Fun factor rules in Science Week

September 22, 1995

Your editorial ("The future of the BA", THES, September 15) rightly identifies the potential for change among the institutions involved in promoting public understanding of science, including the British Association for the Advancement of Science. But you make an error in presuming that events such as SET Week are in competition to the annual BA meeting. They are not.

The annual BA meeting generates extensive media coverage about new discoveries and developments in science. SET Week is rather different. Our analysis of SET showed that journalists, especially in local newspapers, focused on the events (71 per cent) rather than the science presented in the events (20 per cent). They reported sleuths, sparks, splashes and Sharman rather than science.

This is not a surprise as the organisers of SET Week went out of their way to encourage wacky events in weird locations. But the contrast between the two events is important. The annual BA meeting is a shop window for science, SET week - with at least 1,130 events attended by 600,000 people and with TV programmes watched by 58 million people - is a national celebration of science as an essential part of our culture. It promotes science as being fun, as well as being important. And indeed it is both.

Andy Boddington Evaluation Associates Ltd Buckingham.

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