Talkaoke - Cheltenham Science Festival 2014

Supplementary content information

A debate on the topic of "inspirational leaders", held at the 2014 Cheltenham Science Festival.

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If available, we will provide a transcript of each recording. If there is no transcript and you require one, you can do so by emailing Press Office, your request will be acknowledged within 15 working days.

Mikey Weinkove - Co-founder of The People Speak and chat show host [MW]

Welcome to Cheltenham Town Hall and the Cheltenham Science Festival. Before we start, I'm going to hand the mic over to Atti who is going to give this event a bit of context.

Atti Emecz - Director of Strategy and Business Relationships at EPSRC [AE]

I'm Atti Emecz, I'm the director of strategy and business relationships at the, Engineering and Physical Science Research Council, the EPSRC , and it's a great pleasure to welcome you all here, first of all to the Times Cheltenham Science Festival, but also specifically to this RISE debate on 'Why do we need inspiring leaders?'. EPSRC is sponsoring this event today and I will just explain why. EPSRC funds long-term research and post graduate training, PhDs to a first approximation, and we have £800 million of government money, public money, your money, each year to invest in that way. Why do we do that? Firstly, we are aiming to ensure that the UK maintains its international standing as a research nation and, in that respect, we might not be the biggest in the world, but we punch well above our weight and we are well up there with the best.

But it's not just about that, it is about ensuring that research has impact and that impact might be to do with improving quality of life, it might be about improving the economy, it might be about the environment or other things; the impact comes in a whole series of different ways. Now one of the ways that we do that is by supporting research leaders and developing leaders. In the UK, it is a real pleasure to be able to say, that we have an awful lot of very talented, highly talented, individuals in our research community. Within the panel today, we have some of those researchers and research leaders with us. They are part of what we call our RISE campaign, RISE being Recognising Inspiring Scientists and Engineers. So the panel today will be exploring that question and we can go broad or we can go less. I'll give it over to Mikey now and I think you'll find that many of us are as intrigued about how this Talkaoke will work as you perhaps are in the audience.

[MW]

Before we get into the main debate I just want to introduce Talkaoke as you may not have seen this glowing round table before; it is pretty simple, it's just a table of chat. There is something about the roundness of it and the glowingness that gets people talking, it's that simple. Although, one of the things about Talkaoke is that we want to make the most of all the brains in the room. That includes all of you around the table, not just sitting at the table. So we've got Abby, at the back there with a roving microphone so if you want to say something, just attract her attention and my attention because we want you to get involved in this discussion as well. You've probably got just as useful and meaningful things to say as the people around the table; we are all experts here of our own fields.

[AE]

I just need to say one other thing because some of you in the audience will have noted that on the billing today David Willetts had appeared. Well David has been called away to a European negotiation, but I did want to say that David, in his brief as science minister, has been a great supporter of the science festival here in Cheltenham and he has been to every single one, this is the first one that he has missed, and I know that he really regrets having been called away today. So, that is one of the reasons why I am sat round the table now and I hope that I can do something to make up for that absence.

[MW]

I'm sure you can. What we are going to do now is just introduce the people from round the table and see where this takes us. So, I'm going to start over here. If you tell us your name and why you think you have been invited here and tell us why we need inspiring leaders.

Imran Khan - Chief Executive of the British Science Association [IK]

My name is Imran Khan and I am Chief Executive of the British Science Association and I think that I have been invited here to talk about why science needs a bigger leadership role out there in society.

[MW]

Okay, so it's not just about leadership, science leadership, it's actually about science leaders in society.

[IK]

Exactly. Science doesn't exist in a vacuum, if anything it needs to be less vacuum-like if you know what I mean; it needs to be part of society, part of culture and interact with everything else that's going on in our world.

[MW]

Okay, we will move on.

Liz Ogilvy - Know Innovation [LO]

Hi, I'm Liz Ogilvy, I work for an organisation called Know Innovation and we work with a lot of the RISE leaders, a lot of the academics in British universities and a lot with the EPSRC Sandpits and other academic workshops to enable scientists to come up with some great ideas and I guess that's why I am here.

[MW]

Do you know the answer to the question: 'Why do we need inspiring leaders?'

[LO]

I find it really interesting because we see a lot of leaders in action; some are more or less inspiring than others. I think that are some real lessons that we can learn.

[MW]

Okay, we'll come to some of these things as we go around.

Andrew Sherry - University of Manchester - Director of the Dalton Nuclear Institute [AS]

Hello, I am Andrew Sherry, one of the British academics. I work at the University of Manchester where I direct the Dalton Nuclear Institute.

[MW]

Okay and have you got an opening thing that you'd like to say?

[AS]

Well I think we need inspiring leaders because we need new ideas, we need new people to come into science and we need new ways of doing things out there in the wider world.

Nick Baylis - Psychologist, lecturer and author [NB]

Nick Baylis; I'm a psychologist and I'm interested in how lives go well and in answer to the question 'Do we need inspiring leaders?' I'd say yes, because we don't have any. I came here today because I thought an MP might be here so I could have a go at there being no inspiring MPs for a long time now and it's telling that he's not here - he obviously read my mind on that one. I also think that it's the wrong question to ask.

[MW]

What's the right question?

[NB]

'How do we create inspiring leaders?' rather than do we need any because I don't think we know how to create them.

[MW]

Okay, we will maybe explore that in a bit.

Rodrigo Quian Quiroga - Director of Centre for Systems Neuroscience at the University of Leicester [RQ]

Hi, I'm Rodrigo Quian Quiroga. I'm a professor at the University of Leicester and I had the honour to be selected as one of these inspiring leaders. Basically, the quick answer to the question 'Do we need inspiring leaders?' for me, is yes, not because of me, but because I had inspiring leaders throughout my career and without them I wouldn't be here.

[MW]

Okay, so they brought you to where you are now.

[RQ]

Exactly.

[MW]

And to keep that going we need to keep creating inspiring leaders.

Claire Craig - Assistant to the Chief Scientific Advisor [CC]

I'm Claire Craig. I work for the Government's Chief Scientific Advisor and I'm here because I'm particularly interested in leadership, in bringing advice to government, cutting across all sorts of disciplines, so what is it that leaders do within the science community that provides the advice that the government wants, on timescales that might be hours when there is an emergency like Fukushima, to years to tackle the really wicked problems like obesity or the future of cities.

[MW]

Okay, so there are actually different kinds of speeds of advice. It could be something like you just need to pick up the phone; you need someone on the end of the phone.
Okay, moving on.

Wendy Hall - Dean at the University of Southampton [WH]

Hi, I'm Wendy Hall. I'm here because I'm one of the inspiring leaders, I think? I'm not one of the younger ones, I'm one of the older ones, so I'm not sure where that puts me on the list. I'm a Dean at the moment at the University of Southampton and I manage the website's institute there and I was just looking up on my website, for years I've had a quote from Proverbs, "where there is no vision the people perish" and that is what I have lived my life by. I think that leaders need to have a vision and lead and inspire people to help achieve that vision. Not everyone is capable of being a leader and there are all sorts of different leaders, but inspiration is a huge part of it.

[MW]

We've heard from Atti already so I'm just going to move around over here.

Marianne Ellis - Senior Lecturer at University of Bath [ME]

Hi, I'm Marianne Ellis. I'm a senior lecturer at the University of Bath. I'm a biochemical engineer. I'm here as one of ten EPSRC rising stars, so a potential leader of the future and my answer to the question is yes, absolutely, we need inspiring leaders because for me ultimately they are the people that make you want to go to work in the morning and be there and they are the people that actually really inspire you to go forward with achievements.

[MW]

Who makes you want to go to work in the morning?

[ME]

All sorts of people actually, and not just at my university, but actually I have to mention my previous head of department and my PhD supervisor Professor Julian Chaudhuri, who is now Dean up at Bradford, he is the one who inspired me to go into regenerative medicine and his leadership has just been amazing to me; his positiveness and his optimism has really inspired me.

[MW]

Okay, so now we are at the point where Talkaoke really kicks into gear because we can talk about any and all of these things and if anyone has suggestions from the audience? There's someone over there. What were you going to say?

Audience participant 1 [AP1]

Yes, definitely inspiring leaders, but that is only part of it; inspiring leaders can lead us to disaster if they pick the wrong path so we need a bit of both.

[MW]

Can you give us an example of where a leader has led to disaster?

[AP1]

Well, it's opinions, but an ex-prime minister called Tony Blair was very inspiring to many and everybody wouldn't agree he led us in the right direction, certainly not military.

[MW]

So you felt that he was inspiring, but inspiring doesn't necessarily mean the right direction.
Let's have that mic back.
So, there are a few questions on the table there. Where do we want to go with this? What do we want to talk about?

[IK]

I think that captures one of the things we think about leaders doing which is risk taking; they kind of show the path that is possible to take, that they can then make innovations and sometimes that risk taking is really important.

If I pick two scientific examples; you've got Barry Marshalls - he's the guy that discovered that this bacteria 'helicobacter pylori' causes stomach cancer and stomach ulcers and he did that by swallowing a vial of this bacteria because no one would believe him and so he did an experiment on himself. So, real risk taking there on one hand. On the other hand, you've still got the example of Andrew Wakefield (NMR) where he took the risk of publishing this unverified and unsuitable data, so I think that really captures the same point as perhaps the Tony Blair one; you can go too far with risks, but risk taking is important to leadership.

[MW]

Do we need our leaders to be risk takers? Andrew?

[AS]

Well working in the nuclear industry, or with the nuclear industry, we certainly need inspiring leaders and I'll give you one for me and the risk thing comes up here too. Doctor Mike Weightman from the office of Nuclear Regulations is one of the most inspiring people I've known who's got an independent view on risk of energy generations, specifically nuclear, and an understanding what that risk is and the balance of risk versus benefit and so on is absolutely critical and having a clear view on how to make that balance in a way that is open and transparent is important.

[MW]

Kind of linking that to this idea that Imran brought in that scientists make good leaders full stop. Do you think that scientists understand risk maybe more than the general person?

[AS]

Well, if you ask a statistician I suspect that they would have a particular definition of risk which would be more complete than my own.

[MW]

Are scientists better at taking risks, maybe?

[AS]

Yes, some will, some won't. There is probably a spread of scientists that will take risks and others that won't. I think that we all take risks every day; driving down the motorway from Manchester today was probably the most dangerous thing I've done all week. So, we weigh up the pros and the cons and the benefits and the risks and so on in everyday life.

[CC]

I wanted to link that to something that I remember hearing which is 'good leaders are made by good followers'.

[MW]

Right. Who here is a good follower?

[CC]

We all are! We all are at different times. We are all leaders in some areas and we are followers in others, I would say. We've got about 15,000 scientists and engineers working in government and government agencies. I asked a few of them what they wanted and one of the things that comes out time and time again is good leaders listen to the people around them; that is actually part of what makes them able to take good risks, sensible risks, that they draw out the people in their teams, they make them give their best and that is a really important part of leadership.

[NB]

If I could take the discussion back to the idea of every individual needs to develop the ability to act courageously and we don't teach this in schools. We prioritise teaching science, but I think at the core of being good in science or good in the arts, crafts of whatever, is having personal courage. We spend billions on curing cancer, or at least pretending to, but we don't explore cowardice. I work a great deal with schools and they are just not interested in teaching what I would suspect what they refer to as 'soft skills'.

[MW]

How would you start to teach courage?

[NB]

The study of lifetimes and those people who have behaved courageously, whether in science, arts, war and everything in between, but I am just amazed that it is not addressed in school or indeed anywhere else.

[MW]

Do you think our schools could do, I mean, this is one suggestion, but do you think that's where this idea of leadership should be fostered and grown - it is the schools that are the main development place for leaders?

[NB]

I really don't know, I'm not sure. Perhaps in the family home, at university level, I really haven't got an opinion.

[LO]

Can I just build on that? When we work with academics, when we start an event, there are two things we ask them to do; one of them is to have courage and it's the courage to think differently. It's very easy to think the same and be the same, but it is sometimes very difficult to step out and I think that is what differentiates an inspiring leader; it's someone who has got the courage to step out of the norm. The second thing we ask people to do, and as adults I think it's really interesting, we ask people to be curious. I think as we grow up we actually become less curious and I think that's also a really interesting skill for leadership actually; its curiosity and courage, and this ability to engage.

[MW]

Do you think these things can be taught?

[LO]

I don't think necessarily that they can be taught, I think it's about exposing people and enabling people and I think providing people with an environment that they are comfortable in doing both of those things; I think that they are inherent in all of us.

[MW]

Okay, I'll come to you in a second because there are a couple of people around the table. Hang onto the mic in the meantime. Atti?

[AE]

The point I'd like to make here is we talked about some of the attributes of leadership and inspiring leaders in particular probably, being the risk taking, the courage or whatever, but I think what I'd reflect on is that there is a danger that what we are trying to do is create these people as super-people and I think the idea that Wendy started with, that there may be different forms of leadership, does warrant exploring. We might need inspiring leaders, I'm sure that all of us in the audience and round the table would say yes we do, but there are other forms of leadership as well and there could be thought leadership etc. Some of our greatest scientists, and we need them, aren't likely to be the most inspiring people.

[MW]

Interesting, controversial! Do you want to say?

Audience participator 2 [AP2]

Yes, I'm interested in what you have just been saying and I do think that training is increasingly important. It is a long time since I was at university, but today, talking to students, I am hearing them criticising their teachers because their teachers tend to be very clever guys who are doing very clever research and are quite unable to communicate that information to the students. They are leaders, sort of by definition, but that is what they are paid for, but in fact they are not inspiring anybody and more and more of the students tell me that they are avoiding the lectures and are reading up the stuff online, so we need inspiring leadership and I think it can be trained; train them as teachers.

[MW]

Okay, so along with curiosity and courage we have also got communication. Marianne?

[ME]

I'm actually going to come back to the comment regarding risk and I think something that makes me quite sad actually is how I hear of the reduction in experiments that kids do in schools. They are not allowed to get hands-on experience in their chemistry class and their physics class and their biology class. You hear of kids not being able to go on school trips and have that freedom and ultimately if you don't get exposed to risk when you are younger and the effect of that risk on you if something goes wrong, if it is only a little bit wrong, then actually what we see is a huge knock-on effect with not understanding risk and actually I think if we don't allow children these experiences then we are going to have a problem once they do get into positions of leadership.

[MW]

So, in a sense, what you are saying is that instead of encouraging kids to take risks and encouraging this courage, as Nick was saying, we are actually moving away from that, we are moving into a kind of safer environment.

[RQ]

I don't know if you are familiar with the academic system, but one thing as an academic that we are always doing is to try to get funding and in the research councils, when we submit a grant, there is typically, especially in EPSRC , an item which is 'risk' but it's not just risk, it's 'risk and feasibility'. So, if you are very risky, but what you are proposing is not feasible then it counts for nothing. If you don't take the risk then it also counts for nothing. So I think that a good trade-off is to really go for something that is ground-breaking, that is risky, but at the same time have a very clear plan of how you may want to achieve that; if you don't have this plan then it won't happen. Usually the research councils do something for academics that I think is very healthy; they are regulating it if you are really going for it, but at the same time they are regulating it if you really have a plan to achieve that, because taking a risk without a clear plan is maybe not worth it.

[MW]

So it's not just about taking risks just for the sake of it, it's about the right risk and understanding that risk as well. Can you understand the risk properly? If you are doing research is it possible to understand the risk you are taking?

[RQ]

Well, sometimes when you write a grant you have to put very clearly what are the reasons for the grant potentially failing and what you are going to do about it. So, you really have to think it through because it's not just you that takes a risk and maybe something doesn't work, I have people working on this project. So, the worst I can do is maybe to delay the career of a very bright guy that comes to my lab, wants to do a project and it suddenly doesn't work, so I want to cover every possible aspect to try to make sure as much as I can that he will get something good out of it.

[MW]

Okay, so at least you are thinking about it. There was a point in the audience over there.

Audience Participator 3 [AP3]

I thought I'd try to broaden out this debate because we are here at the science festival. Actually having inspired leaders in science and engineering isn't a problem in this country; you just walk around some of the events here, we do that. However, what we do lack is inspiring leaders at a societal level and I think what's interesting, I am part of a Doctoral Training Partnership with NERC, we've got the EPSRC , the big problem is that scientists and engineers who are trained very logically to weigh up risks, weigh up evidence, don't end up being politicians and the problem that we have here is we have a political class that is dominated, and I've got Russell sitting next to me who's at Oxford so I'd better be careful, by PPE; Philosophy, Politics and Economics dominates our political class. Whereas, if you imagine if we had some of these wonderful engineers and scientists, like the Chinese Government, running the country and saying "let's weigh up the evidence, what is the best?" - wouldn't that be a fantastic way of inspiring the country?

[MW]

Okay, so you think scientists are better leaders than let's say philosophers or economists. You sort of twitched when I said that.

[IK]

I was twitching at something else! I would question whether we definitely want to be more like China. There might be a bit of a middle ground between where we are and where the Chinese are. But I think it's a really interesting point and if we think about one of the things that leaders do, if we are all trying to innovate and we are all trying to come up with new things, one of the things that leaders do is really set the boundaries for innovation, they say "here's a defined problem; here's a defined challenge - I'm going to lead a bunch of people to solve that problem" and I think you're right in saying that one of the things we are quite good at is having leadership in a scientific context to say right, we are going to solve this scientific challenge. What perhaps science in this country is not so good at doing is turning that into broader social action, so we know for instance very clearly, we set the goal through science that climate change is a big issue. I think that science hasn't stepped out of its comfort zone to say we need more of a social impetus and social leadership to tackle the challenge in consulate with other parts of society.

[MW]

So scientists could actually be stepping out of their comfort zone, doing more for leadership on climate change - is that what you are saying?

[IK]

Either scientists or perhaps science and scientists admitting that we need help from other people. We need to have other people coming in on this problem and having other people provide that leadership.

[MW]

Interesting, okay. I'll come to you in a second but over to...

[WH]

Okay, so picking up on a few of those things. I'm someone who has driven forwards a whole new research discipline and its very interdisciplinary and it's really hard to do that, increasingly hard because you have to play safe. You talked about research proposals, but we also have the REF (Research Excellence Framework) in this country that means that we get audited every six or seven years and everyone has to produce their publications in very high quality journals which by definition have been in existence for a long time. It's really hard to say that I'll work in a field where there are no journals because it's so way out that we have to create the journals. I'm okay because I've made it, but it's really hard for the youngsters in the lab to say no, we're going to do this work. There's no journal for you to publish in and increasingly we are driven by metrics, we are driven by spread sheets, we are driven by so many different regulatory authorities within and without the university. It's really hard and you so need leadership to see you through that, because young people starting out in their careers are going to find that really difficult.

Interdisciplinary is something that is really hard to do and I'm going to do a plug for the Longitude Prize here, I don't know if you all saw Horizon two weeks ago? Vote for the challenge that you want to win for the Longitude Prize. I'd suggest you vote for the one I spoke for, but I'm not going to... just vote and get involved in that challenge because I think that this could actually be a very inspiring thing for future research leaders.

[MW]

In a way our system is not really that dynamic to move forward to combine new disciplines. Who is it that is responsible for making it more dynamic? Maybe that is a question?
I'm going to come to you in second, but there's a man in the audience.

Audience Participant 4 [AP4]

I just wanted to go back to this assertion that it's a PPE-dominated landscape and for me, and I am a liberal artist by training, I don't see the scientists getting out there and advocating for what they are doing and inspiring. I went to hear Steve Jones last night, who's the antithesis of that, he's a brilliant communicator and he excites people and inspires people and for all the incredible things that happen in the scientific world that we all take for granted like the light turning on when we come into a room, no one is out there communicating what they are doing, not nearly to the extent necessary and to inspire more people; you go into industry now and you can't get engineers because nobody is inspiring the young people.

[MW]

So, you're saying that it's up to those scientists to actually show a bit more leadership and actually take the initiative to communicate themselves and it's up to them to make it not dominated by philosophers and economists. Okay, I'm going to; Andrew, Rodrigo, Nick.

[AS]

I was just going to respond to that because I think in some areas we are getting better. I think the research councils have done a fantastic job with what is grandly called the Concordat for Public Engagement in Science and Research and the principle is great because the principle is: every research grant that is funded you have to say, when you propose it and you are going for your money, how you will engage the public in that research, which is fantastic.

[MW]

Shouldn't these scientists be doing it off their own backs, taking the initiative, not because it's part of a grant, but actually because they want to communicate?

[AS]

I think some people will do it anyway and some people will want to stay locked away in their laboratory and not come out and talk to anybody about anything at all. So I think that it's an encouragement, it's an encouragement in the right direction to provide training and to get out and do it, but where we don't do it is with the people who work in industry, because of this risk that we talked about at the start. It's too risky, what if I said the wrong thing, what would be the impact on business? What would the impact be on the company? One of the things I am trying to do in my sector is to develop the principles that would say actually the workforce in science and engineering actually have trained and those that are good at it and want to, should be encouraged and facilitated to go out and engage with the public in their work.

[MW]

Okay, Liz I'll come to you. I've got a whole queue of people so I'll just shut up and let you all talk.

[RQ]

So basically I brought this issue of getting funding and I want to clarify something about this. If I want to do something and I don't get funding, I just don't care - I just keep going with what I want to do.

[MW]

What about the people around you?

[RQ]

Well, bad luck. Sometimes you get a grant and sometimes you don't get it and if you don't, then as long as my vice-chancellor can still take me, I will continue doing what I want to do. For me the important thing is that I am waking up every morning and doing exactly what I want to do, not what I am told to do, or not what I am supposed to be doing. There are many metrics and so on as Wendy said that we get judged about, but my way of dealing with it is that I just don't care. I keep doing what I want to do and if I'm passionate about what I do and I really want to go for it, then I end up doing well because I really want to do that. We also have highlighted areas, areas that if you do something specific that is highlighted by the government or the research councils, then you have a better chance of doing well, but if it's not my area then I would convince you that it is a good idea and maybe it would be highlighted in the future, but I won't be driving my research based on the tests we get subjected to.

[MW]

So your research is driven by your passion in a way and your direction that you want to research.

[RQ]

Yes, exactly.

[NB]

Thank you. Somebody told me that Peter Higgs has only published 9 research papers in his entire career. Now, whether or not that is correct or not it reminds me of the impression that I have formed that scientists aren't pursuing science, they are pursuing research papers to forward their careers, because that's the only way that they can pay the bills and keep their children in food and clothes, fish fingers and so forth. I think that science needs to really rethink that whole approach to rewarding scientists, not for research papers, but for what we are hopefully all excited about, which is inspirational and innovative work because the research paper method of evaluating so-called scientists is completely broken.

[MW]

So how would you do it instead, then?

[NB]

I'm sorry, I have no idea.

[LO]

I just wanted to build on the point that Wendy made about interdisciplinary. I think it's really encouraging actually; we are working more and more with wider groups of people. I think that there is a realisation now that a lot of the big challenges, those for the Millennium Prize, will only be solved by interdisciplinary groups and that it cannot just be solved by scientists or engineers alone and that's really important.

I think the other thing we have noticed is an increasing amount of universities engaging with industry and also we are working with a group of clinicians, academic engineers, industry and patients - all inputting into problems and challenges and its very exciting and we have seen a very big change in those people coming all together with different dimensions on a problem.

[MW]

Is the communication there?

[LO]

I think the communication is. I think it's all about language and I think one of the interesting things about perhaps this debate now is that we are all talking in a non-scientific language. I think what's interesting and sometimes, as a facilitator, what we do a lot of is translation because we are not involved in content. We will often say to scientists and engineers that we work with, and people in social science, how would you communicate this to your granny? And actually that is quite a good rule of thumb, it's not patronising because I think it really gets people to think about the impact of their research and that's hugely important.

[MW]

Are there any grandmothers in the audience? Alright - over to Claire.

[CC]

I wanted to go back for the moment to the issue of leadership and some of the big issues going beyond the science to the wider public domain, so climate change and so on. I think that there is a quality that leaders who are really effective have, the best word I can think of at the moment, is an openness or a curiosity. It means that they are able to step outside of their individual disciplines and work with others in a way that Wendy was a big leader in, but it is still quite difficult, you still occasionally get physical scientists being quite rude about social scientists; there are good ones and bad ones of all types, and vice-versa. So it requires leadership to bring those together. The other is to find that point, if you are really going out into the public world and particularly the political world with issues like climate change, so being passionately dispassionate because science is one of the lenses through which the public makes decisions, but its only one, so I think that the real scientific leaders who are effective, they maintain that conviction of the science, but allow that values matter too and if you are taking part in the political arena then you need to work with that too.

[MW]

So, be able to communicate how the science fits with the values. I just want to say that there are a lot of different themes and subjects going round the table at the moment; do we want to talk about the structure of science? Is science structured in a way that encourages innovation? Do we want to talk about the impact of scientists outside of science? Do we want to talk about communication in science? There are a few hands in the audience I will come to you very shortly. Where do we want to go with this?

[IK]

I just really wanted to echo the last point; this idea that in science we are really trained not to think about feelings, not to think about values, but to really focus in on the facts and the statistics, when actually we know that leadership is all about empathy and communication and all of those sorts of softer skills. I think that is a real challenge and another thing that is probably worth picking up on is this idea that yes, things are becoming more interdisciplinary, so it's not just about biology, chemistry and physics, there are a whole lot of things in between now, but it's also becoming much more about really big teams. We've had this idea of the great man of science, like Peter Higgs and Albert Einstein and all those sorts of people, and that model of science, if it ever existed, is really in decline. If you look at the work that has gone on with the God Particle at the Large Hadron Collider in CERN, how many scientists was it? Five thousand? Six thousand? And that's happening more and more so the new centre we are building here in the UK, the CRiCK centre is going to be Europe's largest biomedical research facility; there is going to be hundreds of thousands of scientists working on projects together, so leadership is coming ever more important actually and we need to think outside of the world that we are used to in terms of scientific context and values.

[MW]

For a big project like that, like the large hadron collider, or this giant research centre, do you need a scientist to be the leader of that team, or could somebody who is an expert in leadership be the leader?

[IK]

Well I think it comes back to good leaders need good followers as well and if you are following someone then you need to have trust in that person, you need to trust that knowledge, trust their values, trust their deference.

[MW]

And scientists don't trust non-scientists?

[IK]

I think if they are leading you in a scientific context then it's probably reasonable to think that they need to be a decent scientist as well; they need to have been through what I've gone through in order for me to follow them, so I think that probably is fair.

[MW]

Okay, we've got a question in the audience.

Audience Participator 5 [AP5]

Going back to the beginning when the members of the panel introduced themselves and what they do and some said they present their findings and recommendations to politicians; going further, on the question was risk. I find, to my mind, politicians are so mediocre at the moment, that they are so worried about their own bloody positions, that they are not going to listen to sense and sensibility. The only person, and I'll soil my mouth by using his name, is Nigel Farage who seems to have inspired a large percentage of the population for the wrong reasons. What are the penalties?

[WH]

He is a leader, he is for sure an inspirational leader, whatever you think of him, but there have been lots of good and bad examples of inspiring leaders throughout history, but he is a leader.

[MW]

Okay. Is it about taking risks do you think?

[WH]

Well, I mean for sure he has taken a risk and I do think we've talked about this before on the panel, that it is about taking risks and it is about people that are courageous enough to take risks and other people, if they think they are wrong, need to stand up. It is absolutely about risk taking and in science there is a lot of money involved when you take a risk.

[AP5]

How much do you get denied when you put your invitations to politicians? How frustrating is that?

[MW]

Okay, so there is a lot of money to be lost as well, from not taking risks.

[AE]

Well, Imran is probably the expert on this, but I think that what many of us will see in terms of that political dimension, and this is some of the reason why I think that scientists often aren't so good at making the advocacy that some of our audience members are talking about, but let's be clear, when politicians are making decisions, science evidence is one input to them, it's not the only input to them. That's probably a factor of democracy and I don't think even being an administrator of science, a manager of science, that I would want to see them doing anything other than that, but of course what I would really like the politicians to do is to explain why when the science is pointing one way they don't do something, but I don't think we should ever get to the point where we say because the science points one way it must be this way. I think that's a different issue.

[MW]

Can you give us an example of where you don't feel the science has pointed the right way?

[AE]

The obvious example and one that got into all the papers was when Professor Nutt was talking about the drug policy in the UK and the science was all pointing in a direction, although let us be clear, some scientists would probably dispute where that was going, but let's say the bulk of opinion and certainly that committee was pointing in one direction, but the politicians for other reasons, non-scientific reasons, took a different decision. I think where I would stand is that they should have the ability to do that, but they should be able to explain why when they do do that. But I think the meta-point here, and I'll be very quick on this, is that this whole element of risk, many scientists aren't comfortable with the idea of sound bite and certainty in the way that Nigel Farage might be comfortable with that, and that is some of the communication difficulty that we have, but I think that we just have to remember our audience. When you are talking to journalists, scientists have to be able to simplify and accept that when they are talking there they will be making simplifications and just accept that because otherwise you will always struggle to communicate with that audience.

[MW]

So, in a way, a little bit of sound-bite science.

[ME]

I'd actually just like to link a couple of comments from the audience if that is okay and it's probably going to end up as a question I think, as a potential future leader. So, the comment here about the UKIP leadership and the comment about risk and Labour and Tony Blair, linked me to the comment about PPE students becoming the future leaders; they are groomed from probably before they go to university to be politicians and leaders and I'm just wondering if it's something that we need to be thinking about with our science students, do we need to start grooming them and training them, preparing them for future roles in politics?

[MW]

Okay, so back in a way to this question about schools and education and teaching courage and curiosity and communication. Do we want to go in that direction?

[IK]

So the reason Atti said I might have something to say about the politics issue is because in a previous job I ran something called the Campaign for Science and Engineering and there we really were trying to make the point to politicians that they need to do really controversial things, like invest in science and maths education, use evidence-based policy, increase funding for research and what we found was that you had some MPs and ministers who are very pro-science, the likes of David Willets who couldn't make it here today, and some MPs who are probably not quite so fussed and I won't name them, but the issue was that if you are looking at something like science funding the difference between those two camps is really that the pro-science people are looking at a 10-15 per cent increase in science funding and the people who don't care so much are looking at a five per cent decrease, and actually people like me who are really passionate about science, think that we need a doubling, tripling or quadrupling of science funding. You can't even have that conversation and the reason you can't have that conversation is because those MPs know that they are not going to get emails from their constituents saying why didn't you invest more money in science but why did you invest more money in science? It links into the point we just had in that yes, we could train more scientists to be leaders and that might be one way of changing the political landscape, but I think the longer issue that we have to face up to is having scientific leadership to actually change the values base of our country. You all here in the audience, if you think that science is important and you think that politicians should take science more seriously email your MP, next time there is an election ask them question at the Hustings. That's the way we are going to get change, when they start to think that we see science as part of our values base and I think that there is a scientific leadership role there that we all have to play.

[MW]

So actually it is the general population of the country, the electorate that needs to be more excited about science. We have got a question at the back, a comment at the back.

Rachel Williams - RISE leader [RW]

Yes, I want to make the case that I'm not sure it's quite as bad as everyone thinks because I think a lot of us, I'm an academic and I'm actually one of the RISE leaders as well, and I think that in our department anyway, which is a very cross-disciplinary biomedical engineering area, we actually have all of our PhD students and post-docs are as all STEM ambassadors. You may know about the STEM ambassador system, it's an excellent way in which we get academics to go out into schools, interact with children all the time and our students all go out into schools, but you can only go to one school at a time and they do have to do their PhDs and their post-docs as well, so the number of people you can see is maybe limited at any one time, but it's a huge issue and they love doing it, they get an enormous benefit from going and talking to school children, they learn a lot from it and they really enjoy it and the school children really enjoy it.

[MW]

So, you actually think that that leadership is on its way through and we are going to see it in a few decades time?

[RW]

I think it's there, I think a lot of us in academia are doing this, but we can't go to a school every week because we actually have to do our day job as well, but I think that we are trying. Maybe we need a few more people doing it, but a lot of people are doing it and I don't think we should knock the effort that people are putting in and the fact that these young people really enjoy doing it as well.

[MW]

Okay, so it's not something that they have to do, that's on the form, they are actually in to it and maybe we will see a difference in ten years' time or 15 years' time.

[WH]

I want to link that and what Imran said with something that was said earlier. Yes, this is really important, getting our scientists and engineers to be ambassadors to get people in, but the lead has to come from the funders and I would back Imran.

[MW]

Why does it have to come from the funders?

[WH]

Well, it has to come from the government because you have to make it something that isn't a declining industry. Science and engineering research is a declining industry in the UK, there is less and less money going in every year and the students see that, that's what they feel when they go to a University, that there isn't the passion that says we have to have more scientists and engineers. We are going to have to turn that around as a country, or we will lose out to China, and I'm going to go back to that because when you go to China, they may have a different political and cultural issue, but boy are they churning out the scientists and engineers! We have lost that battle, we have lost it.

[MW]

Are we losing or have we lost?

[WH]

This is the trouble with these PPE politicians, they just don't get it. It's a really sad inevitable decline which is why I am increasingly looking to South-East Asia for where I am going to do my research.

[MW]

Nick, you're a psychologist which begins with 'p'!

[NB]

Thank you. Hopefully this ties in with what we are doing. I'd like to ask the experts around the table and also amongst the audience, what they think of the following idea; that scientists get paid to investigate cures because you can sell people a cure, you can sell the NHS a cure or whatever else, but you are not rewarded to investigate prevention. Let me use two examples please; in cancer, just three per cent of all the money that funds cancer research and so forth is in the prevention thereof and in my field of well-being and teaching young people how to take care of themselves, our PM thought it prudent to invest £1 million last year in investigating the well-being of the UK and you weigh up, that's one million divided into 65 million or whatever, so he thought it was about 50 pence per person. Compare that to the incredible cost of obesity, of depression, of alcoholism and all those things which can come about so easily if our young people and our not so young people don't know how to take care of themselves through psychological, well-being skills and so forth. So my core question is: do you not think that because there is financial gain for the big industries to sell us cures rather than preventions, particularly for instance the field of cancer prevention is exercise, fresh air, sunlight, sleep well, these are the sorts of things that will prevent cancer, no one has a monopoly of those so that's why it only gets three per cent.

[MW]

Okay, interesting. There's a few comments from the audience, let's get those. I will say that we only have 13 minutes left so let's have three comments from the audience and then we will come back to the panel. Over to you.

Audience participator 5 [AP5]

Hello, I'm actually a business psychologist and I've worked with business leaders in 23 countries over ten years and it occurs to me that if you want to do a sound bite like you all have talked about, that you might boil down what a leader does into two things; they set a direction and then they get people to move in that direction. I'm hearing a lot of different frames within which you think leadership works within science; there's the microcosm: we need to lead people in research; and then there's the macrocosm: we need to have an impact on society. I would like to hear from some of the folks up there what they really think that some good leadership within the scientific community could do along those lines. Let's hear some "here's what we'd like to see". From my perspective, the most important things facing us right now are the climate, the population explosion, our use of natural resources and I don't see the answers to those questions coming from the PPE politicians, I see them coming from you folks here.

[MW]

So you want some vision, basically?

[AP5]

I'd like to hear a little fraction.

[MW]

Okay, let's hear some of the other points over here.

Audience participator 6 [AP6]

Hello, just a quick one. For the lady up the top there who was saying about getting people out to schools, why not get the teachers into them so the teachers can be the leaders and the ambassadors to the children and they'll do it on a year by year basis right through. It doesn't work when someone goes out for a couple of days - the children remember it for a couple of days. Get the teachers trained; get them interested in science and engineering, I think that's a good approach. Now, my point is...

[MW]

Oh, I thought that was your point. Oh, you have another point?

[AP6]

No, that was just for that lady there. In my dim and distant past when I was enthusiastic, I did post-grad research and I did product development and I got totally frustrated by all the bureaucracy. Now, the crowd that we have here today, we seem to have lots of three, four, possibly a five letter abbreviation, lots of committees, they all have to have their own agendas because they are all organisations in their own right. So, my question is: if someone like Ken Robinson, I'm sure people have heard of Ken Robinson on Creativity, or, if he was alive, Steve Jobs was here talking to you, what would he say to you? That's what I want to know.

[MW]

Okay, I'm going to turn that around: what do you think Ken Robinson would say?

[AP6]

I think he would say that there is too much teaching of basics, which is what the government wants to do now, going into Maths and English, not enough in creativity, that's not generating rounded people. People are there for statistics and it's there for the government to say that "we've increased this, we've increased this, and we're doing well in Reigate", it's all to get re-elected.

[MW]

Okay, so it's all about the numbers and not enough about creativity. Is that a scientific approach? I don't know, that's just a question. There is another point over here; we'll just get this one as well.

Audience participator 7 [AP7]

It's to follow on from what that chap said. I think there is too much testing of children at school; everybody is trained to pass the exams rather than being to develop themselves to think for themselves and do things for themselves and, of course, there is this health and safety that's coming in that restricts them even further. I think that if they were allowed to be more creative and let the natural things flow then you'd find that people would be able to think more.

[MW]

Okay, so we've got another 'C' on top of the curious, courageous and communicative; we've also got creative. Are our young people creative enough? In a way, ironically, should teaching science be less about numbers and metrics and more about thinking for yourself and more about creativity. And then there's the question about on the vision over there, we mustn't forget that. What is your vision for the future? It's up to you to decide where you want to take this, it's Talkaoke, and so I'm going to go to Claire.

[CC]

I wanted to pick up on the vision thing for a moment. Just to give an example, one of the ways of bringing leading scientists and the people who are going to make decisions together is to have something concrete, tangible; we are working on cities. Cities are really interesting because most of us live in urban areas and we are constantly making decisions now that will have an impact for decades, in terms of planning and so on. This particular project is being led by Alan Wilson who's at UCL and its anthropologists, it's the high tech people, the smart cities, but it's the people that understand how groups live in cities, how communities develop. We are doing work with cities, with city mayors, so it can be done, but it's very intensive and it takes time, you've got to build trust, you've got to build relationships between the disciplines and between the scientists and the citizens. There are some really good examples and I'm saying that it can be done.

[MW]

Okay, it can be done. There is belief there.

[LO]

I just want to pick up on both of those points. I think one of things we need to encourage is a lot more trust between science and society. I think we've also got to encourage a lot more open debate.

[MW]

What do you think would actually gain the trust?

[LO]

I suppose it's a greater understanding. I think the British Media doesn't always support science in the way it could.

[MW]

Do you agree with Marianne, or was it Atti, about this kind of sound bite science?

[LO]

Yeah, I do actually. I think there has been this campaign, 'The Pint of Science' which, I think happened in Bath and there is a lot of public engagement going on, way more than I think people realise. I think there is a lot of time being spent within universities. We are working a lot with early-career researchers about how they should communicate the impact of their research. The EPSRC are doing a lot through their CDTs. I think it's also about creating this really healthy open debate amongst established scientists and early-career scientists and I think that will help a lot of the vision, but I also think that we should never have a vision, I think a vision should change, it needs to adapt, and I think we have all got to be prepared for that.

[IK]

So I do think that clearly scientists need to communicate and do it effectively, but I would disagree with the idea that we should expect the media to be more supportive. I think that if there are any journalists in the room they would say that their job is to critique and criticise and analyse and science shouldn't get a free ride. I think that that is really important because I think if the public saw that science wasn't being criticised, they'd see even more of something that is apart from society and if you don't feel connected to science then why would you trust it? Why would you think that scientists are worth listening to and trusting? I think if someone asks what a good example of this leadership might look like, there is a really recent and current one - it's a really bad name for it but - three-parent babies, where a number of years ago we started to find out that you can cure these really terrible syndromes where babies are born with mitochondria, that aren't functioning properly, research has led us to being able to actually cure this by having babies with genetic material from three different parents and we are now at a point where that legislation is being put to Parliament. We are on the verge of seeing these diseases being really tackled in a meaningful way and that's something that despite the kind of yuck-factor, the Frankenstein factor, all those ethical considerations, scientists are showing leadership in and saying here is a terrible disease, we've figured out a way to solve it, let's all work together and talk about the issues that it raises and we'll provide the leadership. We are not just going to hand it over to the politicians and say, well you deal with it now. Science has been at the forefront of that and I think that's really powerful.

[MW]

Going to Liz's point about trust, do you think that's actually building trust in scientists? Do you think the trust is actually there?

[IK]

I think it is, when you have scientists talking about the research and what it can do and why they want to do it. I think motivation is really important and again that's something that sometimes scientists feel that they shouldn't talk about, they shouldn't talk about their motivations because that maybe makes them seem biased to finding a certain answer, but I think that also makes it more human and you've got to appear human, got to be human in order to be trusted by the public.

[MW]

Well, I think everyone has been very successful in appearing human here today.

[AE]

I think my final thought would be all of those things are important, but let's not try and think that they all have to be in the same person.

[MW]

So, could a leader be a group of people in a way?

[AE]

Well, you made the point earlier on; I think there is an element of that there has to be thought leadership and that is hugely important in science and engineering, absolutely there, but those thought leaders may not be the people who are bringing together the consortium of collaborators who will effectively get the great things done, so I think there is that type of leadership as well. Some people might call that management, but the gentleman over there was talking about getting people behind something and that's what that type of leadership does and that might not be thought leadership.

[MW]

Okay. I'm just going to let you come back quickly.

[ME]

Actually, I just want to agree with Wendy, and I should have said I think it's about having that scientific career first and then recognising that we can get involved at a more senior time.

[MW]

Okay, final thought.

[IK]

Very different thought to leave you on. This idea that why we think we need leaders; I think we've always wanted leaders, we want to know why do the crops grow and why do the rains come, why do they not come and why do we get ill? I think we want people to blame and people to credit and I think that's a double edged sword. I think if scientists want to be there as people that take the credit, we also want people to blame so there's pros and cons of being leaders.

[LO]

I'm just going to come back to the two C's' that I said earlier; I think we should encourage scientists and engineers to be curious and continue to be curious right through their careers and I think we should encourage them to be courageous.

[MW]

Okay, what about creative and communicative?

[LO]

Well, creative, I think all that will come as a cost, and communicative and collaborative.

[MW]

Oh, collaborative - we've got five C's now!

[AS]

I'm going to give you a sixth. One of the things that has really come out to me, and I was just going to summarise it, in another proverb, we started with a proverb, I've got one which is: "the way of fools seems right, but the wise listens to advice" and I think as leaders we need advice which needs consultation.

[NB]

Thank you. When I think of an inspirational leader, I think of JFK because, and I think it's a good rule of thumb, if the people around you are trying to kill you, it's probably because you are being so innovative. I would say to all young people coming into science and engineering and so forth, to do things that really upset the people around you otherwise you are not an innovator, you are an administrator.

[MW]

Okay, so you are only doing well when people are trying to kill you. Well I hope no one is going to try to kill people.

[RQ]

I'm not doing that. There were many things discussed here but, to me, I want to summarise in one word: passion. For me what it is to be inspirational and what I see in a leader is passion and a good leader is someone where you see the passion is contagious. I think I am a good leader if I have passion; I really want to do what I do, every single day, I am dying to do that, and I think I am a good leader if I transmit this to the guys working with me, that they also feel "wow, we really want to be part of this because this is really something amazing". I think basically it all goes down to that and if you talk about interactions with the media and they say well if you are passionate about what you do, typically the media likes that and I think mainly things come together.

[MW]

Okay, can I just ask you very quickly... yeah, let's have a round of applause for that. Can you make passion, or is it something you are born with?

[RQ]

I think that passion counts, I mean, my wife told me one day, she said "you are very lucky because every morning you go to work doing exactly what you want to do" and I think this comes back to something we could learn at school, or we could be encouraged to do at school. I think the key is to just go for what you want to do. I think if kids will do that, if we all do in our professions what we really want to do, then the passion is there.

[CC]

Two things, briefly - we shouldn't talk the UK down; its science-base is still fantastic, it's the only government that has a Chief Scientific Advisor in every department and has had one for 50 years. So we can do more, but we are doing more than most other countries. The other thing is that we all have a role to play, the passion point is absolutely true, but vote for the Longitude Prize, become a STEM ambassador, sign up to the Your Life campaign, get more diversity in science, keep talking to your MPs, keep complaining about them if you want to, but just keep active.

[MW]

Can the government make us more passionate? You don't know, okay, we will leave that one hanging. Thanks very much to everyone, thanks to the EPSRC . We've filmed this so if you want to see it all over again then you can go to the EPSRC website, we'll put a link up there. Thanks very much for coming and I guess we will be sticking around if you have got any questions that you want to ask us. Thanks very much and thanks to Mike on sound and Tom on the management of this. Thank you.