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Monday, 22 November, 1999, 11:30 GMT
Virtual city for UK science
The site uses a city as a metaphor

A new "city of science" has been launched on the web to showcase publicly-funded science in the UK.

Called UK Science City, the site will also host debates on major topics of the day.

Science City currently features about 100 research projects which are sponsored by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC), one of the UK's main science funding bodies.

The site uses the metaphor of a city to allow surfers to navigate their way through the content.

Over the next three years, virtually all the projects funded by the EPSRC will have their own location in the city. All the projects will link through to home laboratories or universities, and to any collaborating companies.

The other major funding bodies are also being approached to come onboard.

"UK science and technology spends 6.5bn of public money each year," said Science City's director, Peter Healey.

"The funding system should be open and transparent so that the public knows what the money buys. More importantly there are also many good stories that we have to tell about how research results touch our lives."

Open project

Much of the research will inevitably be low key but some projects will touch on highly controversial subjects and it is around these issues that Science City wants to engage users in debate.

"It's an open project," said Mr Healey. "We would like to develop individual districts below the map level that we have at the moment and put wire frame buildings up in them. Those buildings could represent different organisations from the Royal Society to Greenpeace.

Surfers visiting Science City can navigate through the map to explore the impact of science on health or in the home, for example. There is also a powerful search engine that allows the full text of all documents on the site to be searched.

In the near future, there will be an online encyclopaedia to explain key scientific terms, a news tracker to pick up the day's headlines in the media and an education link to allow pupils to research school projects.

"We want to show relevance to people's lives," said Mr Healey. "We want people to explore the city and see how science touches their everyday lives."

The main funding for the site has so far come from the EPSRC and the UK Government's Office of Science and Technology (OST).

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See also:
09 Nov 99 |  Sci/Tech
Urgent call for UK science funding
12 Oct 99 |  Sheffield 99
The best of British science

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