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Introducing the Charter for UK Science and Society

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Our vision is of a UK in which we all share in the development and contribution of science to our culture, quality of life, sustainable economic development and growth and feel a sense of ownership about its direction.

That’s the vision for Science and Society developed by BIS and stakeholders in 2013.  But what does it mean, why do we need it and what are we doing about it?

The last ten years have seen a big improvement in the relationship between the public and science and in the UK.  There are a huge range of activities all working hard to help.  They’ve led to more students achieving STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths) qualifications, improvements in the quality of science reporting, more and better discussion on science issues and increased business activity in science and engineering.  But there is still more to do.

In collaboration with the science community, business, educators, media and civil society groups, we’ve looked at what needs to be done and developed a set of common aims:

  • For Government, industry, the research community and civic society to recognise the importance of public investment in science and innovation and its contribution to economic, cultural and societal well-being.
  • For public policy and debate, including in research, government & the media, to be enhanced by more extensive and purposeful engagement with all sectors of society, with the views of the public adding to research and scientific and engineering evidence.
  • To achieve higher levels of confidence and trust, through greater transparency, openness and public involvement, in the governance and use of science and the products of scientific development.
  • For young people, from all backgrounds, to be empowered to act as informed citizens around scientific issues and their application, with many inspired to study and work in science, technology and engineering.
  • For the scientific and engineering workforce at all levels reflects the diversity of UK society.
  • To ensure there is better engagement on science, research, technology & engineering and their application between all sectors of society.

We’ve developed this Charter for UK Science and Society because we think it helps us all to show that we’re committed to achieving these aims and it sets out some useful principles of behaviour.  We think that the Charter will help not only Government and the science community but others too like charities, media, journalists and communicators, teachers and educators and people who provide informal STEM learning activities, business and industry and civil society organisations and groups.

Commitment to the Charter signals that an organisation will support its staff and collaborators to help them implement the principles of the Charter across their organisation, embedding commitment to improving the relationship between science and society at a strategic level.  And it encourages organisations and individuals to celebrate and communicate their successes in science and society and facilitates the sharing of best practice.

The Charter is based on the power of three. Three Strategic Objectives and three Principles for the six (two times three) aims above. This wasn’t deliberate – it just ended up this way.

 The Strategic Objectives are:

  1. We believe that everyone has an opportunity to contribute to the relationship between science and society, through education, communication, public engagement and debate, collaboration and co-production of knowledge and that all have much to gain.
  1. We are committed to sharing our knowledge, resources and skills, and to listening to and learning from the expertise and insight of the different communities with which we engage.
  1. We are committed to developing our approaches to engaging with other groups and to sharing what we learn about effective practice.


And the three sets of principles that people agree to demonstrate are:

  1. Strategic commitment
  1. Implementation and practice
  1. Evaluation and impact


What does this mean for BIS?  We believe that we demonstrate commitment to these principles through our Science and Society Programme.  We have taken a leading role in developing and communicating this shared vision and aims, and we’re focusing our support on activities that will have significant impact on target groups, that achieve value for money for the UK taxpayer and that are robustly evaluated.

As part of our commitment, we’ve also launching a new grant scheme to pilot innovative ways to reach public audiences that are under-represented in other initiatives. A sort of ‘Heineken Challenge’ that reaches the parts other schemes don’t! We’ve made available £500k for projects in 2014/15.

We asked some of our friends and stakeholders to tell us what the Charter means for them. You'll be able to read their blog posts here in the coming week.

 We want the Charter to be a living endeavour. We’d like to have more examples and we’d like to know whether having something like this helps – so let us know what you think here or by email.

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  1. Comment by Anonymous posted on

  2. Comment by David Cooper posted on

    Please do not neglect the contribution from the members of the British Trust for Ornithology through the various programmes. I have been a member of Garden Bird Watch for some twelve years and there is the various nesting, water-birds, migration studies as well as the ringing programmes. These may be led by professional ornithologists, but amateurs have made big contributions.
    Whilst perhaps not as dynamic as birds the various Geological and Ecological Societies have strong public contributions, e.g. The Geologist's Association, which have scientific approaches which like bird watching demand the precise or accurate observations and measurements to be valid

    • Replies to David Cooper>

      Comment by joanneh posted on

      David - as a long-standing RSPB & WWT member, I absolutely agree that societies such as BTO can make a huge contribution - citizen science at its best. Joanne


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