Where's the science at Cultural Olympiad, asks Lord Winston


Kate Youde
Friday 29 June 2012 12:28

A leading scientist has hit out at the Cultural Olympiad, saying organisers should "hang their heads in shame" at the lack of science in the four-year celebration.

The fertility expert Lord Winston said it was "shocking" that science seemed to have been "largely neglected". "I think it's shameful," said the IVF pioneer. "If you're having a Cultural Olympiad, not to see science as part of that culture is something which is incredibly backward."

More than 18 million people have taken part in or attended around 9,000 performances and more than 8,000 workshops in the Olympiad since 2008. Its finale, the London 2012 Festival, launching on 21 June, features 12,000 performances and events. A spokesman for the London Organising Committee of the Olympic and Paralympic Games said the Olympiad and festival celebrated the "huge range, quality and accessibility of the UK's world-class culture".

"Science is an important part of this, with leading scientists and artists coming together in innovative projects that explore astrology, climate change, biodiversity, marine biology, Dorset's Jurassic coastline, the development of transportation, people's emotional responses to major events and the role of natural phenomena in inspiring scientists," he said.

But Lord Winston dismissed the spokesman's list of science-focused projects as "derisory". He claimed Universe of Sound, an interactive installation allowing visitors to the Science Museum to step inside a virtual Philharmonia Orchestra performing Holst's The Planets and explore themes of astronomy, was "not science". "That's not to pan it all," he said, "but however you look at it, the few events that are going on are... really very much on the peripheral edge of science as a culture."

The peer is speaking on the cultural value of science at Cheltenham Science Festival on Friday. He will argue science is, and should be seen as, a cultural pursuit because it is as much part of our creativity as painting, writing, music and architecture.

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