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FameLab – the search for science stars begins


FameLab – a national competition to discover the new faces of UK science launched today in London (Tuesday 8 November 2005). The competition -dubbed the science world’s equivalent of Pop Idol - is the brainchild of the Cheltenham Science Festival and NESTA (the National Endowment for Science, Technology and the Arts) and supported by Pfizer, The Daily Telegraph, Research Councils UK and Channel 4.

Now in its second year, FameLab encourages scientists to inspire and excite public imagination with a vision of science in the 21st century. At regional auditions in Spring 2006 scientists will have just 3 minutes to prove to a panel of expert judges they’ve got what it takes to bring science alive on TV. Ten finalists selected at the heats will go on to compete in the final at the Cheltenham Science Festival. The overall winner of FameLab 2006 will walk away with £2,000, the opportunity to work with a TV producer and pitch their ideas to Channel 4, and a tour of events.

Speaking at the launch Kathy Sykes, Cheltenham Science Festival Director said she was overwhelmed by the success of FameLab at identifying talented communicators. “There is a huge public appetite for science, driven more by curiosity, rather than fear and suspicion and this has been confirmed by the MORI poll commissioned by NESTA and released today. FameLab addresses the public’s desire for clear, concise and accurate information on science both directly through identifying talent, and indirectly by building bridges between the public, the media and science.“

In 2005 FameLab saw over 300 scientists take part. At the Cheltenham Science Festival final in June, Dr Mark Lewney’s, “electrifying” performance on the physics of music, complete with electric guitar riffs won over the judges and the audience and saw him the first ever winner of FameLab. Mark received £2,000 and has since embarked on a series of events, and media appearances including a project in development with Channel 4. After performing at the launch Mark said of FameLab. “It opened up a whole new world of possibilities for me. I realized I just needed to get off my backside and have a go, from talking to all kinds of audiences, to writing, presenting and collaboration. Nobody was more surprised than me at getting through, let alone winning! But even if I’d not got past the first round I’d try it again in a shot."

At the launch Jonathan Kestenbaum, NESTA’s new CEO said: “FameLab is a great vehicle for enhancing awareness of innovations in science by identifying a crop of fresh, new talented science communicators who can bridge the divide between the science community and the public in dynamic and imaginative ways.”

Although he could not be present at the launch Sir David Attenborough said, “We live in a scientific age and conveying what makes society tick today and likely to do so tomorrow, is of crucial importance.” Sir David was nominated as the public’s most popular science presenter in the MORI poll commissioned by NESTA.

Sallie Robins | alfa
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