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Blue skies ahead? - Join the Debate on the Future of UK Science

Blue skies ahead? - Join the Debate on the Future of UK Science

News Release issued by the COI News Distribution Service on 05 November 2009

With outstanding facilities, world-class researchers including two Nobel prize winners in 2009 and record levels of Government investment, the UK's science base is the most productive of all G8 countries.

But what about the future? How best can the UK maintain its status as a leading scientific nation? In what ways is our research landscape changing, and how will this affect younger scientists?

These are the issues up for discussion at the Wellcome Collection on Monday 30 November, when the science minister, Lord Drayson, will share the stage with a group of up-and-coming scientists: astronomy and science communicator Colin Stuart; physics postgraduate researcher Suzie Sheehy; astrobiologist and science writer Dr Lewis Dartnell; and science teacher and film maker Alom Shaha.

Chairing the event – “Blue skies ahead? The prospects for UK science” – is Professor Brian Cox, a particle physicist and science presenter.

This is the second time that Lord Drayson has agreed to a public discussion about important scientific matters, in response to invitations posted on the social media website Twitter.

In September, Lord Drayson debated the merits of UK science journalism with Dr Ben Goldacre at the Royal Institution.

This time, it was Colin Stuart’s exchange of tweets with Lord Drayson about UK science’s future which evolved into a public event to discuss how best to recognise and support excellence in scientific research and its impact on our society, culture and economy.

Lord Drayson said,

"I believe passionately in UK science. it is one of this country's great strengths, and it will have a huge impact in shaping our world.

“I'm keen to discuss that future with the emerging generation of scientists – not just research, but also its place in our society."

Colin said,

“Science has never played a bigger role in our society but we have to be very careful how it is handled in this embryonic century.

“Putting the views of young science professionals to Lord Drayson is fundamental at a time when there are big changes to the way UK science is being run and to the future that we’ll inherit.”

“Blue skies ahead? The prospects for UK science” has been organised by the Department for Business, Innovations and Skills – together with Times Higher Education and the Wellcome Trust.

Prof Cox said,

“Government handling of UK science must be held up to the most rigorous public scrutiny because it is of overwhelming importance for the future of our country.

“The science base is strong, but that strength could quickly turn to weakness if the wrong decisions are made in the current economic climate. ‘Blue skies ahead’ is a very welcome and timely addition to the debate on the future of UK science.”

The event will be streamed live at and viewers will be encouraged to participate in the debate via Twitter (#sciblue).

150 seats are available free of charge on a first-come, first-serve basis from 12pm today – to book your seat visit

Blue skies ahead? The prospects for UK science

Monday 30 November, 7pm

Wellcome Collection
183 Euston Road

Notes to Editors

1. For more information and press passes contact:

Rachel Clarke
BIS press office
18002 020 7215 5945

2. The panel and chair

Lord Drayson (Twitter @Lorddrayson) – Minister for Science and Innovation

Colin Stuart (Twitter @skyponderer) – science communicator.

Colin is a freelance science communicator, writer and broadcaster. He is also a freelance astronomer working for The Royal Observatory, Greenwich.

Suzie Sheehy – John Adams Institute for Accelerator Science

Suzie is on the verge of completing her DPhil at Oxford University designing a new type of particle accelerator for cancer treatment using protons and carbon ions.

Dr Lewis Dartnell (Twitter @lewis_dartnell) – University College, London

Lewis is an astrobiologist working on whether life can survive on Mars. He is also a prolific freelance science journalist and author of the popular science book 'Life in the Universe: A Beginner's Guide'.

Alom Shaha – Science teacher and film-maker

Alom is passionate about science education and has a long history of stressing the importance of science to our continuing welfare, culminating in his most recent project, Why Is Science Important?

Professor Brian Cox (Twitter @ProfBrianCox) – particle physicist and science presenter

Originally a musician with bands Dare and D:Ream, Brian completed a PhD in High Energy Particle Physics and is now mainly based in Manchester and at the CERN laboratory in Geneva, Switzerland where he works on the Large Hadron Collider (LHC). His ability to present science in an engaging, exciting and interesting way makes him a popular television presenter and radio broadcaster

3. The debate will be webcast for those who can’t attend at

Department for Business, Innovation & Skills

The Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) is building a dynamic and competitive UK economy by: creating the conditions for business success; promoting innovation, enterprise and science; and giving everyone the skills and opportunities to succeed. To achieve this it will foster world-class universities and promote an open global economy. BIS - Investing in our future.


BIS Press Office

Rachel Clarke
Phone: 18220 020 7215 5945 - text direct phone
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