People & Science

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24/04/2014

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What next for Science and Society?

Karen Folkes looks forward

The five expert groups published their reports and action plans in the spring. Separately addressing the five key themes that emerged from the consultation on a Science and Society Strategy for the UK enabled us to develop some meaningful actions for change. However, the reports have also shown that there are significant synergies between the areas which make it vital that this continues to be taken forward as a coherent framework for science and society in the UK.

Some actions from the plans are already in train and follow-on groups are forming to decide how best to tackle the rest. On this page, we focus on the Science for Careers and Science and Learning reports. Elsewhere in this issue, you’ll be able to read more about the plans for Science for All, Science and the Media, and Science and Trust.

Careers

The Science for Careers group was charged with raising opportunities for those who study science and providing increased information on the range of science careers available to those who study STEM subjects. The group recommended a number of actions to achieve these goals. These included ensuring there is appropriate engagement and involvement with influencers, such as parents; developing volunteering opportunities for scientists and engineers of all ages and experience; and improving Labour Market Information (LMI) for careers Awareness, Education, Information, Advice and Guidance (AEIAG) stakeholders and users.

Key to these actions is improved communications, and in particular communicating the importance of STEM study to parents and carers. They are cited by a significant majority as the most important role model in the life of a young person. The group also wishes to demonstrate the value of science skills in the workplace, and build partnerships between business, schools, colleges and universities to enhance work experience and mentoring opportunities.

Learning

The Science and Learning group’s report was a timely update on the progress made so far in STEM education. It recognised the government’s long term commitment in the ten year Science and Innovation Investment Framework, which spans the education system, the wider science and mathematics communities and many others. The report clearly identifies some important issues, particularly in relation to the content, delivery and assessment of science and mathematics in schools.  It also highlights the challenge of building increased confidence in all aspects of pre-19 science learning.

Whilst this particular phase of work is now formally concluded, we expect many people to continue to engage with these issues as government works closely with partners and stakeholders in considering the contribution that the recommendations can make to further improvement.

We continue to invite dialogue and comment on the strategy overall and on the work of the groups in particular. Progress will be updated on the Science and Society interactive pages.

Update on Science: [So what? So everything]

Activity associated with the Science: [So what? So everything] campaign is currently under review in the wake of the general election. Many useful lessons have been learned on effective ways of engaging the public's interest in science with a particularly effective strand of the campaign being direct engagement.

In March the campaign took to the road with The Science of Curry School Tour and science busking at TV celebrity Jimmy Doherty's rare breeds farm near Ipswich.

The Science of Curry tour was run in conjunction with the British Pharmacological Society who recognised that an 'appetite' for science is that much keener when linked to this favourite staple of the British diet. After its successful debut at the Cheltenham Science Festival, the Science of Curry proved hot stuff at school venues in Tower Hamlets, Peckham and Southall which hosted evening events commanding good turnouts from the local area.

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