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Science is golden, says Karen Folkes

Bouncing around ideas

The Olympics are coming! – and basketball was the first topic in a series of Cutting Edgedebates on the relationship between science and sport, and the potential boost science can provide for our beloved Team GB. See

The Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) and Research Councils UK (RCUK) are keen to shed light on the relationship between science and sport.

Minister for Universities and Science, David Willetts, launched a series of debates to take place at themed locations across the country. Joining an audience of sporting scientists and scientific sportsfolk, the Minister heard about the technology and issues involved in enhancing performance in basketball.

Professor Mike Caine of Lougborough University gave a fascinating overview of the technology pioneered in sport as well as the commercial value of the industry. Dr Maria Kavussanu provided a social scientist’s take on the moral codes that operate on pitch or court, identifying team environment as a major influence. In what must have been a first for the Royal Institution’s Faraday Lecture Theatre, a demonstration of wheelchair basketball followed, by Paralympic hopeful Tyler Saunders and Colin Price, coach and veteran British Wheelchair Basketball team member - who hope he hadn’t scratched the floor.

The scene was now set for the audience to consider the challenging question of the boundaries in enhancing sporting performance. Feeding back through an interactive poll, the audience were clear that no limits should be placed on the technology in training but made a clear distinction between enhancement through physical technologies in a game and doping.

Coming up over the first half of 2012 there will be similar format debates going behind the triathlon, athletics, diving, sailing and cycling.   

Probing Mitochondria

Sciencewise will support the HFEA to take soundings from the public on the use of a new technique, mitochondrial transfer.  This could prevent women with potentially fatal mitochondrial disease from passing the illness to their children. See

The scene is now set for feedback that will help to inform public policy in this exciting area.

Announcing the dialogue, David Willetts, Minister for universities and science, said: ‘Scientists have made an important and potentially life-saving discovery in the prevention of mitochondrial disease. However, as with all developments in cutting-edge science, it is vital that we to listen to the public's views before we consider any change in the law allowing it to be used.’

It is hoped the dialogue will be complete by the end of this year.


A fresh look at diversity in STEM

Late last year, we asked the Royal Society and the Royal Academy of Engineering to lead a programme to tackle the long-standing issue of diversity in STEM. This is going forward through their excellent relationships with a diverse mix of STEM institutions and businesses, to challenge leadership at all levels to take responsibility for delivering the change needed to promote equality.

The Royal Society intends to begin this process with a consultation and engagement conference in March. It will draw in expertise and commitment to the programme to ensure its relevance for the Science community.

The Royal Academy of Engineering has been establishing baseline data on diversity in engineering and intends to run three to five pilot projects aiming to raise the diversity of registered engineers.  They are at the stage of choosing the pilots and aim to run the projects by the summer. 

For further information contact:

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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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