By Jon Kudlick, director of membership, marketing and communication at the Society of Biology
As the countdown on our webpage will tell you, our second Biology Week is almost upon us, and the stakes are high! Well they’re not really, but tension is mounting, and so is the team’s workload. Amid all the energy required and the stress to come, it’s worth pausing to remember why we’re doing this, and what I had in mind when I came up with the idea of Biology Week two and a half years ago.
When biology is an integral part of your work or your studies, it’s easy to forget that many people are not aware of how important biology is in so many areas of our lives. As a non-scientist myself, I came into this job as one of those people and after five years, I’m now a convert. I feel at times like a born-again biology worshipper, wanting to spread the word wherever I go. This was part of the thinking behind Biology Week – to provide a focal point every year where we can shout about the amazing breadth of the biosciences, to celebrate what biology has done for us in the past, and to debate what it can do for us in the future.
So what’s going on this year? There are many events and activities being organised under the Biology Week banner – what’s most inspiring is the range of topics, which include ants, bees, spiders, the genomics of smell, dementia, animal research, leukaemia research, dormice, food waste, fungi, and the Irish hare. And let’s not forget Mike Leahy’s rainforest bus, UK fungus Day, Big Biology Day, and (take a breath) our prestigious awards event.
Going back to my original point, it is the range of people we are engaging with that is key. At the time of writing, we’ve had over 6,000 members of the public send in their photos of house spiders, over 4,500 members of the public send in their sightings of flying ants (the results of which will be announced as part of the 24-hour lecture given by Professor Adam Hart, accompanied by staff on a sleep rota, and while the rest of us are in bed, to be watched by international schools via Skype). We will be celebrating Biology Week with MPs at the Parliamentary event, we look forward to a public debate on the influence of genetics on criminal responsibility, and we will be encouraging schoolchildren to think about where their food comes from.
We’ve already achieved major coverage with many of these activities across radio, broadsheets, tabloids, and blogs. This means that millions of people will have had the opportunity to hear about an aspect of biology, which may have sparked an interest that had not been there before. This is why we’re doing Biology Week – to reach people like me.