Wednesday, 7 October 2009

The Scientist, the Minister and everyone else

The twitter exchanges last Friday between Professor Brian Cox and Lord Drayson were textbook high class tweeting. The subject matter was weighty - Britain's scientific research base. The conversation was erudite and informed. No one mentioned breakfast or pets.

It has been hailed as a great example of social media democracy in action. An interest group presenting a case to to the guy with the access to the money. The fact that Paul Drayson is in the House of Lords doesn't negate the fact that it was a direct real time dialogue with government. He and Brian Cox came out of it as people who cared very much about the direction of real scientific research.

During the afternoon Cox had tweeted a link to a piece in The Register - For everyone who cares about science in the UK - read and RT :

Ministers of the Crown have busy days and it was possibly not until about 6pm that Drayson spotted the thread. The conversation on the funding of science went on until around 9pm. My expertise in science money is zero. So I went to dinner. Presumably Lord Drayson did not. Absurd as it sounds that really is the crux of the matter as a social media issue. This exchange has been hailed in the UK and the US as some sort of basic model for new democracy. But it's not a system. These exchanges will not fit into diaries. They are spontaneous. And when Iain Dale suggests that Ministers are sub contracting their tweeting, whilst it's denied by many, it has plausibility.

Two days later Drayson was subjected to what he described as a 'twitter blizzard'. This regarded a rumour that the UK was about to pull its funding from CERN. The story seemed to be groundless.

Great experiment. Great fun. And just maybe a result for science. But if social media is going to have that sort of access and influence it's going to require government that doesn't look like anything on offer at the moment.

The Twitter thread is available from mid afternoon Oct 1st. You can pick up on @ProfBrianCox at:

@lorddrayson knows what I think. STFC funding situation is a disaster for UK, probably accidently. He can fix it, and I urge him to do so.

@lorddrayson crops up at about 1800

@tonyveitchUK Exactly. If people want to make a point to me- just tweet me!
@tonyveitchUK Fact is you have to follow people if u want 2 have a conversation with them.

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