The British Science Association (BSA) today has asked leaders from across all sectors of society to sign up to its charter, published as part of its campaign to make to make science a more fundamental part of culture and society.   

Speaking at an exclusive panel event this morning, the British Science Association’s Chair, Lord Willetts, and its three vice-presidents, Professor Louise Archer, Deborah Bull CBE and Matt Locke, have called for greater collaboration between science and other sectors – such as business, politics, sport and the arts, as well as the creation of new projects to include the public more in the conversation about the future of British science and its role in shaping their lives.  

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The panel discussion included the announcement of the results from a public opinion monitor run in partnership with King’s College London as part of their ongoing Culture Tracker work. 

Results from the survey revealed: 

  • Only 34% of the UK population considered themselves as a “sciency” person, with similar numbers self-identifying as sporty (32%) or arty (38%). 

  • Nearly three-quarters (72%) think science is seen as an important field for British culture and society, over a quarter (27%) feel that ‘science is not for me’. 
  • Science is seen as a less important UK cultural institution than the NHS (87%), law (83%), and police (79%) but more important than politics (67%), the arts (62%) and sport (58%). 

  • 16% of men described themselves as connected to science, and would actively seek out science news, events, activities or entertainment. In comparison, just 8% of women felt the same.  
  • Almost a fifth of the British public (19%) think that “I’m not a scientist, so science is not for me”, with 20% revealing that they only see science as a school or academic subject. 
  • 15% of the survey respondents said they would be put off watching or reading something if it mentioned science. 

Rt Hon. the Lord Willetts, Chair of the British Science Association said: 

“We want to create a broader community of people who are interested and engaged in science and who can help shape its role in society and culture. We believe that the way in which science progresses is so integral to our future that it shouldn't just be the scientific community who see themselves as responsible for shaping it; we all have a stake. 

“To achieve this, we, at the British Science Association, want to work with a range of organisations both within and outside of the science sector to involve more people in science.” 

Some of the UK’s key influencers in science, politics, business, the creative industries and education attended the breakfast event today to discuss what innovative ways could be found to further embed science in the British public’s psyche. 

Deborah Bull, Vice-President for Cultural Development at the BSA and Assistant Principal (London) at King’s College London, has urged potential partners to not see science as something only done in the laboratory: 

“The British Science Association believe the purpose, direction, ethics, and sustainability of science and innovation have to be defined by society as a whole. The BSA wants to transition people from thinking ‘science is not for me’ to seeing science as part of their cultural identity and appreciating its value as something that shapes their lives. 

“We want to highlight the fact that science doesn't operate alone – that it intersects with other sectors such as business, the creative industries, and politics – and celebrate the role of science in different areas of culture, society and public life. We want to give everyone - especially non-scientists – a mandate to enjoy, engage with and challenge science.” 

Challenging business, science and cultural organisations to think outside of the box, the panel at today’s event called for potential partners to come forward with ideas for the future on how to get more people interested and engaged with science, no matter what their background or career experience is. 

Professor Louise Archer, Vice-President for Education at the British Science Association and Professor of Sociology of Education at King’s College London, said that policy makers need to think again about the approach to teaching young people about science, and to try and find a more inclusive and effective approach to education in this country: 

“The British Science Association wants young people to see science as more than just learning facts by rote. Young people should be given the opportunity to explore science and its connections to the real world and to their own lives and identities. If given the chance, young people will develop skills such as inquiry, critical thinking, debate, evaluating risk and uncertainty by getting hands-on with science.” 

The British Science Association hope that stakeholder events like this will help create a culture change from the top and drive forward the science agenda in the UK, boosting the economy and public trust among many other things.  

The results announced today were taken from the Culture Tracking Survey, King’s College London. Data from a representative sample of 2,091 UK adults in September 2015. 

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