People & Science

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20/10/2014

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Revealing moments for Science and Society

Karen Folkes on money and mindsets

Science and Society survives another spending round

The Science and Research Funding allocations were published on 20 December 2010. We even thought we heard a collective sigh of relief from the Science and Society community that there was at least some funding for this area for the next four years.

By the time this issue of People and Science appears, we should be clearer about how that funding has been allocated across our individual programmes. However, it’s plain that with reduced funding we cannot necessarily do as much as before and will need to work ever more strongly in partnership with others. That’s been a message over the last few years anyway, and we begin this funding period in a very strong position, having done much prioritisation work with the Expert Groups and laying the foundations for future work.

For more detail on the allocations: www.bis.gov.uk/assets/biscore/science/docs/a/10-1356-allocation-of-science-and-research-funding-2011-2015

Public attitudes to science

March also sees the launch of the results of Public Attitudes to Science 2011 (see page 18).  This is a good opportunity for me and the BIS team to say a little about how it’s gone from our end.

Firstly we want to say a big thank you to the 16 scientists and social scientists who took part in the deliberative workshops inLondon,Cardiff,Birminghamand Beverley.  Thanks too to the British Science Association for helping develop that aspect of the research, the first time we’ve used it in the survey. From the feedback we’ve gained, the scientists added a valuable new dimension to the research, and they succeeded in making their subjects and careers come alive for the participants, some of whom had no previous exposure to science or research.  One participant even told one of my team how much they had enjoyed their day.

Two of those scientists have blogged about their day on the BIS blog (http://interactive.bis.gov.uk/comment/pas11/).  The blog was also something new for BIS, and we thought it would be a good way of raising awareness of the project, and hopefully getting people talking about it.  We’ve been pleasantly surprised at the readership, and are thinking of ways in which we can use it to enable discussion of aspects of the results.   We also hope that it’s made our work a bit more accessible.

We decided in the tendering process – even before the new government’s focus on transparency – that we would open up this process in new ways.  For example, we’ll be making the data freely available for the first time (researchers have always been able to request the data from the 2008 survey).  There are some interesting themes that we hope the public engagement community and beyond will take forward.  What strikes me, for instance, is the often competing attitudes that individuals can hold around particular aspects of science. 

Watch out for the Ipsos Mori team at the Science Communication Conference in May, when there’ll be further opportunity to discuss the results and their implications for the Sci Comm community.

Chemistry in the Commons

Science Minister David Willetts joined charismatic chemist Professor Hal Sosabowski on 24 January to conduct the first ever chemistry demonstrations in Parliament for the official launch of the UN International Year of Chemistry in theUK.

Liquid nitrogen balloons and the infamous ‘barking dog’ (don’t ask) marked the occasion (and the ceiling) and helped to celebrate the achievements and contributions of chemical science to the world at an event whose aim is to inspire young people to study the creative, valuable science of chemistry.

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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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