Friday 7 December 2012

A manifesto for reform

Today saw the successful completion of the Welsh Geek Manifesto campaign. At midday we delivered 60 copies of Mark Henderson’s book to the National Assembly building in Cardiff Bay. I'm happy to say even the Sun made an appearance (the fireball, not the newspaper).

The Geek Manifesto is an important book because it not only lays out in stark detail the evidence crisis facing British politics - it also shows how the scientific community is an integral part of the solution. It is this call for action and self-reflection that makes the book unique.

From left: Petroc Sumner, Fred Boy, me, Gabi Jiga-Boy, and John Evans

Well, we are acting – and this is just the beginning. In addition to providing one copy of the book for each Assembly member we are also attempting to set up an evidence information service for politicians and civil servants that capitalises on the enormous untapped 'hive mind' of the UK STEM community. I’ll provide updates on this initiative as we proceed. For now I can say that we look forward to continuing our discussions with the Government Office for Science, the Parliamentary Office of Science and Technology, and the National Assembly for Wales.

Together with each copy of the Geek Manifesto we also sent each Assembly member (AM) a personal letter that explains why s/he should read the book, providing some personal context based on the AM’s track record on science and health issues. The full archive of these letters can be downloaded here. I must say that, overall, I was actually rather impressed with the level of engagement on science issues by the Assembly. Almost all AMs had a recent track record of involvement in a STEM subject such as climate change, energy policy, or public health.
One of the 60 letters provided to each Assembly member.

I want to thank all the people who made this campaign possible. First, my gratitude and congratulations to Mark Henderson for penning such an important book at such a key time in British politics. I also want to thank the members of the organising group, including Tom Crick (who conceived the idea for this campaign), John Evans for painstakingly translating each of the 60 letters into Welsh, our intern Laura Smith for conducting the critical research on each AM’s scientific track record, Fred Boy for coordinating media coverage of the delivery event through Swansea University, and Gabi Jiga-Boy, Simon Dymond, and Leah Maizey for their support.

Finally, and most importantly, I want to thank the 60 donors who purchased the books. This is no small gesture in such tough economic times, and I hope the AMs will appreciate both your generosity and your sense of purpose.

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