Sunday 8 July 2012

Fun at the Royal Society

This week, I had the honour of being part of the Summer Science Exhibition at the Royal Society. It is an annual event which showcases the best of British scientific endeavour in a fun exhibition open to the public. They host events such as panel discussions and Cafes Scientifiques. I was invited to chair a panel discussion on Friday evening entitled "Following the Fingerprints". The panel members were all well-known forensic scientists: Dr Paul Debenham, Director of Innovation and Development at LGC; Hayley-Jackson-Smith, forensic scientist with the London Metropolitan Police; Clea Koff, forensic anthropologist and author; and famous crime writer, Val McDermid. The room was packed with a mixed audience of students, scientists, children and "culturally-active" (the Royal Society's term, which I love) lay people. After a brief introduction from me, the panellists presented snippets of their work, including the benefits of Luminol for highlighting latent footwear marks in blood; the intricacies of DNA profiling; personal experiences in identifying victims of genocide; and how to write a best-selling suspense novel! Then we discussed such notions as why forensic science captures the imagination so; whether the expectations fuelled by TV shows can ever be reached; the importance of interpretation of forensic evidence; the future technological advancements that could revolutionise our judicial system; our moral obligations as forensic scientists; and many more thought-provoking concepts. The panel was fantastic, and I think we sparked off each other very well, and the audience provided a steady stream of challenging questions. A video of the evening will be available on the Royal Society website shortly.
I really enjoyed the experience, especially the feeling of bonding with the panellists under the friendly fire of the audience questions! I hope to work with each of the panellists again soon.