21 young scientists from around the globe are heading to the Times Cheltenham Science Festival for the sixth FameLab International Finals. The competition – organised by the British Council and Cheltenham Festivals - aims to discover charismatic, up-and-coming scientists who inspire people to see the world from a new perspective - in just three minutes. Finalists from across Europe, Asia and Africa will compete to be named as the most exciting, accessible and charismatic science communicator.
Since its birth at the Festival in 2005, FameLab has grown into the world’s leading science communication competition. A partnership with the British Council since 2007 has seen the competition go global with more than 5000 young scientists and engineers participating in more than 20 different countries. This year’s finals will feature the national winners from Austria, Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Egypt, Germany, Greece, Hong Kong, Ireland, Italy, Lithuania, Malta, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Serbia, South Africa, Spain, Switzerland and the UK.
Each contestant will deliver a three-minute presentation on their chosen topic - from the science inside our brains, to the exploration of the stars. Every presentation will be judged according to the golden rule of the 3 Cs: content, clarity and charisma.
Communicating science accessibly and attractively is an ever-growing priority for researchers worldwide. FameLab helps young scientists acquire valuable skills to communicate their work with passion to a non-scientific audience. By doing so, researchers do not merely change the common stereotype of the scientist as “the geek in the white lab coat”, but also justify public funding for their research.
Professor Russell Foster FRS, Chair of The Times Cheltenham Science Festival said “World class science not only excites our thirst for knowledge but underpins economic growth in every nation, and there has never been a more important time to communicate science to all sectors of society across the globe. FameLab provides the ideal crucible for scientists from around the world to learn and forge their ability to communicate science and convey the thrill of undertaking scientific research. I have been profoundly impressed by the atmosphere of good will and cooperation that FameLab generates between researchers from very different nations, cultures and backgrounds. The torch of international science communication burns very bright at FameLab!”
John Worne, Director of Strategy at the British Council and a judge at the FameLab final, added: “The British Council exists to bring people together and science is the embodiment of international collaboration at its very best. You only have to look at institutions like CERN and the UK’s great research universities to find hugely committed people from all over the world working together in pursuit of a greater understanding of life and the universe. But science needs more leaders, policymakers - and the public - understanding its method, discoveries and achievements. We need more people like Brian Cox; scientists who can take complex ideas and make them simple and compelling for us all. Famelab is all about scouring the world for the young scientists who can do this. And the best of the best are coming to Cheltenham to share their passion with the UK.”
FameLab has become so popular around the world that the number of participating countries has more than doubled in the past three years, with even more set to join next year. So this year there will be two semi-finals, both on 6 June, to select the ten contestants who will compete at the grand final on Friday 7 June.
The first semi-final will see the winners from Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Germany, Hong Kong, Lithuania, Portugal, Romania, South Africa and Spain fight it out, whilst the second semi-final will see Austria, Egypt, Greece, Ireland, Italy, Malta, Poland, Serbia, Switzerland and the UK compete for their places in the final.
The competition will be judged by international panels of science communication experts, including:
- Carlos Catalão, Head of Communication of the Pavilion of Knowledge, the largest science centre in Portugal, and Board member of Ciencia Viva, the national agency for scientific culture, Carlos Catalao is a teacher of science communication in masters and PhD courses, with relevant experience in media projects development and assessment
- Nadia El-Awady is a science journalist based in Cairo, Egypt and former President of the World Federation of Science Journalists.
- Robin Ince is an English stand-up comedian, actor and writer. He is best known for presenting the BBC radio show The Infinite Monkey Cage with physicist Brian Cox.
- Marko Kosicek is a research assistant Ruđer Bošković Institute in Zagreb, founder of Society for Out-of-Frame education which organizes Summer School of Science in Croatia and EU Youth on the Move ambassador. He is the first international winner of FameLab (2008).
- Mark Lewney, the Rock Doctor, winner of the first ever FameLab UK competition (2005) and guitar physicist.
- Michael Londesborough is a British scientist working at the Academy of Sciences of the Czech Republic and leads of a research team interested in the chemistry of boron hydrides, their compounds and their uses in microelectronics, photoelectronics and medicine. He is the co-author and presenter of a weekly science program broadcasted on national Czech television called PORT. In 2009 he was awarded the Vojtěch Náprstek Honorary Medal for popularization of science by the Academy of Sciences of the Czech Republic.
- Gill Samuels, CBE – Chair of the Science Museum Advisory Board and formerly Director of Cardiovascular Biology at Pfizer.
- Kathy Sykes, British physicist, academic and broadcaster, Professor of Sciences and Society at the University of Bristol and co-director of The Times Cheltenham Science Festival;
- John Worne, British Council's Director of Strategy, responsible for the organisation’s strategy, governance, brand, overall reputation and top stakeholders. John is a regular media commentator on 'soft power' and the UK's standing in the world.
The judging panel will award first and runner-up prize. The winner will be receiving an HP ENVY x2 PC There will also be an audience vote winner selected by those watching live. Following last year’s success, there will also be a special award – the International Alumni award, voted for Eurovision-style by FameLabbers from around the world.