Thursday, 24 January 2013

Save the Ri - how can you help?

Many of you may already be aware that the Royal Institution headquarters at 21 Albermarle Street London are up for sale. In the wake of this announcement there has been an outcry from scientists wishing to save the Ri.

Update: Many commentators on the topic seem to be unaware of what the Ri is and what it does, so to clear up confusion their own description is here.
There is lots of stuff happening surrounding the Ri right now, so I thought I'd try to capture some of it as a useful way of helping others to get informed and take action.

Please leave a comment with other initiative and I will add them as we go...

On Twitter the hashtag #savetheRi and #saveRi are both being used currently. 
On Facebook you can join the Save21AlbemarleSt group

Or consider joining the Ri as a member to have a say in it's future.

There is also a drive for the government to buy 21 Albermarle St for the public. You can read more about this campain here and you can sign the petition here.

There was a rather disappointing article in Nature this morning about the subject, which I think misrepresents what the Ri does and how important it is. I've left my own comment (reproduced below), but please read the article and add your own thoughts.

Today there is also a letter from 22 Ri Xmas lecturers to The Times - behind a paywall right now, I will post a link to the text when I can find it. (Update: Thanks to Mark Miodownik who took a photo of the paper here)

Here are some other links to commentary on the matter:
Mark Miodownik's interview on @BBCNewshour on why we need to save the Royal Institution (44:04~47:44)

Blogs:Lizzie Crouch 
Jamie Gallagher 
... a previous one from me on my first time presenting at the Ri last year
More to come...

My comment on the Nature piece:
I'd like to add that it is important to realise that it is not just the audience who benefit from the history and heritage of a venue like the Ri, but the scientific community itself. The Ri inspires scientists themselves – not just audiences.

The first time I was invited to speak in the Faraday theatre at the Ri was an absolute career highlight. As a scientist I felt I was walking in the footsteps of my heroes: Faraday, Davy and all the more recent Christmas Lecturers who (thanks to the Ri Channel!) I now know gave lectures in that very spot.

For a scientist, presenting at the Ri is considered an honour. It's taking a step up from talks in schools, outreach, science festivals etc... which are all very good in their way – but they don't guarantee two important features of the Ri: real scientists who are renowned for their communication skills AND the professional support of the Ri team working together to create something truly special.

I heard about the Ri being up for sale just a day or two after giving my latest talk there. I was still buzzing from the experience and the announcement truly felt like a punch in the gut.

Take away 21 Albermarle street, and we take away that amazing interaction, a venue that has inspired so many to become scientists and allowed so many scientists to share their subject with the world.

(Also – I'm shocked this article doesn't even mention the young people's programme – have you ever been to a schools lecture at the Ri? The kids LOVE it! I have never had such switched-on questions from the audience in ten years of doing this kind of event.)


  1. We are two teenage science enthusiasts who want to do our bit to help & also encourage other young people to be more involved and be a part of the solution. We’ve only just realised ourselves that young people can join the Ri and so we've started a blog with the objective of raising awareness of the Junior and Student Faraday memberships. Our ambitious target is to inspire 10,000 new members. Please visit our blog!

    1. Fantastic that you want to get involved! I am speaking at the Ri again on 18th Feb for a teenage audience, perhaps you'd like to send me a powerpoint slide I can display at the end of the day to encourage others to follow your initiative? (Find me at

  2. We are also on twitter :-) @WeAreRaring