Monday, 8 March 2010

Read a magazine – be an engineer

Wow, over a week with no postings! It’s been a busy week but I did manage to read the Times science supplement Eureka. This included an article by Lord Browne of Madingley ‘Change the world – be an engineer’ which argues for the UK to train more engineers.

Lord Browne doesn’t ask a question that has worried me for some time: why are engineers not regarded more highly in this country? In Europe – at least in France and Germany – engineering is highly- respected profession but not so here. Yet virtually everything we interact with daily is the product of engineering. I commented a while ago about the two cultures – the sciences and the arts. It’s acceptable for people to admit knowing nothing about the former – even to boast about it. But to say “I don’t know much about Shakespeare” or van Gogh or Beethoven? Never. Engineering has an even lower rating.

I think one of the problems is that scientists and engineers are not good communicators – at least in a way that everyone can understand. There are exceptions: David Attenborough, Robert Winston and the Coast presenters. But science and particularly engineering don’t get the media coverage. There are four or more reviews of theatre, films, the opera and other arts events every day in the papers but when did you see a review of an engineering achievement?

Lord Browne is a former chief executive of BP and is President of the Royal Academy of Engineering. You can read his article here and his contribution to a debate on the House of Commons Select Committee Inquiry into Engineering here.

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