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The Convention; Brexit and the Political Crash

15 May 2017

CaSE Director Dr Sarah Main on the importance of science and evidence in this post-Bexit world

It’s not often I pass both Jarvis Cocker and Bob Geldof in the corridor at a work event.

Last week, I went to talk about science and evidence at an event which was primarily focussed on the fortunes of our society post-Brexit. The audience came to hear political leaders, artists and journalists talk about democracy, the economy, a post-truth media and populism. The event, ‘the convention: Brexit and the political crash’ was not party political, but its tone was certainly concerned rather than optimistic.

It is wonderful that science took its place in this wide ranging public forum. I shared a platform with Mike Galsworthy of Scientists for EU and Andrew Steele of Science is Vital, chaired by Henry Porter. Our conversation turned on the values of science that prompted the March for Science and the fortunes of UK science post Brexit. We talked about investment, immigration and collaboration. We discussed the prevalence of scientists in politics and the media and I was pleased to repeat the British Science Association’s assertion that science is ‘not just for scientists’.

Turning to our hopes for the next Parliament, I put forward our challenge to turn the enthusiasm for evidence shown by most MPs into an effective and consistent challenge to Government to show leadership and transparency in their use of evidence in public dialogue. This, I believe, will bolster the development of effective policies for the public good.

Evan Davies talked about the tension of our time being a populist / liberal divide. What I saw of the event certainly appealed to the latter. Jarvis Cocker
gave a gently delivered speech based on the song lyric, ‘we’re all building walls, they should be bridges’. Talking about his childhood in Sheffield, he rejected the idea of a ‘right’ type of education and called for a movement of ‘fun not fear’.

It was a lovely event to be part of and I’m left with plenty to think about. My challenge and hope for future events like this would be for science to be woven through the conversation about society by all speakers, not just confined to its own separate slot.

I hope that CaSE’s efforts to persuade MPs and peers to be champions of evidence in public life will lead to a more widespread interest in
how science can help inform and shape public policy, helping Government decisions work as well as possible for all of us up and down the UK.

You can watch videos of the speakers here.