Science's top media stars of 2000

December 21, 2000

They are the celebrities of science, ambassadors of the laboratory held up by the media as intellectual authorities of our time. Where once there was Magnus Pike and Patrick Moore, there is now a plethora of experts as comfortable with the chat-show couch as politicians, footballers and pop stars.

The scientists who feature in The THES 's rough-and-ready rankings of newspaper quotations for 2000 will surprise few. They have matched scientific achievement with active courting of the press, using their expertise as a badge of authority to reach probably the widest audience popular science has ever enjoyed.

The scientific highlight of the year - the sequencing of the human genome - gained John Sulston and Craig Venter joint ninth place. The rest discussedother people'sscience and its place in society, though as fully fledged celebrities. Many also commented on things such as who should be mayor of London and their favourite walks.

This year, Raj Persaud, the psychiatrist who tops the table, opined on Big Brother , tattoos and celebrity dating. Lord Winston fronted two hit BBC series (famously stripping off to his underpants), while as a leading Labour peer, his comments on health and science policy had great weight.

All are in the vanguard of the popularisation of science, noted John Eldridge, professor of sociology at Glasgow University.

"These people are the human face of science. They show there is a popular interest in science that goes against the notion that as a nation we're increasingly anti-science," he said.

The list was dominated by the life sciences, with the physical sciences scrapingin just outside the top ten, with Sir Martin Rees, the astronomer royal, and Kevin Warwick, professor of cybernetics at Reading University, 11th and 12th respectively.

Figures collatedfrom the editorial databases of all national newspapers, except the Express, Sunday Express and Financial Times, show the total number of direct quotations ofat least one sentence published between January 1 and December 15.

1 Raj Persaud , psychiatrist, senior lecturer at the Institute of Psychiatry, London - 38 quotations

2 Lord Robert Winston , professor of fertility studies, chairman of the House of Lords science and technology committee, Imperial College London - 30

3 Richard Dawkins , professor of the public understanding of science, Oxford University - 28

4 Richard Wiseman , reader in the public understanding of psychology, Hertfordshire University -

5= Susan Greenfield , professor of pharmacology, Oxford University, and director of the Royal Institution - 26

5= Steve Jones , professor of genetics, University College London, and newspaper columnist - 26

7 Lewis Wolpert , professor of biology as applied to medicine, University College London, and newspaper columnist - 21

8 Sir Robert May , Royal Society research professor of zoology, Oxford, former chief scientific adviser and president of the Royal Society - 19

9= John Sulston , genomics scientist, former director of the Sanger Centre - 18

9= Craig Venter , genomics scientist, chief executive of Celera Genomics and founder of the Institute for Genomic Research - 18

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