By Pete Dickinson, Head of Communication, Science Museum
Strong calls for evidence-based policy-making and gender equality were made last night by guest speaker, Professor Anne Glover, at the Science Museum’s Director’s Annual Dinner.
Speaking on the day the European Commission (EC) revealed that her previous role as Chief Scientific Adviser to the EC President will now be performed by a committee of high level scientists, the biologist warned of the perils of preventing scientists who advise Government from speaking openly about their work.
Professor Glover, Vice Principal for External Affairs and Dean for Europe at the University of Aberdeen, urged the scientists among the high-profile audience to be bold in speaking up about evidence and challenged everyone in the room to do more to nominate talented women (as well as men) for positions of influence in our society.
Earlier Science Museum Group Director (SMG), Ian Blatchford, had welcomed the new Culture Secretary John Whittingdale, noting the Group’s delight on discovering that the evening was his first official engagement. Later that night the minister tweeted:
The Director took the high profile audience on a whistle-stop tour of the year’s highlights including the Queen’s first tweet at the opening of the Information Age gallery; a celebration of two hundred years of London science with the Royal Society; our plans for the Clockmakers’ museum; and the announcement that Zaha Hadid will be the designer for our new Mathematics gallery.
That last project was made possible by the largest private donation in the Science Museum’s history from David and Claudia Harding. So it was no surprise that David Harding, a noted philanthropist and dedicated supporter of maths and science, was one of the two distinguished guests bidden to the stage by SMG Chairman, Dame Mary Archer, to accept Science Museum Fellowships. He and Nobel laureate Professor John O’Keefe were described by Dame Mary as “rare individuals who’ve given exceptional service to science and to SMG” as they were invited to receive their scrolls.
Dame Mary also told the audience how the Group is “equally ambitious for our very own Northern Powerhouse — our museums in York, Manchester and Bradford.” She highlighted their plans, including a stunning new exhibition gallery planned in Manchester for 2018, generously funded by the Wellcome Trust and the Treasury, and an exhibition on graphene, first synthesised in 2004 at the University of Manchester.
To underline the significance of the two million children who visit SMG museums each year, Dame Mary emphasised how the country’s economy depends on the understanding and application of science, technology, engineering and mathematics yet, she added, “Britain is desperately short of engineers, only 20% of young people in the UK do any maths beyond GCSE, and more than 80% of postgraduate STEM students in our universities come from — and mostly go back to — countries outside the European Union.”
The MC of the event was the SMG Director of External Affairs Roger Highfield and other guests included the new Director of the National Portrait Gallery Nicholas Cullinan; film producer Michael Wilson; Trustees David Willetts, Lords Grade and Faulkner; Government Chief Scientist Sir Mark Walport; Director of the Science Media Centre Fiona Fox; Pestival Director Bridget Nicholls, photographers Jonathan Anderson and Edwin Low; Emmy and Bafta award winning director and producer Anthony Geffen; Naomi Weir of the Campaign for Science and Engineering; Wellcome Director of Strategy Clare Matterson and double Oscar-winner Paul Franklin.