Who will be 2015’s international face of science?

Wednesday 03 June 2015

Who will be 2015’s international face of science?

  • Twenty-seven science communicators from across the world competing for the 2015 International FameLab title
  • Sandip Kamath is representing Australia in semi-final 1
  • Judges to include Jose Vitor Malheiros, Roberto Trotta, Vivienne Parry and Matt Taylor
  • Azerbaijan, Malaysia, a Vietnam and CERN represented for the first time ever

27 of the best science communicators from around the globe are heading to The Times Cheltenham Science Festival next week for the eighth FameLab International Finals. The prestigious 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.

Each contestant will take part in one of three semi-finals where they will deliver a three-minute presentation on their chosen topic - from the science of kissing, to magnetic fields. Every presentation will be judged according to the golden rule of the 3 Cs: content, clarity and charisma. The winning contestants will then have to deliver a second presentation in the final the following day.

Finalists from across five continents will compete to be named as the most interesting, accessible and charismatic science communicator by a panel of expert judges, in front of a packed audience at the festival and thousands watching live around the world. This year’s finals will feature the national winners from Australia, Azerbaijan, Belgium, CERN (special competition), Cyprus, Croatia, Czech Republic, Egypt, France, Germany, Greece, Hong Kong, Ireland, Italy, Israel, Lithuania, Malaysia, Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Romania, South Africa, South Korea, Spain, Switzerland, UK and Vietnam.

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 7500 young scientists and engineers participating to date in more than 32 different countries.

Sandip Kamath from James Cook University, Townsville will represent Australia in the international competition, having captivated the audience and judges at FameLab Australia Final in Freemantle with his inspiring talk on shellfish allergies. Sandip will be competing in the first Semi-Final on Wednesday, 3 June, at 11.00am.

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, 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. Famelab is about searching for the best young scientists who can take complex ideas and make them simple and compelling for us all. And the best of the best are coming to Cheltenham to share their passion with the UK.”

The competition will be judged by international panels of science communication experts, including:

  • Matt Taylor - British astrophysicist employed by the European Space Agency. He is best known to the public for his involvement in the Rosetta mission’s Philae lander, which was the first spacecraft to land on a comet nucleus.
  • Gill Samuels CBE - Gill Samuels is a physiologist and neuropharmacologist by training, and is the recipient of a number of national awards and honours. Samuels is a trustee of the Science Museum, and was formerly the Chair of the Cheltenham Science Festival. Among many other appointments, Dr. Samuels has previously served as Director of Cardiovascular Biology at Pfizer Inc. and served as its Executive Director of Science Policy for Europe. She served as Chairman of the University Women's Club in London, where currently she serves as Vice Chairman.
  • Tom Thompson OBE - Trustee of the British Council. Tom Thompson is managing editor of The Herald & Times Group publishers, The Herald, Evening Times and Sunday Herald and associated web sites. Thomson also chairs Albagaia Ltd; a diversified environmental technology company
  • Jose Vitor Malheiros – science journalist and science communication consultant, created the first daily science section in the Portuguese media in 1990.
  • Roberto Trotta - Astrophysicist and author of The Edge of the Sky; a short book introducing the latest discoveries and outstanding mysteries in modern cosmology, using only the 1000 most common words in English. STFC Public Engagement Fellow currently developing a public engagement programme called "The Hands-on Universe".
  • Vivienne Parry - A scientist by training, Vivienne hosts medical programmes for Radio 4, writes widely on health, presents films, facilitates many high level conferences and debates and trains young researchers. She also has a part time role as head of engagement at Genomics England which is delivering the 100,000 Genomes Project.
  • Hannah Fry - Lecturer in the Mathematics of Cities at the Centre for Advanced Spatial Analysis at UCL. EPSRC public engagement fellow, taking the joy of maths into theatres, pubs and schools. She also co-presents the BBC worldwide YouTube channel BritLabs (formerly Headsqueeze) and regularly appears on TV and radio in the UK.
  • Katie Steckles - Katie Steckles is a mathematician from Rochdale, who holds a PhD in Mathematics and works as a mathematics speaker at Think Maths.

The number of participating FameLab countries has more than doubled in the past few years. This means that this year there will be three semi-finals, taking place on Wednesday 3 June, to select the contestants that will compete at the grand final on Thursday 4 June at The Times Cheltenham Science Festival. Tickets are available at cheltenhamfestivals.com/science

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.

The semi-finals will be recorded and available to watch on YouTube after the event. The final on Thursday will be live streamed and you can watch the event following this link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XsuIRqAwcP0.

You can also keep up with all of the action by following @FameLabUK and @CheltFestivals, and join the conversation using #FameLab. The audience will be able to vote for their favourite finalist.

Notes to Editor

FameLab® is an initiative of the Cheltenham Festivals in the UK. The British Council has license to deliver the competition in 25 countries overseas. NASA has license to deliver the competition in the USA.

Semi-Final 1: Wednesday 3 June, 11am-12.30pm, Parabola Arts Centre, Cheltenham Ladies’ College, as part of The Times Cheltenham Science Festival, Cheltenham, GL50 1QA

Semi-Final 2: Wednesday 3June, 1.30pm-3pm, Parabola Arts Centre, Cheltenham Ladies’ College, as part of The Times Cheltenham Science Festival, Cheltenham, GL50 1QA

Semi-Final 3: Wednesday 3June, 4pm-5.30pm, Parabola Arts Centre, Cheltenham Ladies’ College, as part of The Times Cheltenham Science Festival, Cheltenham, GL50 1QA

Final: Thursday 4 June, 08.30-10.30pm, EDF Energy Arena, The Times Cheltenham Science Festival, Cheltenham Town Hall & Imperial Gardens, Cheltenham, GL50 1QA 

The first semi-final will see the winners from Italy, Australia, Ireland, South Korea, Portugal, Cyprus, Azerbaijan, Switzerland and South Africa fight it out. The second semi-final will see Belgium, Spain, France, Romania, Hong Kong, the UK, Malaysia, the Netherlands and Lithuania. While the third semi-final will see candidates from Israel, Egypt, Germany, Greece, Poland, Vietnam, the Czech Republic, Cern and Croatia compete for their places in the Final.

The judging panel will award first and two runner-up prizes. There will also be an audience vote winner selected by those watching at the event.

The Times Cheltenham Science Festival – 2-7 June 2015

The Times Cheltenham Science Festival is a six-day celebration of science, engineering and the arts and is produced by Cheltenham Festivals. A rare opportunity for the public to come face-to-face with around 300 of the world's leading scientists and thinkers, the Festival annually issues in excess of 45,000 tickets whilst the free interactive Discover Zone and other free events and exhibitions attracts over 17,000 visitors. The six day Festival promises a mix of serious debate, live experiments and surprising discoveries all based at Cheltenham Town Hall. http://www.cheltenhamfestivals.com/science/

Biographies and photos of this year’s contestants and past international winners available upon request.

Press Contact

Charlotte Beveridge
Communications Manager, British Council
charlotte.beveridge@britishcouncil.org.au

About the British Council

The British Council creates international opportunities for the people of the UK and other countries and builds trust between them worldwide. We are a Royal Charter charity, established as the UK’s international organisation for educational opportunities and cultural relations. Our 7000 staff in over 100 countries work with thousands of professionals and policy makers and millions of young people every year through English, arts, education and society programmes. A quarter of our funding comes from a UK government grant, and we earn the rest from services which customers pay for, education and development contracts we bid for, and from partnerships. For more information, please visit: www.britishcouncil.org. You can also keep in touch with the British Council through http://twitter.com/britishcouncil and http://blog.britishcouncil.org.