The British Science Festival 2014

05 Sep 2014

Written by Imran Khan

Our world is rapidly changing around us. Advances across science and technology mean involving the general public in science is more important than ever; science has an impact across all areas of our lives including medicine, communication and the environment. Projects like the Longitude Prize are helping people appreciate some of the most important issues of our time, and giving them a platform to engage with science. The British Science Association has a vision to make science an integral part of our culture, encouraging communities and individuals to appreciate, influence and challenge British science.

As part of our mission to help people engage with science, the BSA runs the British Science Festival, with six days devoted to celebrating science, engineering and technology. This year’s Festival will take place in Birmingham, and sees a range of events, talks and workshops hosted by local scientists, TV personalities and Nobel Prize winners set to help spread their passion for science and progress. We are really excited to welcome you all to Birmingham for the festival from Saturday 6th, and have put together some top tips to get the most out of your visit.

1. Get to know the programme

Get yourself a copy of the programme and a pen to mark the events you really want to go to. During the Festival, always have a copy of the programme in your bag, so that you can make a ‘plan B’ in case your ‘plan A’ is sold out (although it’s still worth turning up to sold out events, since tickets might be available at the door). You might also want to carry a notebook (you never know who you might meet and what you might learn!).

2. Plan in advance but don’t overbook

Book your tickets in advance for the events you don’t want to miss to make sure we’ll have a seat ready for you. Remember, you don’t have to splash the cash for every event as many of them are FREE, but make sure you double check whether you need to book or if it’s a drop-in session.  Also, allow some free time so you can try something different and enjoy the general festival feel of the city and campus.

3. Surprise yourself

If you see an event that looks interesting, go for it! Aim for a mix of experiences; pick an event you wouldn’t necessarily go to, you might be pleasantly surprised. Yes, it might not be exactly what you had expected – but hopefully in a really good way! Step away from the traditional programme – sure, all the famous faces are here, you can go and enjoy them, but also have a look at the new events, the theatre events and trips and tours and all the other things that go on in and around the Festival venues.

4. Keep a Festival map 

Give yourself enough time to move between events by checking times and locations to avoid having to rush between events, as some are based on campus and some are taking place in the City centre. The maps on pages 44 and 45 of the programme will give you an idea of where venues are (and Google Maps is always a good friend when it comes to checking travel time).

5. Get a taste of the Festival

Pop into The Flask and Bunsen on Chancellor’s Court to get a flavour of the Festival with the x-change. Part chat-show, part science cabaret, this Festival highlight event (Monday – Thursday, 1:15pm) has all the best bits from the programme; featuring speakers, big issues, fun science facts and demos…  You might even meet some inspiring famous faces too!

6. Meet future famous faces 

Be the first to say “I knew this scientist before he/she was on TV!” – meet the National Science + Engineering  Competition winners 2014, they are under 18-years-old and came up with brilliant projects such as developing an early diagnostic tool for cancer and building an arcade machine from scratch. More established (but still quite young!), the scientists presenting the Award Lectures are recognised, active, early career researchers who are skilled in communicating their research and who are invited to present a special lecture during the Festival. Previous Award Lecturers include Brian CoxRichard Wiseman and Maggie Aderin-Pocock to name a few!

7. Be curious

Ask questions when you are given a chance to, you might regret it if you don’t as it’s a fantastic opportunity to ask a question directly to scientists. No question is too big or too small and our presenters and scientists will be very happy to see that you’re interested in their subject.

8. Have a break

As much as science is food for thought; make sure that you recharge your batteries. Find the food and drink outlets in and around campus and plan lunch and tea breaks in your Festival plan, we wouldn’t want you to lack energy for the last event of the day or night.

9. Science never sleeps

The Festival is not only a daytime festival, so don’t forget to check out the array of exciting evening events.  There is something for everyone, from dancing to a pub quiz, and film screenings to debating; you will find great ‘science with a twist’ events in the programme. You can also follow the latest Festival news – and perhaps even join in the discussions – on the Festival Twitter account @BritishSciFest.