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Last Updated: Tuesday, 18 November, 2003, 14:37 GMT
Centre opens for X-rated science
Dana Centre
Under 18s are unlikely to be let in
A new forum is opening in London to give adults a chance to discuss topical and thorny issues in modern science.

The Dana Centre in South Kensington will allow grown-ups to engage in provocative debate away from the "safe" family environment of most museums.

Planned events will address the ethics of face transplants and carry live coverage of a heart bypass operation, which will be beamed from the US.

The 9.8m centre welcomes its first visitors from Wednesday 19 November.

Public performances and art exhibits are scheduled at the centre, which is equipped with internet access, a cafe and video links to other rooms in the building.

The venue will also play host to adult stand-up comedy, theatre performances and pub quizzes.

Your say

"The Dana Centre is the world's first adults-only extension to a major science museum," project director Graham Farmelo told BBC News Online.

Mr Farmelo added that the venue would be dealing with "X-rated subject matter" and that he did not recommend parents bring their children along.

However, he said children would not be barred except under special circumstances.

"We want to face up to tough issues in innovative ways," added Mr Farmelo.

Discussion evenings on male pregnancy, UFOs and Aids are also to be held. Visitors will be able to vote on debates electronically.

'Funky' science

"Science museums know that the adult audience is impervious to museum visiting. Using [the Dana Centre] as a confrontational space is interesting, making it happen is a different matter," said Dr Nick Russell, director of the science communication group at Imperial College, London.

Facilities for voting on debates by mobile phone will be added at a later date. The building also incorporates an 80-seater conference room and a gallery for exhibitions.

Visitors will be able to see what's going on elsewhere in the building via plasma screens linked to video cameras.

Mr Farmelo likened the centre to a "funky coffee shop", where visitors could pop in and spend time at their leisure.

The centre's website will feature live webcasts of events and discussion boards for the public.

Lord May, President of the Royal Society, will open the centre on 18 November. The venue is a collaboration between the Science Museum, the Wellcome Trust, the Wolfson Foundation and others.

The establishment of the Dana Centre follows the recent trend towards a more interactive museum concept.

It is an idea that has been partially built into the new Wellcome Wing at the Science Museum and the recently opened Darwin Centre at the Natural History Museum - both of which have high-turnover exhibits and bring the public into direct contact with scientists.

The Dana shares the same London street block at the Science and Natural History institutions. It can be found at 165 Queensgate.

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