W5, Northern Ireland’s award-winning science and discovery centre, has joined forces with a host of top names across the science, technology, and education sectors to call for urgent funding to save UK science centres.
The role of science in our society has never been more important. 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 plight of UK science centres, including W5, which plays a vital role in inspiring future scientists in Northern Ireland.
An open letter to Prime Minister Boris Johnson, Chancellor Rishi Sunak, and Secretary of State Alok Sharma sent asks the government to recognise the precarious situation science centres are in. The letter, written by Dr Penny Fidler (CEO) and Ben Ward (Chair) of the UK Association for Science and Discovery Centres (ASDC), highlights the challenges facing science centres across the UK, severely exacerbated by the lack of central funding, and asks the Prime Minister and Chancellor to grant funds to ensure their long-term viability.
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 the UK Association for Science and Discovery Centres (ASDC)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 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.”
Supporting signatures include 53 Trustees and CEOs of the UK’s Science and Discovery Centres and museums, including W5, alongside some of the UK’s most celebrated science advocates.
Local signatories include: Adrian Doyle, director, W5 Science and Discovery Centre; Ian Greer, vice-chancellor, Queen’s University Belfast; Professor Paul Bartholomew, vice-chancellor, Ulster University; Dr Stephen Barr, president and managing director of Almac Sciences; Dr Iain Percy OBE, CEO, Artemis Technologies; Tom Gray, chief technology officer, Kainos; Kieran McCorry, national technology officer, Microsoft Ireland and Dr Anna Ploszajski, materials scientist, engineer & science communicator.
The letter has also 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 UK’s network of charitable Science and Discovery Centres delivers inclusive science and technology experiences to children across the UK, 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.
Commenting on the letter, Adrian Doyle, director, W5 Science and Discovery Centre said:“W5 is proud to join science centres across the UK and leading names from the world of science to highlight the very real plight of the UK’s vital network of science centres.
“So far, science and discovery centres such as W5 have been largely excluded from government support being made available to other cultural organisations in similar dire straits. Science has never had a more critical role; for years, we have been working to place science and STEM at the heart of our culture in the UK, however, remarkably, rescue packages for arts, heritage and culture have not taken science centres into consideration.
“The calibre of the names on the open letter sent via ASDC demonstrate the immense importance of safeguarding the vital science and discovery programmes and outreach that will be key to our recovery from this pandemic. Locally, we are pleased to have the support of partners including Almac, Artemis, Kainos, Microsoft Ireland, Queen’s University Belfast and Ulster University, all of whom value the integral role of W5 in developing and delivering programmes that will inspire young people with STEM to become the scientists and innovators Northern Ireland will need in the future.”
Find out more about the Science Centres For Our Future campaign, and see videos of support, at https://future.sciencecentres.org.uk