Imperial College London

New science and society role for Professor Robert Winston

New science and society role for Professor Winston

Initiatives to focus on furthering engagement between scientists and the public - <em>News Release</em>

Imperial College London News Release

For immediate release
Wednesday 7 May 2008

Improving understanding and interaction between scientists and the public is the goal of Lord Winston in his new role as Professor of Science and Society at Imperial College London, announced today.

The freshly-created Chair will focus on developing paths for better engagement between scientists and the public through a range of initiatives.

Lord Winston - new Professor of Science and Society

Professor Winston's programme over the next five years will include conducting research into the most effective methods of science engagement and evaluating its impact. He explains:

"Scientists need to be much more receptive to issues which are raised by the public and which concern them.

"The science we do is largely owned by the public and all members of society should feel they are a part of what we do. As scientists, we need to be much more open about the nature of science and its limitations and more engaged with the ethical impact that our work may have."

Finding methods to ensure that scientists communicate effectively with the public will be a key focus, with the aim of further embedding science communication techniques in Imperial's teaching. He adds:

"It is vital for scientists to be able to talk about our research. We need to encourage more students to recognise the importance of this and be able to talk about their work to make it relevant to as many people as possible. This will also have the benefit of stimulating thinking about the impact of scientific work on society in general."

The role will also include helping to expand Imperial's wide range of outreach activities, establishing a dedicated schools laboratory and seminar facility based at the College to give pupils and teachers experience of hands-on science in areas such as DNA analysis and robotics. He adds:

"Giving young people the chance to get involved in practical work in a scientific environment is the key to inspiring them to see science as exciting."

The role will also include helping to expand Imperial's wide range of outreach activities

In addition, Professor Winston will push forward Imperial's engagement with the Exhibition Road Cultural Group, with the aim of recreating 'Albertopolis', a vision of South Kensington as a major centre of interaction between science and the arts.

"Science should be seen as an essential part of our culture and the remarkable museums and fine educational institutions surrounding Imperial College provide opportunities for working more closely together to encourage the modern re-establishment of Prince Albert's vision," he adds.

Welcoming Lord Winston's appointment to the new Chair, Imperial's Rector Sir Richard Sykes said:

"With science and technology increasingly underpinning all our lives, a scientifically aware population is amongst the greatest assets a nation can possess. Robert Winston is one of the UK's most prominent scientists and has an impressive track record of drawing a diverse cross-section of society into scientific conversations. I'm delighted that he will continue this vital work at Imperial."

The new Chair will sit within Imperial's Department of Humanities and is supported with funding from the Garfield Weston Foundation.


For further information please contact:

Abigail Smith
Imperial College London Press Office
Tel: 020 7594 6701

Notes to Editors:

Outreach activities at Imperial:

Imperial runs a number of initiatives aimed at encouraging aspiration and achievement amongst young people who may not otherwise consider higher education, and has well-established links with local schools. These include:

  • INSPIRE, a scheme which places post-doctoral researchers in schools to help deliver science lessons, giving pupils access to cutting edge research
  • The Pimlico Connection, a student tutoring scheme that places Imperial students in London schools to assist teachers
  • Over 70 summer schools each year which give around 3,500 school pupils a taste of university science
  • Metric, a collection of interactive internet resources for A-level students aimed at bridging the gap between school and university mathematics

About Robert Winston:

Lord Winston, Professor of Science and Society and Emeritus Professor of Fertility Studies at Imperial College London, runs a research programme in the Institute of Reproductive and Developmental Biology, on improvements in transgenic technology in animal models, with a long-term aim of improving human transplantation. He has around 300 scientific publications in peer-review journals on reproduction and embryology. He is also Chancellor of Sheffield Hallam University and has recently been appointed to the Chairmanship of Council of the Royal College of Music.

His research led to the development of gynaecological microsurgery in the 1970s and various improvements in reproductive medicine, subsequently adopted internationally, particularly in the field of endocrinology and IVF. His work on preimplantation genetic diagnosis enabled families carrying gene defects to have children free of fatal illnesses. This included techniques to help families with sex-linked disorders, single gene defects (such as cystic fibrosis) and chromosomal abnormalities, for example, those causing pregnancy loss. He holds twenty-six patents. He is Chairman of the Obstetrics and Gynaecology Trust Fund, a charity which raised over £13 million to establish the Institute of Reproductive and Developmental Biology funds and which funds high quality research in human reproductive biology. He was Director of NHS Research and Development at the Hammersmith Hospitals Trust until 2005.

Robert Winston has been a visiting professor at a number of American, Australian and European universities. He was Chairman of the British Fertility Society 1984-87 and Dean of the Institute of Obstetrics and Gynaecology 1989 - 97. He was President of the British Association for the Advancement of Science in 2005. He is currently a member of Council and Chairman of the Societal Issues Panel at the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council.

His activities in the House of Lords include speaking regularly on education, science, medicine and the arts. He was Chairman of the Lords Select Committee on Science and Technology 1999-2002, initiating enquiries into Antibiotic Resistance, Non-Food Crops, Nuclear Waste, Science and Society, Genetic Databases, Aircraft Passenger Environment, and Science in Schools. He is a board member and Vice-chairman of the Parliamentary Office of Science and Technology.

Robert Winston regularly writes or hosts popular science programmes for the BBC's main channel, the Discovery and ABC networks. His many television series on different aspects of science have been shown in many countries overseas. Perhaps the best known is 'The Human Body' which won a record of three BAFTAs, an Emmy nomination and a Peabody award. Robert Winston has published fourteen books for lay readership: 'What Makes Me Me' won the Aventis Prize in 2005, and 'The Human Mind' was short-listed for the same prize in that year. 'Human' won the BMA First Prize for the Best Popular Med icine Book i n 2005. He regularly gives seminars in schools and universities.

About Imperial College London:

Imperial College London - rated the world's fifth best university in the 2007 Times Higher Education Supplement Univers ity Rankings - is a science-based institution with a reputation for excellence in teaching and research that attracts 12,000 students and 6,000 staff of the highest international quality. Innovative research at the College explores the interface between science, medicine, engineering and business, delivering practical solutions that improve quality of life and the environment - underpinned by a dynamic enterprise culture.


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