It's time to mobilise the geeks

Mark Henderson

Thursday, May 24 2012 at 7:30PM

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40-42 Chalk Farm Road
London NW1 8BG

Mark Henderson

What's the talk about?

Whether we want to improve education or cut crime, to enhance public health or to generate clean energy, science is critical. Yet politics and public life occupy a science-free zone.

Just one of our 650 MPs is a scientist. Ministers ignore, and even sack, scientific advisers who offer inconvenient evidence. The NHS spends taxpayers' money on sugar pills it knows won't work, while public funding for research that would boost the economy is cut. Groundless media scares, taken up by politicians who should know better, poison public debate on vaccines and climate change, GM crops and nuclear power.

Politicians pay lip service to science for a very simple reason: they know they can get away with it. And that will change only when people who care about science get politically active. It's time to mobilise the geeks.

Something is stirring among those curious kids who always preferred sci-fi to celebrity magazines. As the success of Brian Cox and Ben Goldacre shows, geeks have stopped apologising for an obsession with asking how and why, and are starting to stand up for it instead.

In this talk Mark Henderson will build a case that science should be much more central than it is to government and the wider national conversation. It isn't only that scientific understanding is passed over as decisions are made; the experimental methods of science aren't applied to evaluating policy either.

The Geek Manifesto shows how people with a love of science can get political, to create a force our leaders can no longer afford to ignore.

The geeks are coming. Our countries need us.


Mark Henderson (@markgfh) is one of the UK's leading science journalists and commentators. He has worked at 'The Times' since 1996; he became its Science Correspondent in 2000 and was promoted to Science Editor in 2006. He was instrumental in founding 'Eureka', the newspaper’s monthly science magazine.

He has won several awards for his journalism: three prizes from the Medical Journalists' Association, the Royal Statistical Society's prize for statistical excellence in journalism, and the European Best Cancer Reporter prize from the European School of Oncology.

His first book, '50 Genetics Ideas You Really Need to Know', was published in 2009.

He is now the Head of Communications at the Wellcome Trust in London.