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Kathy Sykes wins Royal Society award

Kathy Sykes presenting the BBC series 'Rough Science'

Kathy Sykes presenting the BBC series 'Rough Science' The Open University

Press release issued: 7 September 2006

Professor Kathy Sykes has been awarded the prestigious Royal Society Kohn Award for her work on encouraging a better understanding between scientists and public audiences

Kathy Sykes, Professor of Public Engagement in Science and Engineering at the University of Bristol and TV presenter, has been awarded the prestigious Royal Society Kohn Award for her work on encouraging a better understanding between scientists and public audiences it was announced today.

Professor Sykes received the award for her work both at an individual and institutional level. She has, for example, organised events with deprived communities in Bristol where the scientific issues discussed such as Do drugs do your head in? were chosen by the communities. In order to encourage interaction at the event Professor Sykes persuaded experts, including neuroscientists, psychiatrists, psychologists and social scientists to sit among the audience rather than on stage.

On an institutional level, Professor Sykes has been working towards making public dialogue core to much of the University of Bristol's work. This includes persuading departments to commit money to public engagement activities, setting up a cross-departmental group to share good practice, and encouraging scientists to get more involved with schools. She also involved over 300 staff from her university with interactive science exhibitions that have taken place in a local shopping centre.

In addition, Professor Sykes works with Government to encourage and embed the use of dialogue in policy making and improve the quality of dialogue projects. She is, for example, a member of the Science in Society subgroup of the CST (Council for Science and Technology) the Prime Minister's advisory body on science and technology.

Professor Sykes co-founded the Cheltenham Science Festival and helped to create the competition Famelab which aims to nurture and talent spot the next generation of science communicators.

Professor Martin Taylor, Vice President of the Royal Society said: "Many people will know Kathy Sykes from her appearances on popular TV science programmes including Rough Science and Ever Wondered. She is perhaps less generally well known for her important work encouraging scientists and people from outside the scientific community to talk and interact with one another in various ways so that they can better understand, and learn from, one another's viewpoints. This is incredibly important since science, with all its exciting possibilities and potential challenges, does not happen in a vacuum. Many scientific advances have profound implications for society at large.

"Kathy has been awarded the Kohn Award for her deep commitment to promoting a truly two-way conversation on scientific issues and helping to set the national agenda in this area. She is passionate about science and how non-scientists can help plan its future. Crucially she has helped set high standards on public dialogue and acts as a role model for others."

Professor Sykes said: "I'm completely delighted to have won this award. I work hard to try and help scientists and policy-makers engage with, and listen to, the public because I really believe it's crucial if we are to make wiser choices about how we use science for society and the environment. It's great that such an august body as the Royal Society is committed to this kind of work and rewards and celebrates it."

As the winner of the 2006 Royal Society Kohn Award for Excellence in Engaging the Public with Science, Professor Sykes receives a prize of £2,500, a grant of £7,500 for science communication activities and a silver gilt medal.

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