Next week I’ll be blogging from one of the traditional rituals of UK science: the annual conference of the British Association for the Advancement of Science – rebranded this year as the British Science Festival but very much the successor of BA meetings going back to 1831.
In the 19th century the BA conference was the venue for announcing and debating key scientific findings – including the famous Huxley-Wilberforce debate about Darwin’s recently published theory of evolution, at the 1860 Oxford meeting.
These days no one would think of announcing a really important scientific finding at a general interest conference like the British Science Festival. Research results are revealed in peer-reviewed journals such as Nature and Science and at specialist conferences.
But the festival remains a centrepiece of efforts by the UK research community (including social sciences) to communicate with the outside world via the mass media. Newspapers still send science correspondents to cover it, and they generally make space available for stories from the festival.
This year’s gathering, at the University of Surrey in Guildford, will no doubt feature the usual BA mixture of soft stories and serious stuff. The vast programme ranges from wildlife gardening and the science of human attraction to pandemic flu and carbon capture and storage. I’m sure some of it will be fun and some will be interesting. Please keep reading…