Jon Kudlick is director of membership, marketing and communications at the Society of Biology
The last time I blogged about Biology Week was two weeks before the start of our second one in 2013. Now with our third Biology Week in the bag, and before planning gets under way for next year, we need to ask the question, ‘Should we do it again?’
One question I get asked each year is ‘what is the theme?’, and the answer each time is ‘there isn’t one’. Now this is not based on indecision or a lack of direction, but not having a theme is an important and intrinsic aspect of Biology Week. I set it up to represent all the biosciences and to appeal to all audiences. This year was more varied than ever with over 100 events and activities taking place across the UK and beyond. Biology Week 2014 covered topics including dinosaur fossils, microscopes, fungus, genetics, conservation, circadian rhythms, drug development, nuclear power, dormice, birdsong, the brain, malaria eradication, mental health, and, of course, the dodo.
So you see why the theme of Biology Week can only be biology.
Events and activities were organised by universities, schools, some of our key supporters, our branches and regional grant recipients. The activities themselves ranged from schools taking part in our quizzes, to 1,500 people going to a school in Cambridge for hands-on activities; from our debate on malaria eradication at the Royal Institution, to people all over the country discovering the joys of fungal forays; and then there was our Parliamentary Reception in partnership with BBSRC, and our annual Awards Ceremony celebrating the champions of science communication.
Ultimately, the aim of the Week is to showcase the important and amazing world of the biosciences. And there is appetite out there for this. Almost every major national newspaper covered our photo competition, as well as hundreds of websites and blogs around the world. There was a lot of interest in the papers and radio in house spiders, as we re-launched our Spider in da House app; this year gathering around 45,000 downloads so far. Also this year, over 5,000 people took part in our Flying Ant Survey, and, in partnership with the University of Gloucestershire we launched our new Starling Murmuration Survey at the end of Biology Week, which is already gathering some very keen media interest.
Considering all the events, the ‘citizen science’ projects, and the media coverage around our activities in Biology Week, we have reached millions of people. And if just a small percentage of those reached has a deeper appreciation of what the biosciences can do to help tackle some of the problems of the 21st Century, or they choose to make biology their subject of choice at school or university, or choose to make it their career, then I’m happy. And yes, we ought to do it again.