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Wednesday 24 Sep 2014

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World of wonder – Science on the BBC: introduction

BBC 2010 science showreel

Science on the BBC: BBC unveils range and depth of content, participation and partnerships in celebration of science in 2010

Jana Bennett, Director of BBC Vision, and Tim Davie, Director of BBC Audio & Music, announced today that throughout 2010 the BBC will be celebrating its ongoing commitment to science, bringing together a wealth of TV and radio science programmes, online initiatives, regional roadshows and learning campaigns to inspire a love of science across the nation.

As the Royal Society celebrates its 350th anniversary year, the BBC unveils a range of landmark TV and radio series in the heart of the schedule that will explore contemporary science subjects, whilst also delving into the history of a subject that has shaped the world in which we live.

Alongside a range of high-level programmes that demonstrate how engaging science can be, a number of science-related activities will take place throughout the year:

  • This year, the BBC aims to unearth astronomy content from 40 years of science broadcasting, giving the audience the chance to go on their own online journeys across the Universe.
  • Lab UK, the groundbreaking online experiment site, will again partner with the country's leading science institutions to benefit scientists across the world, with an ambition to release one new experiment per quarter.
  • The BBC aims to engage more people in science than ever before: partnering with leading UK science institutions and regional events, like the Big Bang Fair, to host a series of roadshows, workshops and events that aim to encourage more than 100,000 people to take part in science.
  • In March, Bang Goes The Theory will drive a coffee-powered car from London to Manchester, stopping at schools along the way to promote the importance of science and engineering technology.

Jana Bennett says: "Science is at the heart of everyday life, life itself and the Universe. It's also a deeply human pursuit.

"In 2010, the BBC aims to illuminate, celebrate and evaluate science in the 21st century and how it's shaped our history and culture.

"The BBC is committed to a broad range of quality science content, offering entry points for everybody, from the definitive Story Of Science and the spectacular geology series How Earth Made Us on BBC Two, to hands-on science in Bang Goes The Theory on BBC One and delving into Beautiful Minds on BBC Four.

"On television we have an authoritative and engaging family of expert presenters, from Professor Robert Winston and Professor Brian Cox to Professor Marcus du Sautoy and Michael Mosley, while off screen we continue to inspire audiences with online initiatives, partnerships and opportunities to participate with BBC Science."

Tim Davie says: "The 2010 science season signals our ambition to build an enduring interest in a host of scientific topics amongst our listeners.

"We are unveiling an incredibly wide range of exciting and challenging radio programmes – including the Reith Lectures delivered by Professor Martin Rees, the search for Britain's best amateur scientist in So You Want To Be A Scientist?, and Richard Dawkins' series on The Age Of The Genome – that will complement our regular science output."

The world's best science broadcasting

This year, the BBC's long-lasting commitment to science comes together in a year-long season of programmes that will showcase some of the world's best science storytelling.

From the outer corners of the Universe to the history of the Royal Society, radio and television will celebrate some of the greatest minds and most important ideas in science.

Highlights on BBC Radio 4 include Material World's search for Britain's best amateur scientist in a special project called So You Want To Be A Scientist?

Richard Dawkins asks what we have achieved in the decade since the mapping of the human genome in a four-part series, The Age Of The Genome.

A wide range of voices, including artists, scientists and broadcasters, outline their key moments from the history of science in Moments Of Genius.

Physicist Brian Cox and comedian Robin Ince explore the world of science, while also poking fun at it, in the new series, The Infinite Monkey Cage.

Melvyn Bragg's In Our Time: The Royal Society And British Science explores the origins and impact of The Royal Society and is currently available to listen again online.

Landmark TV series include The Story Of Science (BBC Two), an epic exploration of hundreds of years of scientific developments presented by Michael Mosley; Seven Wonders Of The Solar System (BBC Two), a beautifully-engaging journey led by Professor Brian Cox (BBC Two); and Beautiful Minds (BBC Four) meets science's leading minds to find out the story behind their great discoveries.

And, in Spring, Bang Goes The Theory (BBC One), the popular science show, returns.

New commissions for 2010 include Stefan Gates On E-numbers (BBC Two). Stefan delves into the secretive and misunderstood world of E-numbers to discover if these most-feared ingredients deserve all their bad press, or if they might actually be good for us.

In Robert Winston's Top Ten Advances (BBC One), one of Britain's best-known scientists identifies his top ten scientific advances of the last 50 years and explains why these – from the microchip to the pill – have changed the face of the world.

Continuing BBC One's reinvigoration of popular science on the channel, new commissions for 2011 include Human, a new landmark series that will journey through the history of our bodies. Charting the course of our biological development, the epic three-part series will take on one of the world's most complicated beings: us.

Brian Cox will be back on BBC screens as he looks further afield in Universal (BBC Two), an exploration of our entire Universe.

New commissions on Radio 4 include Professor Marcus du Sautoy's ten-part series, A Brief History Of Mathematics, and an ambitious 40-part series, Saving Species, which explores the issues facing the survival of some of the world's most common and rarest animals and plants and their habitats.

In addition, the Reith Lectures and the Dimbleby Lectures will be dedicated to matters of science and health.

In the Royal Society's 350th anniversary year, Professor Martin Rees, President of the Royal Society, will give this year's Reith Lectures (Radio 4), exploring the latest issues facing scientists today.

Sir Terry Pratchett, the well-loved UK author, will explore how modern society, confronted with an increasingly older population, will need to redefine how it deals with death, in the annual Dimbleby Lecture.

Bringing yesterday's science stories into the new millennium and inspiring the nation online

The science archives stretch back across the history of the BBC. Charting the course of science's development over the last century, the archives offer a fascinating glimpse into the changing face of science, with clips from Tomorrow's World, Horizon, QED and Sky At Night through the years.

To coincide with the transmission on BBC Two of landmark series, Seven Wonders Of The Solar System, BBC Online aims to begin opening up the BBC's astronomy archives, charting great moments from our astronomical past.

Today sees the revamp of the BBC science online presence. For more information on science across the BBC, visit

Across the BBC, programme websites – such as Bang Goes The Theory – are offering family and parents experiments and tests that they can try at home.

Lab UK is an innovative new website from the BBC where members of the public can participate in groundbreaking scientific experiments online.

Launched in late 2009, it is a unique collaboration, bringing together the combined intelligence of hundreds of thousands of people with leading scientists to push back the boundaries of human knowledge. In return, participants receive fascinating scientific insights into themselves.

Lab UK has several major experiments and surveys lined up for the year ahead, including what is hoped to be the biggest ever study of human behaviour on the web, designed in conjunction with University College London and Stanford University in the USA.

The site will also be publishing the results from its two major 2009 studies, Brain Test Britain and the Big Personality Test.

The Brain Test Britain survey is designed to answer the question: does brain training actually work? The Big Personality Test is intended to determine whether personality shapes your life or life shapes your personality?

The Big Personality Test has already been taken by more than 200,000 people, making it one of the largest online experiments ever conducted. For more information, visit,

Partnering with the science community

From the Royal Society to the Wellcome Trust, partnerships are central to creating science television, radio and multiplatform content that takes audiences to the heart of science stories that matter.

Just as science is an intrinsically collaborative field with huge teams piecing together facts and insights, sharing their successes and failures in the pursuit of knowledge, BBC science works closely with scientific institutions, schools and universities, and even everyday amateur scientists, to bring science to life.

Kick-starting the year and in an important partnership with the Big Bang Fair (a network of 70 science and engineering organisations from around the county), Bang Goes The Theory presenter Jem Stansfield will be driving a car powered by coffee beans from London to Manchester, stopping at schools up and down the country to promote the importance of science and engineering technology.

The alternatively-powered road trip will cross the finishing line at the Big Bang Fair in Manchester, the country's leading science fair for schoolchildren in the UK.

BBC Learning will also be at the festival with the Bang Goes The Theory roadshow along with BBC 21cc and School News Report.

Getting audiences hands on with science

Moving beyond broadcasting, BBC Learning will continue to play an important role in actively engaging the nation in science, inspiring people to get hands on.

Following the attendance of more than 65,000 people at the Bang Goes The Theory roadshows last year, the team will once again be taking the Bang Goes The Theory roadshow, visiting up to ten cities across the UK, including the Big Bang Fair in Manchester, the Edinburgh Science Festival in April and the Royal Society's See Further Festival on London's South Bank in June as a celebration of their 350th anniversary.

CBBC's Space Hoppers and BBC Learning will also be teaming up with the Reading Agency with a space-themed Summer Reading Challenge that hopes to improve thousands of children's confidence and enjoyment in reading.

The outreach events will be accompanied by online demos to try at home, exclusive video content, the chance to Ask Yan your science questions and links to further information, giving everyone the opportunity to put science to the test. For more information, visit

Notes to Editors

Lab UK – in 2009, more than 200,000 people participated in an experiment on Lab UK, a groundbreaking online site which brings scientists and the BBC together to carry out mass-participatory, scientifically-rigorous experiments that generate important data that would be impossible to gather without a sample size of thousands. It's a unique collaboration that brings together the power of the BBC audience and the scientific institutions that need them.

The Big Bang Fair is a free, annual event Spearheaded by Sir Anthony Cleaver, Chair of ETB, and Sir Tom McKillop, President of the Science Council. Led by the Engineering and Technology Board, The Big Bang is developed in partnership with more than 70 organisations from business and industry, government and the science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) community – with support from across the political spectrum. Featuring the National Science and Engineering Competition, the fair aims to celebrate the achievement and excellence of young people through the competition, while educating and inspiring young people not yet engaged about STEM in their future careers.


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