|3-7th September 2001 |
BA Festival of Science
The 2001 Vega Awards were designed to showcase those producing the very best in scientific broadcasting, with an emphasis on scientific content - did the programme communicate real science to the audience in a clear and approachable way? Interest was high with submissions from round the globe including Norway, Japan, France, UK, USA and Brazil.
The short listed finalists were shown at the “BA Festival of Science” in Glasgow, one of the UK’s largest science festivals, from 3-7th September, as part of the Vega Science Trust’s popular “Scinematheque” science cinema event. Applicants ranged from traditional broadcasters such as the BBC, to small production houses and universities. The judges included Sir Harry Kroto, 1996 Nobel prize winner for Chemistry, and Eurfron Gwynne Jones, former head of BBC Education.
The winner of the Vega Main Prize is “Science of Secrecy” by Diverse Productions, for Channel 4. Simon Singh, scriptwriter and presenter for the series said, “Everyone that worked on The Science of Secrecy is very proud of the series. The science of cryptography is fascinating, and there are heroic stories that surround the making and breaking of codes. What was particularly pleasing was the fact that Channel Four encouraged us to explain the science in detail. There was no pressure to skip the mathematics. I am a big fan of telling stories, but the stories should support the science, rather than replace it, which is what we tried to do.”
The Vega Educational Award goes to “Scientific Eye – Green Plants”, by Channel 4 Education. This series, for 11- to 14-year-olds, is watched by over 90% of UK secondary schools. The judges felt it was “an enjoyable, well-produced, educational programme for younger viewers, which made excellent use of the visual medium to explain the life-giving value of plants to mankind. It showed simple experiments that children could do themselves with minimal guidance, and also linked with a fascinating venue (The Eden Project) which can be related to important matters for our young – the biosphere and our relation to it”.
Scientists are becoming increasingly creative in how they communicate their research to the public, and this year’s Vega Special Award reflected this. The Vega Special Award went to “A new way to stop Mercury Pollution”. This was a video commissioned by the German Biotechnology Foundation, to showcase their new technique for using bacteria to remove 99% of the mercury from contaminated water. The video was distributed on CDROM to the managers of all industrial plants producing mercury waste, as well as local schools and science fairs.
“This programme shows that the myth of scientists in their ivory towers is behind the times,” said Chris Ewels, one of the award organisers. “Young scientists are keen to communicate their discoveries. Now with cheaper video recording, and distribution via CDs and the Internet, they have new ways of getting their message out there”.
The judges comments on the winners were as follows:
Science of Secrecy
A lucid and well thought through explanation of a potentially dry subject made not only highly entertaining but also educational. This programme has won the Vega Main Prize partly because basic mathematical concepts involved in modern approaches to safeguarding information were well explained wherever possible. Another reason is the fact that the key personalities involved were creatively interviewed and their story told within a fascinating subplot in which the efforts of the British mathematicians, who found the solution, were veiled in secrecy whereas the US mathematicians who solved it 5 years later have gone on to found multi-billion dollar company to exploit its value on the Internet.
Life and Living Processes : Green Plants
An enjoyable, well-produced, educational programme for younger viewers, which made excellent use of the visual medium to explain the life-giving value of plants to mankind. It showed simple experiments that children could do themselves with minimal guidance, and also linked with a fascinating venue (The Eden Project) which can be related to important matters for our young – the biosphere and our relation to it.
A New Way to Stop Mercury Pollution
A clear and studied approach to its subject. The programme was made with a modest budget using a very straight-forward no-frills presentation approach. The scientific content of the programme is excellent and of great benefit to the community at large. It has been awarded the Vega Special Prize because it enabled the scientists themselves to communicate directly with the audience.