British Council has launched a poster campaign aimed at raising public
awareness of British science around the world. The posters have been designed
by Andrzej Krauze, a regular cartoonist for the Guardian, New Statesman,
New York Times and Washington Post. Each poster depicts a recent scientific
breakthrough by British scientists, or an area of science in which Britain
The following text is excerpted from an article which appeared in the UK's Guardian newspaper (Education supplement, 25 May 1999) to accompany the launch of these posters and the British Council campaign.
What do you get when you combine Stephen Hawking, Viagra and Dolly the sheep? It sounds like a bad joke, but the answer nets Britain well in excess of £2,000 million each year. This, according to the DTI, is the value of overseas investment in British science and technology.
The Office of Science and Technology calculates that Britain produces 6 per cent of the world's science, with only 1 per cent of the world's population. It is second only to the US in winning major internationally recognised prizes.
These findings support the view of Britain described in Demos' landmark report 'BritainTM'. Despite the fact that 70 per cent of Japanese computer games are designed within 30 miles of Liverpool, Demos found that British products are seen internationally as 'low tech and bad value', and that fewer than '40 per cent of Fortune 500 companies associate British products with being state-of-the-art'.
The UK is not at a disadvantage when it comes to attracting research partners and funding. UK teams are the first partner of choice for research collaboration for 11 out of the 14 other EU member states. Likewise, the overseas contribution to science and technology in the UK is larger than for any other G7 member, and growing. The problem is in gaining public recognition for this.
The future of British science is intimately connected with international perceptions, not least in the highly competitive, and lucrative, field of international education. In 1996/97 (most recent figures available) over 74,000 international students chose to study science-related subjects in the UK. This amounts to an estimated income in excess of £330 million in tuition fees alone. Add to this the increased likelihood of British-trained scientists choosing to collaborate with scientists based in Britain in the future and the value increases yet further.
The challenge facing British science is not just to keep winning the prizes and breaking new ground - although of course this will remain the bedrock on which any reputation is built - but to ensure that, internationally, British scientific successes are recognised by a wider audience.
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