Monday, 2 February 2009

Is the PM serious about science?

Last week the PM has launched a new campaign to encourage public interest in science and show people its importance to their everyday lives as well as to the strength of the UK economy. A reception at Number 10 was followed by "a debate about how science can be taken to a wider audience to encourage more public involvement and understanding."

Given today's survey results showing a quarter of our fellow brits to believe in creationism that seems timely. And I'd be the last to begrudge Terry Pratchett, Kathy Sykes et al, a free drink.

But is it real? Will the PM do anything useful?

Last Tuesday (bear with me, it's relevant) I heard Professor Sir Michael Brady give the Turing Memorial Lecture at the IET. At the end he was asked what government should do to encourage science. After bemoaning the standards of some, unnamed, universities he said: The government should pay physics teachers more. The response, unsurprisingly, was spontaneous applause.

He ought, of course, to have said science not physics but everyone makes mistakes when they ad lib.

To inspire pupils to do science we ought to pay science teachers more than, say, English teachers. We ought to reward students who study science and not, well, certain other less useful things.

The public education campaign is valuable to - though no substitute for money - but Brown should start by following Obama's lead. He should apply science to government policy making. That would set a good example and do good directly.

Come on Gordon. Let's see some action!

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