Cox vows to change view of science

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Published: Friday 30th January 2015 by The News Editor

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TV star scientist Professor Brian Cox has pledged to “help change the perception of science” as the holder of a new Royal Society post aimed at engaging with the public.

He said a cultural transformation was needed if the UK was to make the most of its world-leading scientific potential and compete on the world stage.

The professor contrasted the general view that science was a key driver of economic growth with the fact that the UK invests less of its Gross Domestic Product (GDP) on research than many other countries.

Speaking in his role as the Royal Society’s first Professor for Public Engagement in Science, he said: “We are fortunate to have in place all the components to make Britain the best place in the world to do science; world-leading research and teaching universities, national laboratories and facilities and powerful and prestigious institutions like the Royal Society.

“It is strange, therefore, that we invest significantly less in scientific research than our major competitors; the UK invests 1.8% of GDP; USA 2.7%; Germany 2.8%; South Korea 4%. Part of the reason is that science is not held in the same high regard culturally as it is internationally, and particularly in developing economies such as India and China.

“China doubled its investment in science between 2000 and 2012 while the UK reduced the proportion of its GDP spent over that time.

“In my new position at the Royal Society, I want to help change the perception of science. I want to see our great cultural and scientific institutions – the universities, the learned societies, museums, schools, the BBC – work together to raise the cultural and political profile of science, research and education. I want to see our investment in science, and particularly in young scientists, rise to levels at or beyond our competitors.

“I passionately believe that science can be a vehicle for the redistribution of opportunity in our society as well as a driver for economic growth.”

The University of Manchester physicist and TV presenter said he will be looking at how the Royal Society can inspire teachers and students to give them a “flavour of the fun that can be had bringing science to life”.

As part of the programme he will be working with partners across science and with organisations such as the BBC.

Sir Paul Nurse, president of the Royal Society, said: “The UK is very good at science but it is seen as something difficult and perhaps removed from ordinary people. We have high levels of trust and surveys show that scientists are seen as creative, interesting and open-minded people but how many of us encourage our children to be a scientist?

“We are seeing signs of a recovery with the numbers of young people studying science creeping up but we really need to see a bigger change and that requires more radical action. The Royal Academy of Engineering estimate that by 2020 we will need over a million new science, engineering and technology professionals.

“Britain was built by science and engineering during the industrial revolution and we need to rediscover that passion for innovation in all parts of society.”

Prof Cox, a keyboard player in the pop group D.Ream during the 1990s, has presented numerous programmes for BBC television and radio including the hit series Wonders Of The Solar System and Wonders Of The Universe.

Published: Friday 30th January 2015 by The News Editor

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