Page last updated at 00:07 GMT, Wednesday, 28 January 2009

Government touts science for all

By Pallab Ghosh
Science correspondent, BBC News

Science of football advert (Source: Dius)
The campaign includes adverts showing the science in everyday life

The government has launched a campaign to reduce public perception of science as "elitist".

The Science [So What? So Everything] campaign is being run by the Department for Innovation, Universities and Skills (Dius).

The effort follows the publication of a survey that shows most people feel that science is remote, elitist and irrelevant to their lives.

The launch event will include a celebrity debate and evening expo.

The round-table debate will open the launch at Downing Street, and Cabinet ministers are expected to be joined by a long list of high-profile figures to find better ways of public engagement in science.

Those expected to attend include David Attenborough, chef Hugh Fearnley-Wittingstall and writer Bill Bryson.

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Geeky image

According to the Science Minister, Lord Drayson, changing public attitudes to science will be important to the UK economy.

"Continued success in science and technology is vital to our future - and yet there is still a perception among many of our people that science is too clever for them or elitist in some way," he said.

A recent poll by Dius showed a marked disconnect in people's faith in science and its relevance to their lives.

Of those polled, 48% said they expected science to find a cure for cancer within 30 years. But only 3% said that scientists were the group of people that had the most effect on their lives.

We're not going to get more young people getting into science because we tell them that their country needs them
Diana Garnham, Science Council

The campaign was welcomed by Diana Garnham, Chief Executive of the Science Council.

"It's great to see the concept of everyday science come to the fore," she said.

"We need to get away from the elitist, geeky image that science suffers from.

"We're not going to get more young people getting into science because we tell them that their country needs them, and research shows that they aren't persuaded by arguments that they will earn more if they get into science."

However, environmental commentator George Monbiot said that the publicly funded campaign should not be a propaganda vehicle for vested interests.

"When Tony Blair said people who were against GM technology were anti-science, he was confusing a technology with people's attitudes toward science," he said.

"The conflation of improving country's scientific literacy with the promoting industrial interests of a particular group is dishonest and I hope this won't happen with this campaign."

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