There could be only one explanation: the Brian Cox effect

The title is an excerpt from an article in today’s Independent:

In the article, the journalist gives Prof Cox the full credit for the recent resurgence in interest in STEM subjects.

As a scientist who spends a LOT of my spare (and work) time communicating my research to the public, this article REALLY grated on me. There are thousands of science communicators (SciCommers) around the UK and the world who dedicate themselves to bringing science to non-scientists. At NPL alone we have 40+ people registered as Science Ambassadors, all of us spend many hours preparing workshops and talks for schools, teachers-in-training, disinterested grown-ups… everyone. In the last five years, the UK STEMNET programme has swelled – attracting thousands of scientists, engineers, technicians, teachers etc, all keen to make science accessible to people across the country. There are also The Naked Scientists and Sue Nelson who broadcast high-quality science across the radiowaves, and groups like Science Made Simple and The Science Junkies who put on some spectacular shows all year round. And, maybe most importantly, you have the now-omnipresent internet. A fountain of knowledge, now accessed by younger and younger people every day. If you have even a passing interest in science, the internet gives you the tools you need to take that interest to the next level – free access to journals, high-quality science journalism, YouTube videos, and the many new “science demo” sites, all bring science to the masses. The fact that we all have SO MUCH technology in our lives also encourages people to ask more scientific questions daily.

So, no, Steve Connor, the resurgence of STEM subjects is not entirely down to Brian Cox. I’m sure that even Brian himself would dispute the claim!!

Don’t get me wrong, it is fantastic to see so much science on TV, and even better that most people, however little interest they have in science, know who Brian Cox is. And, he’s pretty good at what he does. Although in my opinion, he spends a little too much time “Wonder”-ing and not enough time explaining, but I digress. But, while I’m at it:

“With his floppy hair, youthful smile and telegenic good looks, Professor Brian Cox is living proof that you don’t need to be bald with bad teeth to be a boffin.”

…. Steve, have you ever met any other scientists? Most of us are pretty normal looking, there are some even handsome / beautiful ones (GASP!). It’s a little disappointing that some journalists are still referring to a horribly-outdated stereotype.

Anyway, back to the main thrust of my rant. The simple fact is that the change in attitude to STEM (Science, technology, engineering, maths) subjects is down to the huge efforts put in by many people on a daily basis. Not just one man with a camera crew.

So, fellow SciCommers, keep plugging away. We are making a difference 🙂