Memorandum submitted by Novartis
1. Novartis' contribution to the Science
and Technology Select Committee's Inquiry into the impact of the
1993 White Paper "Realising our potential. A strategy for
science, engineering and technology", focuses on the understanding
of science amongst school children and the public.
2. Novartis is a world leader in healthcare
with core businesses in pharmaceuticals, consumer health, generics,
eye-care and animal health. Novartis is committed to improving
health and well-being through innovative products and services.
As a pioneer of research into the emerging technologies such as
biotechnology and genomics, Novartis is committed to engaging
society in a dialogue concerning benefits and the potential risks
of scientific advancement in an open and frank manner.
3. In particular, we would like to respond
to the question of how education can spread an understanding of
science amongst school children and the public. We believe that
it is the responsibility of scientists, research establishments,
governments and NGOs, as well as companies like Novartis, to engage
the public in a dialogue about scientific innovation. To this
end, Novartis is engaged in a series of activities to enthuse
and engage people about scientific development and innovation.
These are explored in more detail below.
4. Public attitudes towards science and
scientists are formed through a combination of personal contact
and general experience. Those who have seen a life saved by an
organ transplant or a treatment for schizophrenia, marvel at these
achievements of modern science and hope for more. Much of what
science has given to us, and that we benefit from in everyday
life, is taken for granted. However, the disillusionment with
science that has become more apparent over the last two decades
comes from a variety of sources: major incidents at Seveso, Bhopal,
Chernobyl, the greenhouse effect, the hole in the ozone layer
and more local events such as BSE which have made it impossible
for the public to view science in a measured/balanced manner;
at the same time, the public are less able to engage critically
with issues of science, particularly in understanding risks and
benefits, because of insufficient and dated science education.
5. In recent years there have been numerous
projects relating to public attitudes towards science. Most of
the recommendations of the Bodmer report on the public understanding
of science published in 1985 have been successfully implemented.
These have led to newer initiatives and activities undertaken
by COPUS, professional bodies, trade associations, individual
companies and special interest groups. Some, such as SET week,
have been aimed at the public in general, while others such as
Satis (Gatsby Trust) have been more directed towards schools.
Whilst many of these have been considered successful, there is
not much evidence to suggest that they have been effective or
have provided value. The independent evaluation carried out of
SET98 revealed some disappointing aspects. However, these initiatives
have not led to evidence that the public is better able to handle
issues and arguments around science. Neither have they seemed
able to encourage more or better suited young people to enter
higher education in the science fields.
6. Influencing public attitudes towards
science is a long-term commitment. Not only is it important that
there is an appropriate focus for various groups such as teachers,
pupils, students, politicians and civil servants, business leaders
and the general public, but it is important that the input is
of the highest quality.
7. Novartis is involved in a number of initiatives
with schools to promote the understanding of science. For example:
Novartis Webcast: As part of our
commitment to the use of innovative ways of teaching and learning
about science, Novartis is hosting a "Science Webcast"
of two scientific experiments, live over the internet, later on
this year. The webcast will carry out two experiments of relevance
to the A-level curriculum. Scientists will carry out the experiments,
which will be transmitted live over the internet into school classrooms
throughout the country. As far as we can ascertain, this is the
first initiative of its kind in the UK and we hope that the-lesson
will pave the way for similar "remote" learning to be
used in the future.
Salters' Festival of Chemistry: The
Salter's Chemistry Club was established to encourage youngsters
to become involved in chemistry and also help to develop a more
scientifically literate community. The Club's main objective is
to make chemistry more visible, more interesting and attractive
to 11-14 year old pupils by creating a network of Chemistry Clubs
in schools which are linked into local companies and universities.
The UK could see a shortage of high calibre chemists in the next
5-10 years, which would have far-reaching implications for the
future of the science base in the UK. Salters Chemistry Clubs
go some way to tackling this problem. The Festival has proved
to be very popular and this year each school was given a £100
start-up grant and asked to design a set of experiments around
a theme to demonstrate at the Festival. All students taking part
received a certificate that they can add to their National Record
of Achievement. Novartis sponsored this year's regional final
Scientists for a Day: A-level students
put on white coats and protective glasses to spend a day in the
labs at Novartis Horsham Research Centre (NHRC). Chemistry and
biology students from local schools were invited to be "Scientists
for a Day" on 31 March and 1 February as part of the annual
"Young Scientists Days" run in Horsham.
The students did practical work and talked about
the principles of drug research and development.
Julia Hatto, from the NHRC says,
"We've had younger pupils this year as they
have more time to make the right choices should they opt for a
career in science. The experience gives them a unique insight
into the day to day work of a world-leading research centre".
Novartis Community Partnership Day:
Each year, Novartis employees around the world volunteer for community
work. In 1999, in the UK the themes of education and environment
were used. In the educational projects, research scientists put
their skills to use in schools, teaching children about science
and encouraging the next generation of innovators. At the Novartis
Horsham Research Centre, for example, school children were invited
in to explore the world of atoms and molecules and pupils were
given the opportunity to conduct hand-on experiments.
8. Novartis is involved in the running of
a photographic competition via the pages of the Daily Telegraph,
launched on 31 May 2000. The aim is to help develop public interest
in science and its positive influence on our lives through photographs.
9. The competition, supported by the Royal
Society, is open to amateurs, professionals, and scientists, and
the photographs can cover any aspect of science whether it be
biology, medicine, physics, chemistry, technology, engineering
10. Creating Sparks is a unique and ambitious
national festival to be held in South Kensington throughout September
2000. It represents a high profile collaboration of the Sciences
and the Arts and will be led by the British Association for the
Advancement of Science.
11. Novartis is involved in the sponsorship
of Performing Science, which will form part of the festival. Performing
Science will be performed by the Y Touring Theatre Company who
aim to create high quality theatre and drama that highlight current
issues for a teenage (or adult) audience to engage with.
12. Performing Science will be a stimulating
piece and the programme consists of a theatre performance, a discussion
workshop afterwards and an education pack.
30 May 2000