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Science in society – politics, development and social justice.

Archive for October 2010

The Battle of Ideas – commencement of polite and well-spoken hostilities

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This weekend sees the Royal College of Art in Kensington play host to the sixth annual Battle of Ideas Festival.

It is fitting that it should be held next door to the Royal Albert Hall, which was built from the proceeds of the Great Exhibition of 1851(1), a festival showcasing some great ideas.

An old print of Queen Victoria standing beneath a canopy in the Crystal Palace at the opening of the Great Exhibition of 1851

This year’s festival is focusing on the division between public and private, the decline of trust, ethics in medicine, and the importance of evidence in science.

Ethically I cannot withhold the following (in the interests of transparency and full disclosure): I only attended one hour of Saturday’s timetable. I apologise and can only say I had a good excuse. I promise to be front and centre for Sunday as the event moves into full-on science and policy mode. Topics to be covered on this Sabbath day will revolve around the general theme: ‘The Battle Over Scientific Evidence’. Read the rest of this entry »


Written by nascenthack

October 30, 2010 at 8:56 pm

The Comprehensive Spending Review – the axe has fallen

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It is said of budget announcements that the devil is in the detail; a cliché because it contains more than a grain of truth. The significance of Chancellor Osborne’s spending review will not become clear until the cuts heal clean and circulation returns, or the wound begins to fester into a social and economic sepsis (1).

Scientific research has not fared as badly as was first feared. Sighs of relief and words of warning have sounded across the research community. Read the rest of this entry »

Written by nascenthack

October 21, 2010 at 9:41 am

On Consider the lobster

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It is a sound piece of advice to order an embryonic writer to read David Foster Wallace’s collection of essays Consider the lobster. It is one that your correspondent heartily endorses from personal experience.

The guitar manufacturing advocate of said collection billed Wallace as: “as close as your generation is going to get to Hunter S. Thompson.” Perhaps wide of the mark; a suitable alternative comparison is not within grasp at the time of writing.

Consider the lobster, the eponymous essay, was first printed by the American magazine Gourmet in 2004. Commissioned for a piece describing what it is like to visit the then 56 year old Main Lobster Festival (MLF), Wallace submitted an essay of wit and humour, ambition and subversion. It is a far cry from some shallow review of Ludlow Food Festival you may come across in a weekly broadsheet’s glossy magazine. Read the rest of this entry »

Written by nascenthack

October 15, 2010 at 8:30 am

Science and the comprehensive spending review

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The comprehensive spending review is edging ever nearer, giving off jets of pure austerity1. Behind closed doors ministers are squirming to protect their portfolios while lining up out front like Bolsheviks of the Moscow Trials.

Dewlaps wobble and sabres rattle in the Ministry of Defence. Andrew Mitchell has been jetting off to Washington while the cabinet office siphons off his authority.

The silent majority is fit to burst with pent up indignation; child benefit cuts gravely threaten the sanctity of middle class family life.

All the while whet stones sound on steel and abacus beads skim at the Treasury. Read the rest of this entry »

Written by nascenthack

October 12, 2010 at 7:17 pm