X Close

STS Observatory



New Minister Wants Science Heroes?

By Jon Agar, on 10 October 2008

The new science and innovation minister, Lord Drayson, has come out immediately as a cheerleader for science. Part of the job, of course. But the specifics – enthusiasm for basic science and astronauts, and particularly the need to build up ‘heroes’ – need justification and scrutiny. Yes, space science is a recruitment tool, but there is a whiff of condescension – and nostalgia even – in the idea that it takes humans in space to be inspirational. Speaking anecdotally, Voyager and other purely mechanical missions fired my imagination far more than the International Space Station.

Then there’s the call for heroes. Lord Drayson’s example was Brian Cox at the LHC. But the idea that an individual has a heroic role in such a big science project as CERN is laughable. To pretend otherwise is misleading about the true nature and organisation of modern physics.

A much better heroic story arc is this: ‘A young production engineer, leaves food company (shades of Reggie Perrin here), founds small phama company, hits jackpot, earns millions, and now strides the world stage as…minister of state for science and innovation’.

Comments are closed.