Brussels, 18 Apr 2005
The search is on in the UK for a new generation of science communicators.
Described as an equivalent to Pop Idol, the television programme that sees a group of hopefuls competing for fame and a record deal, FameLab is a competition to find those with a talent for science communication. The process is expected to provide much entertainment, with entrants being given just three minutes to impress a panel of judges, but the initiative is being taken seriously by the science community.
'This is a really important initiative,' said patron and Nobel laureate Paul Nurse at the time of the FameLab launch in autumn 2004. 'FameLab will help to move public communication more to the centre of the scientific agenda and give real encouragement to those thinking of communicating science. Good communication is essential to maintaining public confidence in science. [...] If we don't talk about science there may be no science to talk about,' he added.
Those interested in vying for one of the finalist positions attended the heats that took place around the UK during March and April. The panel of judges, which includes Robert Winston (Professor of fertility studies and television presenter), Simon Singh (author, broadcaster and trustee of National Endowment of Science, Technology and the Arts - NESTA), a science editor and the head of science and education at the UK's Channel 4, is now in the process of shortlisting 12 finalists. The finalists will receive two days of intensive training before the final on 11 June at the Cheltenham Science Festival.
The winner will be given broadcasting time, a UK tour of speaking events and GBP 2,000 (2,9 euro) in prize money.
Jeremy Newton, Chief Executive of NESTA (one of FameLab's sponsors) says: 'Good science communication is absolutely essential in engaging the public in current debates and thinking. Without it a whole new world of discovery and advancement goes missing in the public consciousness. Contentious subjects such as GM [genetic modification] or nanotechnology need to be better illuminated and opened up for informal debate and we have to rely on the scientific community to rise to this challenge.'