UK Government

Department for Business, Innovation and Skills: Discussing UK Science’s Future at Blue Skies Ahead Debate

Press Release   •   Dec 01, 2009 09:25 GMT

Science Minister Lord Drayson will discuss the future of UK science tonight at a debate which “sold-out” in just 28 minutes.

A packed house at “Blue skies ahead? The prospects for UK science”, organised by the Department for Business, Innovations and Skills (BIS) – together with Times Higher Education (THE) and the Wellcome Trust, will discuss what the UK must do to remain a top scientific nation.

It will also explore the changes facing our research landscape, and how this affects younger scientists.

Lord Drayson said,

“Britain is a world leader in science. Tonight's debate with the next generation of UK scientists will be a lively discussion on how we keep it that way.”

Joining the Minister on the panel are four up-and-coming scientists:  astronomy and science communicator Colin Stuart; physics postgraduate researcher Suzie Sheehy; astrobiologist and science writer Dr Lewis Dartnell; and science teacher and film maker Alom Shaha.

For those disappointed not to grab a free ticket, BIS has joined forces with Times Higher Education to stream the debate live on the THE website ( Viewers will also be encouraged to participate in the debate on Twitter via the hashtag #sciblue.

And following the debate, THE has set up a “Twinterview” – a 30 minute live interview on Twitter – where people can tweet their own questions for the panel to answer.

The social media site has already played a vital role in this debate. It was Colin Stuart’s exchange of tweets with Lord Drayson about UK science’s future which evolved into a public event to discuss how best to recognise and support excellence in scientific research and its impact on our society, culture and economy.

Colin said,

“The fact that ‘Blue skies ahead?’ sold out within half an hour just illustrates how much hunger there is out there for a serious, grown up debate about the issues facing the scientists of tomorrow. I thank Lord Drayson again for his invitation and I’m very excited to hear what our 150-strong audience has to say.”

The event will be chaired by Professor Brian Cox, a particle physicist and science broadcaster.

Prof. Cox said,

“Government handling of UK science must be held up to the most rigorous public scrutiny because it is of overwhelming importance for the future of our country.

“The science base is strong, but that strength could quickly turn to weakness if the wrong decisions are made in the current economic climate. ‘Blue skies ahead’ is a very welcome and timely addition to the debate on the future of UK science.”

Notes to editors

1. For more information, contact:

Rachel Clarke

BIS press office

18002 020 7215 5945

2.  Debate details

Blue skies ahead? The prospects for UK science

Monday 30 November, 7pm

Wellcome Collection

183 Euston Road



3. The Panel and Chair

Lord Drayson (Twitter @Lorddrayson) – Minister for Science and Innovation

Colin Stuart (Twitter @skyponderer) – science communicator.

Colin is a freelance science communicator, writer and broadcaster. He is also a freelance astronomer working for The Royal Observatory, Greenwich.

Suzie Sheehy – John Adams Institute for Accelerator Science

Suzie is on the verge of completing her DPhil at Oxford University designing a new type of particle accelerator for cancer treatment using protons and carbon ions.

Dr Lewis Dartnell (Twitter @lewis_dartnell) – University College, London

Lewis is an astrobiologist working on whether life can survive on Mars. He is also a prolific freelance science journalist and author of the popular science book 'Life in the Universe: A Beginner's Guide'.

Alom Shaha – Science teacher and film-maker

Alom is passionate about science education and has a long history of stressing the importance of science to our continuing welfare, culminating in his most recent project, Why Is Science Important?

Professor Brian Cox (Twitter @ProfBrianCox) – particle physicist and science presenter

Originally a musician with bands Dare and D:Ream, Brian completed a PhD in High Energy Particle Physics and is now  mainly based in Manchester and at the CERN laboratory in Geneva, Switzerland where he works on the Large Hadron Collider (LHC). His ability to present science in an engaging, exciting and interesting way makes him a popular television presenter and radio broadcaster

3.  The debate will be webcast for those who can’t attend at

Department for Business, Innovation & Skills

The Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) is building a dynamic and competitive UK economy by: creating the conditions for business success; promoting innovation, enterprise and science; and giving everyone the skills and opportunities to succeed. To achieve this it will foster world-class universities and promote an open global economy. BIS - Investing in our future.


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