The British Science Festival is the longest-standing science Festival in the UK. Organised by the British Science Association, it grew out of the tradition of the annual meetings of the Association - first held in York in 1831, and annually at cities across the UK, and further afield, ever since - bringing scientists together to discuss their ground-breaking work with one another, across scientific disciplines, and, crucially, with the general public.

It was at these annual meetings that that major scientific advances were announced: Joule's experiments on the mechanical equivalent of heat in the 1840s; Bessemer's steel process (1856); the discovery of the first of the inert gases, Argon, by Rayleigh and Ramsay (1894); the first public demonstration of wireless transmission over a few hundred yards by Sir Oliver Lodge (1894); and J.J. Thomson's discovery of the electron (1899). It was at these meetings that the term 'scientist' was coined, and the 'dinosaur' named.

The annual meetings were designed to engender discussion and debate. Perhaps the best remembered of all was at Oxford in 1860: Darwin's 'The Origin of Species' had been published in 1859, but his health was not good enough to allow him to go to the Oxford meeting. Darwin's 'bulldog', T.H. Huxley, was there, though, and brilliantly debated Darwinism with Samuel Wilberforce, Lord Bishop of Oxford who was Vice President of the Association at the time.

The British Science Festival has inspired the growth of countless other science festivals - from large and established ones (Cheltenham, Edinburgh and Manchester) to smaller and newer events (Aberdeen, Brighton and Winchester).

To see the Festival evaluations and programmes from 2005 to present please click here.

This PDF also shows you all the Festival locations since 1831.

The British Science Festival today


During the course of the 1980s - 2000s, the meeting grew into a Festival spanning a number of days, including evening 'science meets arts/comedy/theatre' events and activities for schools, families, and community audiences.

Since 2015, our refreshed and refocussed British Science Festival now comprises around 100 programmed events, taking place on campus and in the city centre over four or five days in early September, focusing on cutting-edge science, discovery and innovation. The Festival aims to showcase the research excellence of its host institution and explore the societal impacts and cultural applications of science, reaching tens of thousands of attendees (adults aged 16+) each year.

Alongside the main public programme of events within the British Science Festival, there is also a programme of press conferences and site visits, as well as a range of 'off-programme' events for stakeholders.


Ways to get involved in the Festival


Present your research at the British Science Festival or nominate an Award Lecturer

The British Science Festival 2017 will be co-hosted by the University of Brighton and the University of Sussex, and will take place from 5 - 9 September 2017.  

The deadline for nominating an Award Lecturer or submitting an event through the open call has now closed.  

Please visit www.britishsciencefestival.org for more information on the 2017 programme, from 27 June 2017.  All events are free but booking is recommended.

For more information about the Festival, or if you wish to host the Festival in future years, please contact Ivvet Modinou, Head of Engagement at the British Science Association, and Director of the British Science Festival.

Our Scientific Sections

The British Science Association's Scientific Sections play a crucial role in both developing content for the Festival programme and advising on the latest developments within their fields. The British Science Association has 17 Scientific Sections, encompassing all aspects of physical and social sciences.

Find out more about the Sections and how to get involved here.

Sponsorship opportunities

Would you like to become a sponsor for the British Science Festival in Brighton (2017) or beyond? Please contact Amy MacLaren, Director of Development & Communications, or colleagues in the British Science Association's Development Team to discuss a bespoke package to suit your needs.

amy.maclaren@britishsciennceassociation.org | 07502 420 322