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Archive for October, 2010

Science on barricades I

By ucahksm, on 19 October 2010

Photos say more than a thousand words, though their meassage may depend on what we want to see (see Susan Sontag’s ‘Regarding the pain of others’). Here are more than three thousand words from the rally for Science at Whitehall on the 9th. The blog does not allow me to publish more than one picture per go, for some reason.

Deep concentration

test post: Teller patting the Bomb

By Jon Agar, on 13 October 2010

 This is a test to check that the blog image publication is working. JA

Science policy campaigns

By Norma Morris, on 12 October 2010

There’s been an unusual opportunity over the last few weeks for scientists (and even some science policy buffs) to get involved in some practical efforts at science policy making. I am talking about the recent eruption of scientific political consciousness over expected cutbacks in government investment in research. Apart from the usual pronouncements from the Royal Society, anguished Vice-Chancellors and the like, there’s been a well aimed campaign from CaSE (Campaign for Science and Engineering) and a grass-roots movement ‘Science is Vital’.

The latter two are currently working together to organise a petition (26 000 signatures so far and still open for signing); held a rally in Whitehall (with STS and ex-STS participants –observers): and on Tuesday 12 October a mass lobby of Parliament. The activity itself is remarkable: veterans say it hasn’t happened since the ‘Save British Science’ movement, provoked by Mrs Thatcher’s cuts (and worse, her disrespect) in the nineteen-eighties. What I find interesting about the current campaign is that there is a glimmer of something more than affronted scientists fighting to preserve science’s authority and argue its benefits. I detect more of a political consciousness: science, especially after the investment of the past decade or more, recognises itself as an industry, that like other industries can be a political force. There is a new meaning to ‘the Science Vote’. Is this the ultimate manifestation of ‘epistemic drift’, following from Relevance, Accountability, Impact and all that? Or is the prospect of cuts and resulting campaign just a boundary object that enables a temporary alliance with science-based industry, and charitable funders reliant on a science budget subsidy, and politicians needing a cause to fight for, but with each component retaining its own unadulterated identity. Can the historians of science tell us if it was like this in the eighties – for example was the support of industrialists (as well as Nobelists) as important then as it is today?

Meanwhile, some links for the curious




Declaration of interest: I am a member of the CaSE Executive Committee

Norma Morris

Eureka 100: the Science List

By Jon Agar, on 7 October 2010

So, as Alice Bell hinted in her comment on the key concepts team’s recent post on the most influential people in UK science policy here on the STS Observatory, The Times produced its own list: the Eureka 100. It’s behind a pay-wall, but here it is:

  1. Paul Nurse
  2. Mark Walport
  3. Stephen Hawking
  4. Alex Jeffreys
  5. Jonathan Ive
  6. John Sulston
  7. David Attenborough (note!)
  8. Martin Rees (Astronomer Royal, President of the RS)
  9. Andre Geim (a very late entry, or just good timing?)
  10. Nancy Rothwell (VC of Manchester)
  11. John Rose (Rolls-Royce)
  12. Iain Lobban (director of GCHQ)
  13. Philip Campbell (Editor, Nature)
  14. Andrew Witty (on our list too, CEO of GSK)
  15. Jocelyn Bell Burnell (pulsars, a long time ago)
  16. John Beddington (GCSA)
  17. Richard Friend (plastics)
  18. David Mackay (CSA, Department of Energy and Climate Change)
  19. Ross Brawn (Formula 1, boys toys)
  20. John Bell (Oxford medical science)
  21. James Dyson (polulist inventor, Conservative advisor)
  22. Fred Sanger (Cambridge sequencer)
  23. Sally Davies (CMO)
  24. Brian Cox (not just a pretty face)
  25. Richard Dawkins (‘atheist campaigner’ ho ho)
  26. Wendy Hall (computer science)
  27. Paul Davies (SETI)
  28. Peter Mansfield (MRI scanning)
  29. Kay Davies (Oxford gene therapy)
  30. Martin Evans (stem cells)
  31. Simon Campbell (viagra)
  32. David Bulcombe (Cambridge botany)
  33. Simon Singh (science writer, accidental libel campaigner)
  34. Peter Higgs (of possible particle fame)
  35. Tim Hunt (Nobellist, cancer research)
  36. Mike Stratton (cancer research)
  37. Ann Dowling (Cambridge engineer)
  38. Harry Kroto (Nobellist, carbon)
  39. Anthony Hollander (stem cells)
  40. Chris Whitty (chief scientist, DFID)
  41. Andrew Wiles (top mathmo)
  42. John Houghton (IPCC)
  43. Phil Jones (UEA climate scientist)
  44. Kim Shillinglaw (BBC science head)
  45. David Brennan (CEO AstraZeneca)
  46. Greg Winter (Cambridge molecular biology/medicine)
  47. Leszek Borysiewicz (VC Cambridge)
  48. John Pendry (Imperial invisibility cloak)
  49. Steven Ley (Cambridge organic chemist)
  50. Adrian Owen (neuroscience)
  51. Hermann Hauser (cambridge IT)
  52. Tim Berners-Lee (WWW)
  53. Chris Stringer (very ancient humans)
  54. David King (ex-GCSA, pro-nuclear)
  55. Philip Cohen (Dundee biochemist, note recent Willetts speech)
  56. David Payne (optic fibres)
  57. John Young (Pfizer UK)
  58. Steven Cowley (Culham fusion)
  59. Harpal Kumar (on our list too, CEO Cancer Research UK)
  60. Peter Ratcliffe (Oxford medical science)
  61. Ian King (CEO BAE Systems – rather low?)
  62. Jim Virdee (CERN)
  63. Fiona Fox (Science Media Centre)
  64. Colin Blakemore (Oxford neuroscience – rather low too, or maybe had more influence under Labour?)
  65. Graham Richards (Isis Innovations)
  66. James Lovelock (Gaia, pro-nuclear)
  67. Peter Knight (quantum optics)
  68. John Browne (President of RAE, ex-BP)
  69. George Efstathiou (Cambridge astronomer)
  70. Adrian Smith (BIS civil servant)
  71. John Krebs (one of science’s great and good)
  72. John McCloskey (earthquakes)
  73. Heston Blumenthal (super science chef)
  74. Robin Millar (Association for Science Education)
  75. Simon Donaldson (mathematician)
  76. Marcus du Sautoy (popular mathematician)
  77. Ben Goldacre (bad science, bad hair)
  78. David Sainsbury (former science minister)
  79. David Nutt (former drugs advisor)
  80. Fiona Goldlee (editor, BMJ)
  81. Robert Winston (fertility)
  82. Steve O’Rahilly (Cambridge clinical biochem)
  83. Guang-zhong Yang (robotic surgery)
  84. Mark Welland (nano, CSA to MoD, should be much higher)
  85. Mike Richards (cancer research)
  86. Janet Thornton (genetics)
  87. Steve Sparks (volcanoes)
  88. Ottoline Leyser (plant genetics)
  89. Mark Miodownik(KCL materials)
  90. Michael Rawlins (chair of NICE)
  91. Callum Roberts (marine biology)
  92. John Armitt (Olympics engineer)
  93. Paul Smith (Millennium Seed Bank)
  94. Prince Charles (oh yes)
  95. Shankar Balasubramanian (sequencing)
  96. Sue Ion (BNFL)
  97. Paul Westerbury (more big tent engineering)
  98. Richard Fortey (writer, NHM)
  99. Steve Bramwell (magnetricity)
  100. Roy Anderson (remember foot and mouth?)

Plenty to talk about there. UCL does not do well in the Eureka 100 but does spectacularly well in the also-ran ‘just missed out’ column…

The list was chosen by Lord Waldegrave, Alice Bell, Dame Athene Donald and Dr Evan Harris.

the most influential individuals in UK science policy?

By key_concepts_team, on 4 October 2010

The key concepts group, meeting 4th July 2010, propose the following individuals:

David Cameron, David Willetts, George Osborne, Nick Clegg

John Beddington

Andrew Witty (CEO, GSK), Moncef Slaoui (ch, R&D, GSK)

Paul Nurse

Phil Willis

Marja Makarow (CEO, European Science Foundation)

Bill and Melinda Gates

Mark Wolpert (Wellcome Trust)

David Lynn (head of strategic planning, Wellcome Trust)

Harpal Kumar (Cancer Research UK)

The editors of Nature, Science, The Economist

David Attenborough

Archbishop of Canterbury

Who would you add? Is there anyone you would take away?