ‘Science for all’ agenda

It is almost a year since the Department for Innovation, Universities and Skills launched its Vision for Science and Society UK consultation with the aim of ‘building a more mature relationship between scientists, policy makers and society.’  The spirit behind the Whitehall wording is now coming alive, with the creation of five largely non-governmental expert groups to tackle priority science and society themes which emerged from the consultation. 

It is almost a year since the Department for Innovation, Universities and Skills launched its Vision for Science and Society UK consultation with the aim of ‘building a more mature relationship between scientists, policy makers and society.’  The spirit behind the Whitehall wording is now coming alive, with the creation of five largely non-governmental expert groups to tackle priority science and society themes which emerged from the consultation. 

The consultation, which closed in October 2008, received an excellent public response, with over 3,000 separate comments from a good mix of individuals and organisations.

Respondents emphasised the part that teachers, scientists, the media and business all have to play in demonstrating the excitement and relevance of science. This underpins the other key themes: careers, and overall trust in science.

‘Although government alone cannot hope to achieve a widespread cultural change in attitudes to science,’ says Strategy Project Leader Karen Folkes, ‘it was also clear from the responses that government has a key role to play in catalysing the various communities to make it happen.’

Expert groups

The Department has therefore introduced the five expert groups and their membership, drawn from organisations as diverse as the Research Councils, the X and the X. Each group’s delivery plans will be drawn up this autumn. 

The Science for All group has the role of increasing the effectiveness of public engagement and creating a strategic framework for the communication activities of science, policy and business communities. The Science and the Media group will develop plans for increasing the media literacy of scientists and the scientific literacy of the media. The Science and Learning group will combine the remit of the Department of Children, Schools and Families and the 19+ science education agenda of DIUS. It will offer a strategic vision of the effective provision of science learning and its impact on society.  Improving the quality and accessibility of advice on science careers will be the focus of a Science for Careers group. Finally, a Science and Trust expert group will look at increasing the transparency of the governance of science in the public and private sectors. It will improve accessibility of those concerned about the social responsibility and ethical issues that underpin science.

Chief Executive of the British Science Association, Sir Roland Jackson will lead the Science for All expert group. He welcomes the opportunity for enhanced collaboration with other sectors. [INVENTED QUOTE CHECK WITH ROLAND: “Science for All is written into the DNA of all the Group’s members but with this combined approach you achieve the hybrid vigour of a set of people with different skills and experience”] 

Arts and showbiz

An important delivery mechanism of the wide-ranging ‘Science for All’ agenda, and one which also relies on partnerships with many individuals and organisations, is the Science: [So what? So everything] campaign that was launched by the Prime Minister in January.

‘The campaign explains that science will help us to deal with the great challenges of our times: climate change, an ageing population, clean energy production and global security,’ says Lord Drayson.

‘Nobody will be surprised to hear the science minister making these arguments,’ he continues, ‘but hopefully they will be more engaged – and entertained – if a science message comes from less predictable quarters.’

A wide range of figures has been enlisted from the arts, showbiz and popular culture in support of the campaign: writers like Terry Pratchett and Bill Bryson, comedian Bill Miller, Big Brother star John Tickle, and more traditional science presenters such as Alice Roberts and Kathy Sykes. The list of ‘campaign ambassadors’ started at 16 and is growing each month

 To find out more about the UK Science and Society strategy visit: http://interactive.dius.gov.uk/scienceandsociety/site/

To find out more about the Science: [So what? So everything] campaign visit: http://sciencesowhat.direct.gov.uk/ 

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Karen Folkes is Head of Public Engagement in Science and Technology at DIUS
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