The UK’s network of charitable Science and Discovery Centres deliver inclusive science and technology experiences to children across the country, reaching families and schools in some of our most socio-economically disadvantaged communities.
They play a crucial role in inspiring young people with STEM, creating the environmental and science innovators we need for our future, and ensuring the UK stays at the forefront of global R&D and innovation.
This world-class network is at risk – revenue streams and visitor numbers have been dramatically reduced by the pandemic. Despite their entrepreneurial ethos, and track record of success, centres are being forced to close vital science outreach programmes and face the prospect of shutting their doors altogether. The UK Science and Discovery Centres, represented by ASDC, has appealed to the government since April 2020 for a £25 million resilience fund to help secure the future of the UK’s Science and Discovery Centres.
With no funding in sight and the pandemic far from over, 153 leaders from across the UK’s scientific community have come together to highlight the importance of our national infrastructure which inspires future scientists by signing an open letter to Prime Minister Boris Johnson, Chancellor Rishi Sunak and Secretary of State Alok Sharma.
The letter has been signed by some of the world’s most famous scientists and science advocates including Professor Brian Cox, Professor Sir Robert Winston, Professor Alice Roberts, eight Nobel prize winners and two British astronauts – Helen Sharman and Tim Peake.
The letter, written by Dr Penny Fidler (CEO) and Ben Ward (Chair) of ASDC, asks the government to recognise the precarious situation Science Centres are in, one severely exacerbated by the lack of central funding, and asks the Prime Minister and Chancellor to grant funds to ensure their long-term viability.
Supporting signatures include some of the country’s most celebrated science advocates, including:
- Further leading scientists, including Professor Dame Athene Donald DBE FRS; Professor Jim Al-Khalili, OBE FRS, Lord Martin Rees OM FRS, Astronomer Royal, and Nobel Prize Winners; Sir Venki Ramakrishnan, President of the Royal Society, Sir Gregory Winter CBE, FRS; Sir Paul Nurse FRS, and Professor Sir Martin Evans FRS.
- 13 Vice-Chancellors including Professor Chris Day of Newcastle University, Professor Ian Greer of Queen’s University Belfast and Professor Karen Holford CBE of Cardiff University and Dame Janet Beer DBE, Vice-Chancellor, University of Liverpool.
- Leaders from the world of the STEM industry, including Malcolm Skingle of GSK, Dr Geoff Mackey of BASF plc, Sharon Davies, Chief Executive of Young Enterprise, Mottie Kessler MBE, CEO of 2M Holdings, Steve Elliott, CEO of the Chemical Industries Association, and Cormac Whelan, CEO, NOKIA UK & Ireland.
- And political supporters such as Darren Jones, MP Bristol Northwest; Stephen Metcalf, MP for South Basildon & East Thurrock, Rt Hon Esther McVey, MP for Tatton and Steve Rotherham, Mayor of Liverpool City Regions.
- As well as 53 Trustees and CEOs of the UK’s Science and Discovery Centres and museums.
The open letter is the latest activity in The ASDC’s Science Centres For Our Future campaign which launched in May 2020. Ben Ward, Chair of Trustees and CEO of Winchester Science Centre, writes in the letter: “We know that our network makes a big impact. We know that we are at the forefront of supporting STEM learning. We know that we bring value, opportunity and enrichment to every region of the UK and that together we introduce millions of children to science each year.
“What we do not know is why you, our government, would allow this valuable and viable national STEM asset to fall through the cracks, putting this network, and all it delivers, in such jeopardy? …
“This is why we, as CEOs, Chairs, Trustees, Eminent Scientists, Science businesses, Mayors, MPs and University Vice Chancellors are writing to implore you to listen in our time of need, to invest £25 million as an Emergency Resilience Fund to help UK Science and Discovery Centres weather this pandemic and continue to provide the backbone of exploratory science education across the country.”
Find out more about the Science Centres For Our Future campaign.