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Introducing Inside Science

Friday 14 June 2013, 14:55

Mohit Bakaya Mohit Bakaya Commissioning Editor

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Adam Rutherford Adam Rutherford

Radio 4 has always sought to bring listeners the best and most engaging science stories possible, with a range of programmes, from news and documentaries to discussion programmes and debates. Central to our science offering for a long time has been Material World, the weekly science strand ably presented by Quentin Cooper for the last 13 years. While we will continue to have a half-hour science strand running 52 weeks a year, we have decided the time is right to make some changes to ensure the programme meets the demands and expectations of the Radio 4 audience into the future. We have been evolving our science offering over the last few years as we move beyond celebration of science to a deeper understanding of it. Among the programmes we have introduced are The Life Scientific, The Digital Human, Inside Health and The Infinite Monkey Cage. Inside Science – the programme replacing Material World – is part of this evolution.

Presented by Dr Adam Rutherford, Inside Science will be an authoritative, in-depth and enjoyable guide to science and the way that it is changing our world. It will keep the audience abreast of important breakthroughs in science, explore in depth some of the news stories that can get oversimplified elsewhere and work through implications of scientific discovery for society at large. It will mark significant developments within the various scientific disciplines and try to help the audience better understand the scientific process. The show will also share the wonder, passion and excitement of science by telling some of the great science stories that are out there. 

Professor Alice Roberts and Dr Lucie Green will share presenting duties with Adam, hosting some programmes later in the year. The presenter team continues Radio 4's commitment, following Brian Cox, Jim Al-Khallili and Mark Porter, to presenters who work inside science and medicine. The new title reflects this, allows the programme to be more easily located online and brings it into line with other science programme titles like Inside Health.

The new programme will be pre-recorded on the day of transmission to give the production team more flexibility in order to get the best guests and experts from the scientific community and present the most important material to listeners. From 4th July, Inside Science will air on Thursdays at 4.30pm and will be repeated at 9pm the same evening.

I would like to thank Quentin for his years of dedication to science on Radio 4 and look forward to working with him on other projects in the future. In the meantime, I would like to welcome Adam, Alice and Lucie on board. I hope you enjoy the new programme.


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  • rate this

    Comment number 1.

    I have been listening to Quentin Cooper and Material World for the last 13 years. Quentin is an excellent presenter and is a tough act to follow. I wish him well in the future. Good luck to the team behind Inside Science. Keep the standards high please.

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    Comment number 2.

    "Quentin is an excellent presenter and is a tough act to follow." Absolutely correct.

    "Radio 4 has always sought to bring listeners the best and most engaging science stories possible, with a range of programmes, from news and documentaries to discussion programmes and debates." Not so correct. Leading Edge was killed off a few years ago and not replaced. It would be far better to add the pre-recorded Inside Science to the live Material World rather than scrap it.

    This is a very disappointing move by Radio 4 which has little enough accessible science on it to begin with, The Infinite Monkey Cage hardly qualifies. And Inside Health does not even pretend to do so.

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    Comment number 3.

    Will there be a chance to be in the audience for this?

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    Comment number 4.

    There is no audience, bar the listening public.

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    Comment number 5.

    Real non trivial science presented in a crystal clear fashion with great enthusiasm by Quentin and his guests, Material World will be greatly missed by many and presumably was a fairly cheap program to produce. While adding other programs to appeal to different demographics is important, removing MW is very short sighted IMHO.

    Despite my disappointment, I wish the presenters of "Inside Science" the very best with their important task. Please don't dumb down the content- education is far more important than mere ratings.

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    Comment number 6.

    Sharing "the wonder, passion and excitement of science by telling some of the great science stories" Material World and Quentin Cooper already did this in an accessible and entertaining way in a live show..
    Meeting "the demands and expectations of the Radio 4 audience" by getting rid of a very popular presenter and programme seems contradictory to say the least.

    While Inside Science sounds like a worthy and interesting programme why does it have to replace Material World? If the BBC has a commitment to broadcasting science programmes why not have both?

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    Comment number 7.

    While I am a huge fan of Adam, Alice,Jim, Brian, Mark and Lucie I can't help feel that this is, yet again, another attempt by a largely uninspired and tactless BBC to 'ditch the old' and run with the fashionable, sexy young faces of popular science.

    On what data did they base their belief that 'the time is right to make some changes to ensure the programme meets the demands and expectations of the Radio 4 audience into the future'. Says who? Certainly not us, the listeners. Every comment so far has said the same this; Quentin does a brilliant job and has done so for 30 years. If there really is a need to 'improve' science output, then why not a complementary show to 'Material World' instead of a replacement? There is little enough science programming on radio as there is and it's not like R4 is trying to beat off competition is it? And, call me a cynic, but the phrase 'to ensure the programme meets the demands and expectations of the Radio 4 audience into the future' just reads as a lily-livered cowardly way of saying 'Quentin isn't young and trendy enough'. Well, guess what? Nor is David Attenborough. Or James Naughtie. Or Bruce Forsyth.

    While I welcome Adam and crew and wish them all the best with Inside Science, I am left with a VERY bad taste in my mouth over the loss of Material World and the shoddy treatment of Quentin Cooper.

    Thanks for the last 13 years, QC. We loved the show.

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    Comment number 8.

    Well said Iain Green in your first post. The Life Scientific doesn't really qualify either, it's a biography programme not a scientific one.

    The main reason I listened to MW was because of Quentin Cooper, I very much doubt I'll listen to its replacement but I will listen to any other program Quentin presents.

    This whole situation smacks very much of Arts educated management not really getting it.

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    Comment number 9.

    Quentin Cooper manages to tackle some pretty complex subject matter, whilst keeping a light and often mischievous touch - hard to pull one to pull off. I hope we will still be able to hear him broadcasting in one form or another.

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    Comment number 10.

    I do not understand why this is an either/or proposition. Quentin Cooper has become synonymous with Material World and Material World means clear, concise authoritative analysis of scientific concepts that a layman can follow without being subject to the patronising dumbing-down so common in the mass media. Quentin Cooper is such a consummate presenter that I only discovered recently that the programme is broadcast live. From the summary above, the remit of the new programme seems remarkably similar to Material World, the key distinguishing feature being that the usual suspects of popular science are being trotted out. The the demands and expectations of this part of the Radio 4 audience were being extremely well met by Material World. I wish the new programme every success but this decision does feel like change for change's sake.

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    Comment number 11.

    A ludicrous mistake to remove Mr Cooper from this slot – and it’s also very rare to find an R4 presenter who possesses a good knowledge and love of working-class music (regular references to Robyn Hitchcock, ISB and Fairport Convention on MW). Mr. C. never pretended to be posh…….so his card was probably marked. I was slightly concerned at the way he treated the girl who dried up during an interview, but there was probably more to this issue. Mr. C. is superb at summing up complex issues when one of the regular academics start to ramble on in annoying V-neck pullover fashion.
    R4 really is going in the wrong direction with science and technology – principally because it always recruits academics who have never been practitioners. PhD + no practical experience = 0. God help us if all science – note R4 never mentions the word ENGINEERING – moves in the direction of the dreadful Monkey Cage which has little to do with science and absolutely nothing to do with engineering.
    Rave on Mr Cooper………liked your acting skills as well [1] :):):)
    [1] http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9JhRKO1457E

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    Comment number 12.

    I echo the comments of all above. A real shame to see both Material World and Quentin as a presenter go. Whilst I've listened to the podcast for many years, it doesn't feel dated at all, rather following recent trends, informative, in-depth and yes, non trivial. R4 doesn't seem overrun with science programs either, although what is left is good and somewhat diverse, they do seem to be scraping to find sufficient examples.

    I will listen to the new program and give it a chance. I hope it will be a good replacement. But I fear more dumbing down...

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    Comment number 13.

    I do hope we'll hear (or see) more of Quentin in the near future, and congratulations to Adam and the other presenters of the new programme.

    One little thing, among many, that I admire about Material World is that each week Quentin personally introduces the podcast, and that introduction is seamlessly edited into the following, originally live, programme. Props to the studio team for that.

    I hope Adam can adopt a similar style.

    I fear, though, that the new programme will succumb to the leaden BBC corporate podcast style, where we hear the same few recorded announcements over and over and over and over and over and over again, preceding and following most podcasts (with precious few exceptions) saying, with a pompous BBC voice, things like "this is a download from the BBC" (yes, I remember downloading it, actually — thank you for your patronising reminder) or "there are dozens more downloads available" (whoever would have guessed that, eh?). :-(

    Am I permitted to mention Nature and The Guardian here? Adam is, of course, more than familiar with the Nature podcast, and he's a regular on the Guardian's science podcast. Both podcasts have a very light post-production style. Please, BBC and responsible editors, listen and learn from these and from your own Material World.

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    Comment number 14.

    Definitely needs to be more serious science coverage on R4 but I will miss the quirky Material World. BBC needs to ensure that popularising science does not become a PR exercise fronted by personalities (not detracting at all from their scientific credentials!) and can we keep off GM, climate change and wind power for a while unless there is anything genuinely new and interesting to hear?

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    Comment number 15.

    Really, REALLY sad to be losing Material World and will be looking out for future programmes featuring Quentin, one of the best science communicators around, but will give the new programme a fair chance and hope it manages to keep up the high standards set.

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    Comment number 16.

    Some suggestions for future Technology/Science programmes:
    1) More multi-discipline science programmes. Osteoarthritis must have invaded many R4 listeners’ lives. Compile a programme featuring the biologist (stem cell treatment), tribologist (development of long lasting hip implants), engineer (analysis of forces on hip, knee etc), orthopaedic surgeon.
    2) A programme devoted to the impending energy crisis within the UK. Explain the infinite busbar principle + three phase power transmission. Explain the conductor arrangement on the transmission line pylons. Perhaps a description of Tesla’s work (Wardenclyffe experiments etc) would interest many listeners?
    On point 2, find a sociologist with an interest in the issue described above. Is the infinite busbar society inevitable? There’s a growing band of small companies manufacturing miniature gas powered CHP systems which are clearly more efficient than a centralised power system. Could this make a useful contribution to future electricity demand?
    3) A retrospective assessment of the late Gerald Leach’s: ‘A low energy strategy for the UK’. Was it just a dream?

    4) The dilemma facing Fusion. Is the Tokamak principle going to survive as a future source for electricity generation? Laser produced Fusion has hit big problems. I keep wondering why there hasn’t there been more coverage of ITER on R4 science programmes? Discuss the potential for a hybrid Fission/Fusion reactor.

    5) More historical (science and engineering) related programmes, describing the path taken in respect of making a great discovery. Specifically, what has been the role of the spouse as a contributor to this discovery. Did Maxwell whisper into his wife’s ear in the old snore box: Darlin’ (Maxwell was Scottish), I’ve just added dD/dt to my second equation……..and guess what? Everyone on the other side of this fence owes their job to the prediction of dD/dt.
    6) Auto and Aircraft technology – terribly neglected topics on R4. I heard Sir William Lyon’s name on R4 the other day. What about a programme tracing the story of the MK10 jag and the alleged plan to install the Edward Turner 4.5 litre V8 that powered the Daimler Majestic Major? Not sure if it’s true, but I read a story that appeared to suggest that Sir William was jealous of the Turner engine and so insisted the XK unit be installed. The kit car mania of the 60’s/70’s would also make an interesting topic: Cox GTM, Mini Jem, Mini Marcos, Marcos 1600, Fairthorpe electron, Rochdale Ford, Ginetta………… Finally, Mr. James May made me smile recently, after getting a cob on when he was accused of copying his idea for a paper plane design out of a Rupert Annual (hee-hee). Mr May even wrote to the R.T. , denying any connection with Nutwood! Mr May works quite well on radio, why not let him present a programme on the design and development of the Triumph Mayflower?
    Some more names that could form the basis of interesting science/technology programmes:
    Harry Webster, Edward Turner, Claus Luthe, Dr. Louis Essen, Prof. Edith Clarke…………………

  • rate this

    Comment number 17.

    While I am quite looking forward to the new show, I have to say the demise of Material World and the absolute management drivel used to sell this to the listeners makes me very sad. R4 needs more science reporting, surely one can fill one whole hour a week, and clearly less commissioning editors and other purveyors of bland management speak.

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    Comment number 18.

    Quentin will be sorely missed indeed. The list of other programmes that the new one will aspire to filled me with dread. I really loved Material World and I thought Quentin was brilliant. Here's hoping the new programme is at least as good!

  • rate this

    Comment number 19.

    Like so many others who've already commented, I'm extremely sad at the prospect of Quentin Cooper's final Material World this afternoon. I do hope that Inside Science does well and all the best to the presenters etc but if the BBC is as committed to science programming, as it claims, then I see no reason why both programmes can't find a place in the schedule.

    Quentin Cooper is an excellent broadcaster who've I've enjoyed listening to for many years and I really value his skill in communicating complicated scientific concepts and themes. As a layperson I love his style of presentation that has never made me felt like I'm being talked down to. The way that lots of different threads are woven together always makes for an fascinating (not to mention puntastic!) Thursday afternoon.

    Reading the release above I'm at a loss to explain what the new programme is going to provide that's better than Material World but in the end that's irrelevant. If the offering is the same then why change it when Material World is so good and has such an engaged following? If the offering is different and provides something new and different then make room for it in the schedule in addition to Material World!

  • Comment number 20.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.


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