Dr Deborah McNeill, director of the Glasgow Science Festival. (Image: University of Glasgow)
The city of Glasgow produced an impressive array of advances in science, engineering and medicine.
James Watt started the industrial revolution with the improved condensing steam engine he developed in the city, for example. Ian Donald pioneered the use of diagnostic ultrasound in Glasgow hospitals; Jocelyn Bell Burnell was an astrophysics graduate at the University of Glasgow when she discovered the first radio pulsars.
I myself am a product of Glasgow science expertise – a proud graduate of the University of Glasgow’s marine biology program – and with the help of the university, I founded the Glasgow Science Festival in 2006.
Over the past 17 years, I have had a deep respect for the city’s history of scientific inquiry and an even deeper respect for the remarkable research and development that is being carried out here today.
I worked closely with researchers from Glasgow universities and others across the UK to help them present their research to over a million visitors at venues across the city.
In the process, I have learned a lot about the vital work of scientists based in Glasgow. They supported the development of Covid vaccines, helped with the first detection of gravitational waves a century after Einstein predicted their existence and used quantum technologies to create new ways of perceiving the world around us. I have also learned a lot about how interested the people of Glasgow are in the research going on around them when they are given the opportunity to learn about it.
It is vital that science is accessible to all. Children should have the opportunity to be inspired by talking to scientists, teenagers should be able to find out about careers in science, and adults should be able to see the progress of science around them. inquiry
With that in mind, almost every event we’ve ever run at the Glasgow Science Festival is walkable, and it’s an approach that works.
Every year, thousands of people from a wide range of backgrounds come out to learn more about the work of city scientists, and thousands more visit our website for Science on the Sofa, our online content program.
To help deliver our program for free, we’ve enlisted the help of Glasgow’s museums, libraries and community spaces, who have helped us run thousands of events. Hosting activities, workshops and debates in places that people are already familiar with, close to home, goes a long way to breaking down barriers and encouraging participation in science. We have also worked closely with schools to bring STEM activities such as our Creating Engineers competition to students across the west of Scotland.
This year, we’re running our biggest ever programme, with over 100 events at a wider range of venues than ever before under the theme of Glasgow’s Looking Forward. It has been a privilege to build the networks that have made the scope of this year’s program possible, and I look forward to welcoming visitors to engage with the amazing research taking place across this amazing city.
Dr Deborah McNeill is director of the Glasgow Science Festival. This year’s event will take place from 1-11 June in venues across the city.