Donna Speed, Esther McVey, Major Tim Peake and others sign open letter to the government

Published by Richard Yarrick-Holmes on October 11th 2020, 12:12pm

Donna Speed, the CEO of We The Curious, the Bristol-based educational charity and interactive venue, has signed an open letter to the prime minister, the chancellor of the exchequer and the business secretary. 

Speed is joined by a host of leading scientists, academics, MPs and mayors, as well as the owners, trustees and chairmen of science businesses across the country. Notable signatories include the astronaut Major Tim Peake, former work and pensions secretary Esther McVey and Nobel Prize winners Sir Tim Hunt, Sir Venki Ramakrishnan, Sir Richard Roberts and Sir Martin Evans.

The letter, which can be read in full below, urges the government to protect the nation's science and discovery centres which, in normal times, are used by over eight million children and adults every single year. 

We The Curious, whose physical premises have been shut since the end of March, is planning to open next month with 'Project What If'

The open letter

Dear Sirs,

The future of the UK’s world-class network of Science and Discovery Centres is at imminent risk and we are facing the loss of inclusive and accessible science learning for millions of children and adults nationally. This is at a time when economic growth through science and innovation is a key national priority and when meaningful public engagement with STEM has never been more important.

For over 20 years our nation’s regional Science and Discovery Centres have played a crucial role in the whole country’s STEM success, delivering inspirational science learning to children and schools, and working in partnership with local communities. Outside London, Science and Discovery Centres in Newcastle, Merseyside, Yorkshire, Leicester, Belfast, Glasgow, Wales and other regions inspire over eight million schoolchildren and adults every year.

If the UK is to achieve the impressive ambitions outlined in our government’s industrial strategy, and develop future leaders of the global scientific and R&D communities, we need to continue to inspire young people across our country to become the STEM innovators and entrepreneurs of tomorrow.

Science and Discovery Centres excel at delivering this inspiration. They run science programmes covering everything from spaceports to climate change, providing access to the world of STEM for children and families. They are the meeting place between scientists, industry, and the public, and work with Research Councils, Learned Societies, the UK Space Agency, universities and business to bring the latest brilliant science to millions of people.

Before COVID-19, the UK’s Science and Discovery Centres were all successful, entrepreneurial, lean independent charities. When we closed our doors in March, most of us saw our income instantly cut off. As things stand today, 96% of Science and Discovery Centres say they cannot cover costs when they reopen as their capacities are reduced by up to 75% to enable social distancing.

We, like so many UK businesses, have benefited from the government's valued job retention scheme and reduced VAT. Many Science Centres have made significant staff redundancies and taken out loans. However, Science Centres are also charities, with science and environmental education and public engagement missions. Surely we want to protect this precious national asset to continue to engage young people with science for years to come, contributing to the future success of the UK.

It was deeply disappointing to learn that Science and Discovery Centres had been largely excluded from the remarkable government support being made available to other cultural organisations in similar dire straits. Science and Discovery Centres work to place science at the heart of our culture in the UK, and yet were largely excluded from the arts, heritage and culture rescue package of £1.57 billion.

We know that our network makes a big impact. We know that we are at the forefront of supporting STEM learning. We know that we bring value, opportunity and enrichment to every region of the UK and that together we introduce millions of children to science each year.

What we do not know is why you, our government, would allow this valuable and viable national STEM asset to fall through the cracks, putting this network, and all it delivers, in such jeopardy. Despite our national Science Centres For Our Future campaign, the 190+ letters written to MPs, and our repeated representations to BEIS and DCMS, our message still appears not to have been heard.

This is why we, as CEOs, Chairs, Trustees, eminent Scientists, science businesses, Mayors, MPs and University Vice Chancellors are writing to implore you to listen in our time of need, to invest £25 million as an Emergency Resilience Fund to help UK Science and Discovery Centres weather this pandemic and continue to provide the backbone of exploratory science education across the country.

Yours sincerely,

Dr Penny Fidler

Chair of Trustees
UK Association for Science and Discovery Centres CEO Winchester Science Centre

Ben Ward

CEO
UK Association for Science and Discovery Centres

Additional signatories

Leading Scientists and Academics

Sir Venki Ramakrishnan FRS PRS, Nobel Prize winner, President of The Royal Society

Dr Richard Henderson CH FRS FMedSci HonFRSC, Nobel Prize Winner, MRC Laboratory of Molecular Biology, Cambridge

Sir Tim Hunt FRS FMedSci FRSE MAE, Nobel Prize winner, Emeritus Scientist, The Francis Crick Institute 

Professor Tomas LIndahl FRS FMedSci, Nobel Prize winner, Emeritus Scientist, The Francis Crick Institute 

Sir Paul Nurse FRS FMedSci HonFREng HonFBA MAE, Nobel Prize winner, Director of The Francis Crick Institute

Sir Richard Roberts FRS, Nobel Prize winner, Chief Scientific Officer at New England Biolabs

Professor Sir Martin Evans FRS FMedSci, Nobel Prize winner, Emeritus Professor, Cardiff University

Sir Gregory Winter CBE FRS FMedSci, Nobel Prize winner, Emeritus Professor, MRC Laboratory of Molecular Biology, Cambridge

Professor Lord Martin Rees OM FRS FREng FMedSci FRAS, Astronomer Royal, Fellow of Trinity College andEmeritus Professor at University of Cambridge

Professor Dame Athene Donald DBE FRS, Professor of Experimental Physics and Master of Churchill College, University of Cambridge

Helen Sharman CMG, OBE, HonFRSC, British Astronaut

Major Tim Peake CMG, Astronaut

Professor Brian Cox OBE FRS, The Royal Society Professor for Public Engagement in Science and

Professor of Particle Physics at University of Manchester

Professor Alice Roberts, Patron of ASDC, Professor of Public Engagement with Science at University of Birmingham

Professor Lord Robert Winston FMedSci FRSA FRCP FRCOG FREng, Professor of Science & Society and Emeritus Professor Fertility Studies at Imperial College London

Professor Jim Al-Khalili OBE FRS, Distinguished Chair, Professor of Physics, Professor of Public Engagement in Science and Centre Director at University of Surrey

Professor Graham Baldwin, Vice-Chancellor, University of Central Lancashire

Professor Paul Bartholomew, Vice-Chancellor, Ulster University

Dame Janet Beer DBE, Vice-Chancellor, University of Liverpool

Professor Sir John Burn FRCP FRCPE FRCPCH FRCOG FMedSci, Chair, Newcastle upon Tyne Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust

Dr John Cater CBE DL, Vice-Chancellor, Edgehill University

Dr David Cleevely CBE FREng FIET, Member of the CSaP Advisory Council, Chairman, Raspberry Pi

Dr Helen Czerski, Research Fellow University College London

Professor Chris Day, Vice-Chancellor Newcastle University

Professor Carlos Frenk CBE FRS, Ogden Professor of Fundamental Physics Institute for Computational Cosmology Durham University

Professor Gaoqing Max Lu AO DL FREng FAA FTSE FIChemE FRSC FCAS FNAI, President and Vice-Chancellor University of Surrey

Professor Dame Anne Glover PRSE FRS, Special Advisor to the Principal at the University of Strathclyde

Professor Ian Greer, President and Vice-Chancellor Queen’s University Belfast

Professor Paul Hardaker FInstP FRMetS CMet, CEO Institute of Physics

Professor Maria Hinfelaar, Vice-Chancellor and Chief Executive Wrexham Glyndwr 

University Professor Karen Holford CBE, Deputy Vice-Chancellor Cardiff University & Chair of the Royal Academy of Engineering Research Committee

Professor Julie Lydon OBE, Vice-Chancellor and Chief Executive University of South Wales Professor Paul Anthony Madden FRS FRSE, Professor of Physical Chemistry and Provost of Queen’s College University of Oxford

Dr Robert Massey, Deputy Executive Director Royal Astronomical Society

Dr Sarah Owenson, Head of Student Programmes, Dept of Bioengineering, Imperial College

Professor David Phillips CBE FRS FRSC, Emeritus Professor of Chemistry Imperial College

Dr Anna Ploszajski, Materials Scientist, Engineer & Science Communicator

Professor Sir Martyn Poliakoff CBE FRS FR Eng FIChemE FRSC, Professor of Chemistry University of Nottingham

Professor Michael Reiss, Professor of Science Education UCL Institute of Education

Professor Graham Richards CBE FRS, Chairman and Founder Oxford Drug Design Ltd 

Professor Eunice Simmons, Vice-Chancellor, Chester University

Sir Eric Brian Smith DSc FRSC FLSW, Chemist and former Vice-Chancellor Cardiff University

 Professor Iain Stewart MBE FRSE, Director Sustainable Earth Institute, University of Plymouth; President of the RSGS; UNESCO Chair in Geoscience and Society and BBC presenter

Dr Kathy Sykes OBE, Founding Director Cheltenham Science Festival and Famelab

Professor Nalin Thakkar BDS FRCPath, Vice-President for Social Responsibility and Professor of Molecular Pathology University of Manchester

Professor Tom Welton OBE FRSC FCGI, President Royal Society of Chemistry and Professor of Sustainable Chemistry, Imperial College London

Professor Steve West CBE, Vice-Chancellor, President and Chief Executive Officer University of the West of England

Lady Audrey Wood OBE, Founder Oxford Instruments

Sir Martin Francis Wood CBE FRS HonFREng, Founder Oxford Instruments

Science Businesses and Trusts 

Philomena Gibbons, Director of Culture and Society, Wellcome Trust Mottie Kessler MBE, Chairman and CEO, 2M Holdings

Dr Stephen Barr, President and Managing Director, Almac Sciences Iain Percy OBE, CEO, Artemis Technologies

Dr Geoff Mackey, Director of Corporate Affairs and Sustainability, BASF plc

Richard Carter MBA, Managing Director, BASF UK and Ireland and Chairman of the NW Business Leadership Team

Richard Bonner, President, Bristol Chambers of Commerce & Initiative, Business West

Andrew Kelly, Director, Bristol Festival of Ideas

Tom Bowtell, CEO, British Coatings Federation

Bryan Davies, Chairman, Castle Chemicals Ltd

Peter Newport, CEO, Chemical Business Association

Steve Elliott, CEO, Chemical Industries Association

Joanna Woolf, Chair, Cogent Skills

Dr Tony Bastock, OBE FRSC, Former Chairman, Contract Chemicals Ltd, Vice President Cefic and President CIA

John Hirst, Chief Executive, Destination Bristol

Julian Roberts, Head of Marketing, ESET Internet Security

Malcolm Skingle, Director Academic Liaison, GSK

Steve Bagshaw, Chair, Industrial Biotechnology Leadership Forum 

Tom Crotty, Group Director, Corporate Affairs, Ineos plc

Tom Gray, Chief Technology Officer, Kainos

Martin Rolfe, CEO National Air Traffic Services

Kieran McCorry, National Technology Officer, Microsoft Ireland

Dr Jonathan Aylen, President, Newcomen Society

Paul Adams, Marketing Director, NOKIA Europe

Cormac Whelan, CEO, NOKIA UK & Ireland

Clare Harvey, CEO, Ogden Trust

Ian Meadows OBE, Chairman, R S Clare and Co Ltd

Peter Davidson, Executive Director, Tank Storage Association

Harry Swann, Chair, The Centre for Industry Education Collaboration 

Savita Willmott, Chief Executive, Bristol Natural History Consortium 

Stephen Marcos Jones, CEO, UK Petroleum Industry Association 

Sharon Davies, Chief Executive, Young Enterprise

Mayors and MPs

Mayor Tim Bowles, Mayor, West of England

Darren Jones, Labour MP for, Bristol North West, Chair of the House of Commons Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy Committee

Justin Madders, Shadow Health Secretary, Labour MP for Ellesmere Port & Neston

Rt Hon Esther McVey, Conservative MP for Tatton

Stephen Metcalfe, Conservative MP for South Basildon & East Thurrock

Mayor Steve Rotheram, Metro Mayor, Liverpool City Regions

Derek Twigg, Labour MP for Halton

Craig Whittaker, Conservative MP for Calder Valley, HM Lord Commissioner to The Treasury

UK Science and Discovery Centre and Museum CEOs, Chairs and Trustees

Bryan Snelling, Chief Executive, Aberdeen Science Centre, Aberdeen

Helen Slaski, CEO, Cambridge Science Centre, Cambridge

Sir Hugo Brunner KCVO KStJ HonLL.D JP, Patron, Catalyst Science Discovery Centre and Museum Trust Ltd, Merseyside

Peter Gossage, Patron, Catalyst Science Discovery Centre and Museum Trust Ltd, Merseyside 

Dr Diana Leitch MBE FRSC, Chair of Trustees, Catalyst Science Discovery Centre & Museum, Merseyside

Martin Pearson, CEO, Catalyst Science Discovery Centre & Museum, Merseyside 

Professor Frances Balkwill OBE, Director, Centre of the Cell, Whitechapel, London 

Dave Watson, Director, Cheltenham Science Group, Cheltenham

Dr Isabel Bruce OBE, Chief Executive, Dundee Science Centre, Dundee

John Simpson, CEO, Dynamic Earth, Edinburgh

Professor Sir Pete Downes OBE, Chair, Dynamic Earth, Edinburgh

Emma Alesworth, Executive Director, Eco Attractions Group,

Leigh-Anne Stradeski, Chief Executive, Eureka! Children's Museum, Halifax

Peter Smart, Chair, Eureka! Children's Museum, Halifax

Rosie Waldron, Head of Public Engagement, Francis Crick Institute, London

Dr Stephen Breslin, CEO, Glasgow Science Centre, Glasgow

Linda Conlon, MBE, CEO, International Centre for Life, Newcastle

Fiona Cruickshank OBE, Chair, International Centre for Life, Newcastle

Catherine Johns, CEO, Kielder Observatory, Northumberland

Jo Marsden, Director, Lakeland Wildlife Oasis, Cumbria

Kevin Tomlinson, CEO, MAGNA, Sheffield

Kath Cockshaw, Executive Director, Marks Hall Estate, Essex

Jenny Layfield, CEO, National Coal Mining Museum for England, Yorkshire

Rebecca Walton, Learning Manager, National Coal Mining Museum for England, Yorkshire 

Laura Pye, CEO, National Museums Liverpool, Liverpool

Chas Bishop, Chief Executive, National Space Centre, Leicester

Professor Sir Martin Sweeting, Chair, National Space Centre, Leicester

Professor Paul Smith, Director, Oxford University Museum of Natural History, Oxford

Jo Artherton, Marketing & PR Manager, Pensthorpe Natural Park, Norfolk

Julia Twomlow, Creative Director and CEO, PK Porthcurno Museum of Global Communications, Cornwall

Clairette Arram, Governance and Risk Manager, Royal Institution, London


Helen Jones, Director of Global Engagement and Strategy, The Science Museum Group (Science Museum, London; Science and Industry Museum, Manchester; National Science and Media Museum, Bradford; National Railway Museum, York; Locomotion, Shildon) 

Susan Davies, CEO, Scottish Seabird Centre, East Lothian

Caroline Pankhurst, Manager, South London Botanical Institute, South London Lesley Kirkpatrick, CEO, Techniquest, Cardiff

Stephen Bowden, Chair, Techniquest, Cardiff


Karl Hansen, Executive Director, The Living Rainforest (part of the Trust for Sustainable Living), Newbury

Dave Poulton, General Manager, The Look Out Discovery Centre, Bracknell

Steve Pizzey, CEO, The Observatory Science Centre, East Sussex

Steve Burgess, CEO, The Oxford Trust & Science Oxford, Oxford

Toby Watley, Director of Collections, Thinktank Birmingham Science Museum (part of Birmingham Museums Trust), Birmingham

Adrian Doyle, Director, W5 Science and Discovery Centre, Belfast

Donna Speed, CEO, We The Curious, Bristol

Chris Sims, Chair, We The Curious, Bristol

Dr Kathreena Kurian, Trustee, We The Curious, Bristol

Professor Julian Rayner, Director, Wellcome Genome Campus Connecting Science, Cambridgeshire 

Professor Sir Mike Stratton FRS FMedSci FRCPath, Director, Wellcome Sanger Institute, Cambridgeshire

Dr Toby King, Chair, Winchester Science Centre, Winchester

Scot Owen, CEO, Xplore! Science Discovery Centre, Wrexham, North Wales 

Lynda Powell, Chair, Xplore! Science Discovery Centre, Wrexham, North Wales

Share this article


About The Leaders Council

The Leaders Council of Great Britain and Northern Ireland is a network of the most influential figures from across the country. Through detailed case studies, news coverage, podcasts and leadership events, we strive to unearth the authentic voice of British industry. Find out more About us and our Membership Benefits.


Related News Stories


Authored By

Richard Yarrick-Holmes
Associate Editor
October 11th 2020, 12:12pm

Follow Us

Stay up to date with the latest news on politics and business. Follow @LeadersGBNI on Twitter for more live updates

Share this article


Popular Stories

NEWS | Published May 8th 2021, 8:08 am

Grant Schapps announces green list of travel destination

NEWS | Published May 6th 2021, 9:09 am

MENTA to resume in-person networking events this month

© Copyright 2021, Leaders Council.