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Do you care about evolution? Does Darwin matter today?

12 February 2008

With the news that scientists are on the brink of creating synthetic life, with stories of man-made extinctions and species re-introduction does Darwin’s theory of evolution still matter in modern science?

Next year will see the 200th anniversary of Darwin’s birth and the 150th anniversary of the publication of his groundbreaking work, On the Origin of Species. 2009 will be a year of celebration of Darwin’s life, work and achievements. But before the party begins and as we near Darwin’s 199th birthday (12 February) one organiser of national events to mark the anniversaries is stepping back and asking the public: what do you know about Darwin and evolution and what do you want to hear about during the celebrations?

The UK Research Councils, who together fund millions of pounds a year of research influenced by Darwin’s theories – in areas including conservation, biology, robotics and society, will be running events across the UK in 2009. But before that gets underway they are launching an interactive website, Darwin Today, to find out from the public what it is about Darwin and evolution that people find fascinating, puzzling or difficult.

The website ( www.darwin.rcuk.ac.uk) – which will be fully launched in the next few weeks – will soon feature monthly podcasts, vodcasts and magazine features highlighting contemporary UK research that throws light on Darwin’s theories and its relevance to modern research. Alongside this will be discussion forums where the public will be able to post questions, discuss Darwin and debate evolution with researchers.

Professor Alan Thorpe, speaking on behalf of Darwin Today and the Research Councils, said: "2009 is going to be a year when the country celebrates Darwin's life and achievements and looks at how modern science is drawing on his ideas. Before this all gets started we are kicking off a conversation with the public on what they know about Darwin, what they want to find out about evolution and the big debates. Through this new website people can engage in forums with experts and let us know what they want to see from Darwin's big year."

ENDS

Notes to editors

Darwin Today ( www.darwin.rcuk.ac.uk) is the new interactive website on Darwin, his theories and contemporary research using and on evolution. It will be fully launched in early March 2008 and is being developed by the UK Research Councils under their strategic partnership, Research Councils UK (RCUK).

Professor Alan Thorpe is Chief Executive of the Natural Environment Research Council and speaks on behalf of the Research Councils on Science in Society issues.

The website will:

  • Survey what interests or puzzles people about evolution, which will help inform the development of our engagement activities
  • Showcase the contemporary application of evolutionary theory
  • Provide a forum for discussing questions about evolution
  • List relevant events and activities being run by RCUK

The seven Research Councils are independent non-departmental public bodies, funded by the Science Budget through the Department of Innovation, Universities and Skills (DIUS). They are incorporated by Royal Charter and together manage a research budget of over £2.8 billion a year.

Research Councils UK (RCUK) is the partnership between the UK's seven Research Councils. Through RCUK, the Research Councils work together to champion the research, training and innovation they support.

The seven UK Research Councils are:

  • Arts & Humanities Research Council (AHRC)
  • Biotechnology & Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC)
  • Economic & Social Research Council (ESRC)
  • Engineering & Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC)
  • Medical Research Council (MRC)
  • Natural Environment Research Council (NERC)
  • Science and Technology Facilities Council (STFC)

Contact

Patrick Middleton, Head of Engagement

tel: 01793 413368

Matt Goode, Head of External Relations

tel: 01793 413299

Tracey Jewitt, Media Officer

tel: 01793 414694
fax: 01793 413382