1st Annual Margaret Bryan Lecture in Physics

Wright of Derby ‘An experiment on a bird with an air pump’

Citizens, science and citizen science

a public lecture by

Professor Dame Athene Donald DBE, FRS

Cavendish Laboratory, University of Cambridge and Churchill College

Wednesday 4 March 2020

6 pm – 7:20 pm

Newton Lecture Theatre INB0114 in the Isaac Newton building, University of Lincoln

Book a place

Science touches everyone, whether they like it or not, but knowledge of it and its implications is patchy amongst politicians, journalists and the general public alike.   This can be immensely damaging, as important decisions need to be made on many fronts: the energy transition, climate change, measles vaccination or the use of CRISPR technologies.  Scientists need to work harder to explain what it is they get up to and what they know, and be more sensitive to the social context in which individuals make their own decisions.  On the other hand, there is also a responsibility on others, particularly those with influence, to engage and listen to the evidence.  Some people fear science because of its perceived difficulties, and it is also thought to lack creativity; both these views, embedded in our culture, serve only as a barrier to dialogue.  I will explore some of the underlying reasons for this and the myths that have grown up, plus how and why scientists get up to surprising, exciting and creative things and how the public themselves can get involved in some citizen science projects.



Athene Donald did her first and second degrees in Cambridge. After 4 years postdoctoral experience in the USA she returned to Cambridge. She became a Professor in 1998 and was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society in 1999. Her research is in the general field of soft matter and physics at the interface of biology; she has published over 250 papers in these fields. She has chaired many committees within Cambridge and beyond and has served on University Council (2009-14) and as the University Gender Equality Champion (2010-14). She was (2013-18) a member of the Scientific Council of the ERC and has been a Trustee of the Science Museum until 2016 and is still a member of their Scientific Advisory Board. She chaired the Scientific Advisory Board of DCMS (2015-17) and is the Chair of REF2021 Interdisciplinary Advisory Board. As well as various prizes from the IOP and Royal Society, and the award of a number of Honorary Degrees, she won the 2009 L’Oreal/Unesco Laureate for Europe award. She was appointed DBE in the 2010 Birthday Honours for services to Physics. She took up the role of Master of Churchill College in October 2014.


This public lecture series is named after Margaret Bryan, a not well-known British natural philosopher and educator.

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