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Forgotten faces of science

Posted by on March 19, 2014

By Natasha Neill, executive officer at the Society of Biology

Our new project “Biology: Changing the World” has had a busy start and the past few weeks have seen great engagement from the public and our member organisations. The project really seems to have hit upon a popular theme and I’ve been amazed at the positive reaction from people and the stories that they’ve shared about their favourite ‘un-sung hero’.

Talking to people about what the project aims to do – celebrate biology – the response has been overwhelmingly positive, and the individuals that have been championed have all been amazing scientists with fantastic stories. Quite often, I’ve never heard of the person, or their achievements and I’m pleased that the Society can try to make sure these individuals receive recognition for their contribution to the field of science.

The favourite inspirational story that I’ve heard is that of Kathleen Mary Drew-Baker, whose research on the edible seaweed Porphyra laciniata (nori) led to a breakthrough in its commercial growing. This key development helped to overcome the previous unpredictable harvests of the Japanese seaweed industry and significantly increased production. As a sign of her importance, Japan celebrates her work annually on the 14th April, and she is hailed as Mother of the Sea.

Our stakeholder meeting on the 28th February was a really good brainstorming opportunity to think about what sort of scientists might be celebrated throughout the project, both through commemorative plaques and online via the website and mobile app. Many more stories of amazing scientists, were discussed and these individuals will be taken forward for inclusion in the project.

We also had some really positive discussions about public engagement, and what sort of activity might work well to engage a wide audience. I learnt the importance of a single outcome for activities and the key message to keep things simple but fun.  The report from our meeting is now publicly available, and we’d love to hear your comments on the discussions. Our next stakeholder meeting on the 4th April will focus on the educational resources and celebration events. The event is free to attend, but you do need to register your attendance online.

The project will celebrate all types of scientists that have helped biology to change the world, and we’d love to hear some of your ideas.  You can nominate scientists by leaving a comment below, or emailing the executive officer.

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