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Former RSB president Professor Dame Nancy Rothwell gave the first ever science lecture to be held in the state apartments of the Speaker of the House of Commons.

Professor Rothwell, who was the first president of the Society when it was founded in 2009, gave an inspiring talk to an audience that included the current RSB president, Professor Dame Julia Goodfellow, her predecessor Professor Dame Jean Thomas, and the Government’s chief scientific advisor Sir Patrick Vallance.

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Professor Rothwell delivering the first science lecture in the Speakers residence


Professor Rothwell’s talk on science communication covered her own experiences as a researcher and communications advocate, alongside the importance of fostering creativity and imagination in scientists to aid problem-solving in the lab, and help with storytelling outside of the lab too.

Tackling the recent resurgence of scare stories about vaccines, Professor Rothwell said expressing risk and uncertainty clearly was the most important yet most challenging aspect of communicating science to the public.

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Those in attendance included RSB members, leaders of the science community, policymakers and researchers 


She spoke of the need for sensitivity when trying to challenge people’s views. “You can tell people they are wrong about facts but you cannot tell people they are wrong about their opinions,” she said. 

She also took a number of questions from the audience, covering topics such as how to get children more involved in science, science in popular culture, and diversity challenges within STEM.

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All three Presidents of the RSB were in attendance too, FLTR: Professor Dame Nancy Rothwell Hon FRSB, Professor Dame Jean Thomas Hon FRSB, Dr Stephen Benn, and Professor Dame Julia Goodfellow CBiol FRSB


The event was organised by the RSB’s director of parliamentary affairs, Dr Stephen Benn, who said he hoped it would be the first of many regular science lectures in the speaker’s residence.

The full lecture will be broadcast on BBC Parliament on Sunday 19 May at 20:00.