Stuff that occurs to me

All of my 'how to' posts are tagged here. The most popular posts are about blocking and private accounts on Twitter, also the science communication jobs list. None of the science or medical information I might post to this blog should be taken as medical advice (I'm not medically trained).

Think of this blog as a sort of nursery for my half-baked ideas hence 'stuff that occurs to me'.

Contact: @JoBrodie Email: jo DOT brodie AT gmail DOT com

Science in London: The 2018/19 scientific society talks in London blog post

Friday, 30 October 2009

I used to work at Science Line which was lots of fun

In clearing out some old papers I found a one-page guide to the origins of Science Line (also known as Science Net) which is where I had my first job after leaving the laboratory world of lipid biochemistry. It was great - I got to answer a few questions in addition to my main involvement with the Planet Science Whodunit.

Here's the history of Science Line which folded in 2003 due to lack of funding (as far as I'm aware). Thanks to the Wayback Machine, this is what it looked like around the time I was there

The nearest modern equivalent would be the awesome 'I'm a Scientist, Get Me Out of Here' which lets school kids ask science questions of professional scientists and science communicators.

A bit about Science Line
A brief history of Science Line
Science Line is the product of a unique collaboration between the worlds of the public understanding of science and broadcasting. This is a reflection of its dual origins. Part of the impetus for its launch came from the public understanding of science community, in particular, Professor John Durant. He had conducted a survey (published in Nature in 1989) showing that the public were more interested in science, technology and medicine than sport, politics and new films; but at the same time their understanding of science was poor.

Around the same time the Science Museum in London had experimented with science information services linked to some of their exhibitions; and the Dutch had started a government funded service which wasw regularly attracting over 7,000 calls a year.

In the Autumn of 1991 John Durant contacted Dr Laurence Smaje at the Wellcome Centre for Medical Science: would Wellcome be interested in supporting a telephone-based science enquiry service? The answer was "yes, in theory" - but how could it be done in practice?

The breakthrough came at the 1992 British Association Annual Meeting when Derek Jones, the then editor of Channel 4 Support Services, expressed an interest in starting an information service for members of the Channel's Science Club and viewers of its science programmes. The meeting was attended by Dr Smaje, who encouraged Derek Jones to make a formal application to the Wellcome Centre to fund a pilot scheme, to be run by Broadcasting Support Services.

Science Line opened for the first time during a special Channel 4 weekend of dinosaur programmes in July 1993. Nearly 800 viewers rang a team of 20 scientists, experts in fields from ancient DNA to palaeontology, with questions both simple and complex. The potential for using television to stimulate scientific conversation was clearly demonstrated and further opportunities to engage viewers were grasped after programmes on memory, space exploration, air traffic control and gene therapy.

The success of the pilot scheme led to the setting up of a weekday service, open between 1.00pm and 7.00pm and accessible from anywhere in the UK for the price of a local telephone call. This was launched in March 1994, during set7, the first national science, engineering and technology week, by the then junior science minister, David Davis MP.

Science Line continues to be managed by Broadcasting Support Services (BSS), an educational charity specialising in the management of telephone information services and back-up for viewers and listeners.

Science Line now has a freephone number, 0808 800 4000. We are now open Monday-Saturday, 1-7pm and are funded by a grant from NESTA (National Endowment for Science, Technology and the Arts) until 2003. We also carry out commercial contracts such as providing editorial content for websites and anything else that is vaguely sciencey and will bring in some cash.

Science Line 1993-2003.


  1. WOW, this brings back memory's. I used to work at a radio station and we had weekly on air broadcasts with scienceline. It's a huge shame it's no longer around.

    Those were the days :)

  2. Thanks Derek - I was there only for a few months but remember it with huge fondness.


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