Press Releases

Top-up your pint and your knowledge at Reading's new Café Scientifique! – University of Reading

Release Date : 24 June 2009

Professor Ian Jones, one of the UK's leading virologists and an expert on swine flu, gets the first round of Reading's new look Café Scientifique underway on Monday 29th June at Déjà vu Bar in the town centre.

Café Scientifique is open to everyone and provides a real cocktail of fun and discussion. Free to attend, it is designed to bring scientists and the public together, to discuss the latest issues and ideas from the world of science in the informal setting of a pub.

Reading Café Scientifique is supported by the University of Reading and the Thames Valley Branch of the British Science Association. At the first event Outbreak! Tales of swine flu and other viruses Professor Jones, from the University of Reading's School of Biological Sciences, will reveal the truth behind swine flu and other viruses. There will also be the unique opportunity for the audience to discuss the issues with Professor Jones at the end of the evening.

Professor Ian Jones said "Viruses have the ability to appear as if from nowhere, to spread rapidly and to cause extreme morbidity and mortality, such as bird and swine flu. Yet we encounter viruses throughout our lives, in the main with little serious outcome. How are we to balance these two opposing but equally true facts, and what about the viruses themselves, is their only role to cause disease?"

The Café Scientifique movement is committed to promoting public engagement with science and to making science accountable to the public. 'Cafes' start with a short informal introduction to the topic from the guest speaker who is usually a leading scientist. After this there is usually a short break to allow glasses to be refilled and conversations to start. This is followed by an open and informal general discussion where anyone can ask a question.

Dr Lucy Chappell, Research Communications Manager at the University of Reading and Chair of the Thames Valley Branch of the British Science Association, said: "Café Sci is a fun, free evening out. A pub is the perfect place to get a debate going, but not where people would normally expect to encounter 'science'. Science and technology play a major part in our everyday lives, and it's therefore important that we get the opportunity to find out more and discuss what it means to us.

"The topics of each 'Café' vary greatly and range from stem cells to bees, and happiness to plastic - there is something for everyone! You don't have to have any background knowledge of science, anyone with an interest is welcome to come along and join in. It's something a bit different - what else are you going to do on a Monday evening?"


Notes to editors

For more information please contact Dr Lucy Chappell 0118 378 7391.

All Café Scientifique Reading events take place at Déjà vu Bar and Eatery (61 St. Mary's Butts, Reading, RG1 2LG; 0118 957 3500). They take place on selected Monday evenings throughout the year and start at 7.30pm. There is no entry fee and all are welcome.

Café Sci is supported by the University of Reading and the Thames Valley Branch of the British Science Association. More information about Reading Café Scientifique is available here For information about the range of events organised by the Thames Valley Branch of the British Science Association, please see

Future Café Scientifique dates:

20th July: Bees in crisis!

Stuart Roberts, University of Reading

The serious problems affecting bees are high on both public and political agendas, but how much of what we hear is based on evidence? Everything from pesticides and disease, through to air pollution and mobile phones has been suggested as being responsible. However, it is important to get the story right, so that measures can be put in place to counter decline effectively. So what do we know, and what do we need to know, to help save our bees?

Stuart Roberts is a researcher in the Centre for Agri-Environmental Research in the Department of Agriculture. He has worked on bees for over 20 years and has been looking at pollinator and pollination issues as part of a major EU-funded project for the last 5 years.

14th September: Nothing to worry about

Dr James Anderson, University of Reading

Ever been told that it is impossible to divide by zero? Yes. Ever been given a good reason why not? No - because it is possible and you already know how to do it. Come along and release the mathematician inside yourself! Did you know that one divided by zero is infinity? But have you ever wondered what infinity minus infinity is? Ever wondered if your life depends on computer programmers getting division by zero right? Yes. And do they? No. So there you have it. You have nothing to worry about! But come along to Café Scientifique, because a worry shared is a worry halved, and half of zero is nothing to worry about.

Dr James Anderson is a lecturer in Computer Science at the University of Reading where he is designing a computer with as many processors as the number of neurons in the human brain.

26th October: Stem cells, ethics and human rights

Dr Shawn Harmon, University of Edinburgh

Stem cell research and other biotechnologies reliant on human material are controversial and challenging. They force us to ask questions like when does life begin, what does it mean to be human, and how should we protect human identity into the future? While few people may be familiar with the diverse regulatory instruments relevant to research in this arena, they will often be familiar with the language of human rights, something which is increasingly used in debates about stem cell and other biotech research. So, what is the difference between bioethics and human rights? How do international legal instruments approach them and their governance of research? What values and human rights are implicated by stem cell research? What are we as a society trying to achieve by our use of ethics and/or human rights in stem cell and other research?

Dr Shawn Harmon is a Research Fellow at ESRC InnoGen and AHRC SCRIPT, both at the University of Edinburgh. His research examines the governance of genomic technologies through legal and bioethical mechanisms, and the values that are disclosed through our governance instruments.

16th November: The economics of happiness

Dr Marina Della Giusta, University of Reading

Economics has traditionally assumed people base many of their decisions on relative financial costs and benefits, and in doing so they choose the option that will make them happiest. Individual decisions on what to buy, where and how much to work, how much to invest in one's own or one's children's education and even whether to get married or not have all been looked at in this manner.

Governments are also rated in terms of how much richer or poorer they make us whilst in office, assuming that what makes us richer would also make us happier. But is it so? And if it is not, what else do we consider when making economic decisions and what should policy makers focus on?

Dr Marina Della Giusta is a Senior Lecturer in the School of Economics and her research covers development and institutional economics, focussing on the roles of institutions and social mechanisms in determining market access and wellbeing, and on gender issues.

14th December: Plastic - destroyer or saviour of the planet

Professor Averil Macdonald, University of Reading

Most people would d


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